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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 Were A Credit To The Human Race

Praise Him


Master of None is Aziz Ansari's new Netflix series about his life in New York City. The big takeaways from his life as an actor and comedian are the following:

There is a lot of racism directed at Southeast Asian people.

Aziz Ansari is one hell of a guy. 

Women aren't always nice to him. 

He spends a lot of time texting, perhaps more than is healthy. 

Isn't he wonderful?

There is hagiography, which is what they did to Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was the most implausible movie in recent memory, and could not even be salvaged by Michael Fassbender's penis, which never made so much as a floppy appearance. Steve Jobs made an asshole seem not so bad, but Master of None makes a normal guy into the world's biggest martyr. 

Ansari ostensibly plays up-and-coming actor Dev on Master of None, but it is basically himself, except he never says so much as one word wrong. Dev is generous to his friends and kind to his family. He even sets up his dad's iPad, and is so sweet to his co-stars on a movie called The Sickening. We have moved beyond hagiography into simple worship of Mr. Ansari. 

Women are the only creatures placed on a higher pedestal. Dev worships them, in turn, like princesses. He wants to know all about their jobs and lives, in hopes of generating some kind of magic that will lead him into the type of relationship his parents enjoyed. When he rediscovers the pleasures of a Jewish girl with whom he had sloppy sex a few months back, he's elated until she confirms she is trying to work things out with an ex-boyfriend. Even though he did not call her after the sex, he is crushed by her rejection. 

Dev's friend Denise (Dear White People's Lena Waithe) is a lesbian who hangs out with Dev and his male friends. They have many similar interests, including their passion for sharing strategies about getting laid. Dev's other buddies are Brian (Kelvin Yu), a handsome Taiwanese-American, and Arnold (Eric Wareheim dressed as a post-prison Jared Fogle). He talks to them about what he should do to make these women like and respect him. While his friends genuinely care for him, Ansari's paramours seem about as concerned with him as a chef is with the feelings of an egg. 

His hopeless travails finding love represent the only flaw Aziz has. Ansari dedicates one whole episode to letting us know how much he appreciates everything his parents did for him. A lengthy flashback reviews the struggles his parents endured to make a better life for him in the United States. He is enriched by their sacrifice. 

In another episode, Ansari takes a waitress named Alice to a secret Father John Misty concert. She ends up stealing someone's jacket and getting kicked out of the venue. This is what he gets for doing something nice, and he is enriched by her sacrifice. 

It is a credit to Aziz that he never accuses women of harboring any racism towards him. Amazingly this never comes up in his massive, wikipedia-level book about love, Modern Romance. As much as the book was a terrible chore interspersed with the funniest parts of his stand-up act, Master of None is completely charming. 

The reason for the disparity in quality is that Ansari is not much of a prose writer; instead he is a captivating performer. The rest of the cast seems carefully selected not to show him up in any way, and their lessening works — Ansari's charisma makes every scene compelling, no matter how slight. He revisits the boredom and humor of a career in acting in a much more entertaining way than was found during the entire run of Ricky Gervais' Extras

Perhaps most refreshing is that Ansari never relies on sight gags, one-liners, profanity or gross-outs to create his comedy, even though some of those things were obviously a part of the fun in his stand-up act. Every single laugh here is because of an extensed investment in who Dev is, a magnificent creature who should be celebrated by humanity, possibly with a statue?

Ansari's adopted hometown of New York does not come across nearly as well. (The comedian was born and raised in South Carolina.) In the most accurate depiction of the place to date, New York is a city in decline. Indoor scenes are depressing and dark, the daytime jaunts are overexposed and painfully bright. Not one single place is suitable for hiding. There is no counter-culture left in the entirety of New York City, a situation analogous to Rome before the fall. There is only a bourgeois way of living that Aziz correctly analyzes as neither masculine or feminine, progressive or regressive. It is just slow-motion.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Writing's On The Wall" - Sam Smith (mp3)



In Which We Have Never Done Anything Like This Before

Sunset Decade


Wicked City
creator Steven Baigelman

The year is 1982. Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick) has tied up a nurse named Betty (Erika Christensen) in his bed with rope and twine. He tells her to not make any sound at all, not even to breathe. She complies, and he is able to generate an erection. Afterwards, he produces a knife to cut her free. "I've never done anything like this before," she says, and yet she was a woman living in Los Angeles, with children, in the 1980s.

We tend to apply the moral standards of our own time to the past. By the standards of the 2000 era period, Westwick was a good actor. Now his facial hair appears scruffy and insolent, and I no longer wish to hear his terrible American accent in roles meant for my countrymen. Everything about ABC's Wicked City actually reminds us more of 2000 — the costumes, the gee-golly attitude, the weirdly vanilla makeup choices.

Her haircut is reminiscent of those women who were imprisoned in that guy's basement.  Christensen at first is just a concerned mother getting her first experience in the S&M game, but soon she is prepping Westwick's kills for him, since he is a serial murderer and this is the first time she has ever received any sustained positive attention from a man. The women of Wicked City rely entirely on men to provide an external compass and to reaffirm the sense of purpose lacking from their lives. This is just the way things were in the 1980s. There was no such thing as Margaret Thatcher.

I remember when I couldn't tell Erika Christensen and Julia Stiles apart. This is no longer a problem, since Julia Stiles has been excommunicated to Hulu

Tracking this deadly duo is Jeremy Sisto as detective Jack Roth. Sisto continues receiving gainful employment long after the American public has resoundingly explained it no longer wishes to see him attempt something he is not very good at whatsoever: acting. He has never altered his facial hair for any role; he is always just this scruffy pseudo-handsome guy who sounds like a somewhat more mature Kermit the Frog.

Your husband does not care for your robe.

Sisto plays a philandering police detective who cheats on his ginger wife even though the other woman is a stripper and he has a young daughter. In 2000 this would be shocking and disgusting, and despite the fact that this is supposed to be the 1980s, when such behavior was de rigeur, it is still abhorrent. I can't watch fake shows about the 1980s where everyone is dressed like a hooker and there is a man whose name is Bucket, even if they did not have the massive plot holes featured in Wicked City on a weekly basis.

The Gossip Girl probably should have been Chuck Bass.

Sam Raimi was actually there for the 1980s, and he made a trilogy of semi-amusing movies starring Bruce Campbell. Evil Dead was always a lot more suited for a television series, since the entire concept of loved ones and friends becoming possessed demons has a shelf-life of about 20 minutes. Starz' Ash v. Evil Dead has already been renewed for a second season, and rightly so, because Ryan Murphy's definition of camp was starting to more closely resemble murder porn.

Ted Danson is the only man brave enough not to dye his hair.

Campbell, 57, looks very good for his age, but he acts like is walking off the set of Army of Darkness, Raimi's most amusing version of the Evil Dead story. Performances were a lot broader then — it wasn't really necessary to show any kind of emotional range when the characters were paper thin contrivances intended to be taken over by demons.

A romance between a Latino man and a Jewish woman is all I have ever asked for.

Here Campbell's sidekick (Ray Santiago) and his sidekick's love interest (Jill Marie Jones) have to continually bounce off his steely one-liners. They seem to be having great fun, and Ash v. Evil Dead succeeds on that, on the enthusiasm it has for its wacky subject matter. It is amusing to see the ancient Ash Williams have to deal with all the problems of modernity, and even appreciate the new time in which he lives as substantially better as the decade from which he came.

Special effects were greatly improved.

The whole format became a bit tiresome over the course of an entire film, but Ash v. Evil Dead works because there is nothing else like it today: the entire concept of its humor died in the waning moments of 1990.

There is something that is actually worth returning to in the 1980s: a distinct lack of cynicism worth revisiting. Wicked City totally misunderstands that concept as innocence. It was not innocence, that we felt in the decade that followed a failed revolution based on transmitting diseases through our penises. We preferred to feel nothing except the pain.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Would Rather Be A Carey Than An Edith

Burn Things


dir. Sarah Gavron
109 minutes

In an ill-advised effort to promote Suffragette, Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan wore t-shirts that said “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” — a line from Emmeline Pankhurst’s 1913 speech that, clearly, it’s best to forget rather than flaunt. I was immediately reminded of Patricia Arquette’s cringe-worthy Oscar speech dismissing the race problem in favor of women getting equal pay in Hollywood. Just because you’re teaming up for one movement doesn’t mean you need to dismiss another. Suffragette brings up a major problem with revolution, though: it’s hard to fight for everything at once.

East London in 1912 was pretty rough. Director Sarah Gavron depicts an atmosphere that’s grey and gritty: mysterious liquids pool on cobblestone streets, sunless skies drape over poorly maintained buildings, and smog infiltrates every corner. The narrative of Suffragette centers upon Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), who works unbearably long hours in a laundry facility earning very little pay and daily risking her health due to the chemical fumes inhaled, somewhat ironically, in the name of cleanliness. Maud wants to be “respectable,” a euphemism for doing exactly what any man says without question.

Things shake up when Violet (Anne-Marie Duff), Maud’s co-worker and an unapologetic suffragette, wants to give a testimony to Parliament but can’t because she’s been battered, undoubtedly by her husband. Maud’s introduction into the suffragette movement, then, comes quite by accident: she is there to support her co-worker and winds up giving her own testimony, which, as is the case in most power-of-the-human-spirit films, lights a fire within that manifests in numerous teary, conviction-laden speeches about how women and men deserve the same rights.

What’s interesting about Suffragette is that it poses questions about the nature of social change. This is not just a film about votes for women; it’s a film about the complicated nuances of revolution. Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Meryl Streep) the leader of the votes for women movement in England at the turn of the century, encouraged “deeds, not words” in order to get the point across because, she argued, words historically proved futile, at least in the case of the women’s movement. Suffragettes in London at this time would throw bricks in windows, fashion small explosives and commit to hunger strikes in order to get their message out: actions Pankhurst insisted would get the vote.

In one particularly arresting scene, Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), a pharmacist who is the most adamant about the “deeds, not words” aspect of the women’s suffrage movement, wants to bomb a politician’s house that is supposedly empty.

Edith’s husband urges her not to go to such lengths, and Violet, newly pregnant, says it is too far. The explosion goes off without harming anyone, but the women find out later that a maid had come back for her gloves, and had she come back two minutes earlier, she would have died. “We break windows; we burn things; because war’s the only language men listen to” Maud tells Steed (Brendan Gleeson), an officer out to stop the group. I’m not into violence, but I saw her point.

A part of me felt the inevitable guilt one feels when watching a film about how much worse the world was for women back in the day, but the story also deliberately points to unresolved issues of equality now. It doesn’t end in a celebratory mood: the climax involves one of the suffragettes throwing herself in front of a horse at a highly publicized race and becoming the martyr for the movement, a move that, the movie argues, is the only means for change.

The grim reality is that violence did work to get the vote, but it didn’t work to make the world fair. There are a lot of things that confirm there’s still a pretty strong patriarchy, at least in my American life: Ryan Adams smugly covering Taylor Swift, the movie Pixels, everyone applauding Amy Schumer’s feminism when all she talks about is how she’s fat, that guy mansplaining the Biblical apocalypse to me at a party (he actually got it wrong), the fact that I have to lean in, the fact that I really do feel uncomfortable talking about my period, catcalls. It’s a hard road.  

“Sister Suffragette” — the song Mrs. Banks sings at the beginning of Disney’s Mary Poppins — is the song, for better or worse, that I found ringing in the back of my head as I watched Suffragette. Mrs. Banks cares nothing for her wifely duties; instead, she’s interested in the pomp and circumstance of fighting for a cause, and the song she sings about it is pretty silly (as, I suppose we are supposed to think, is Mrs. Banks). “You should have been there!” she squeals at the maid, because incarceration is apparently a gas. “Take heart, for Mrs. Pankhurst has been cast in irons again!” she belts, shimmying on her carpeted stairs.

The song is cute, as is its interpretation of the cause. Meaningfully, Mrs. Banks provides the suffragette sash to serve as a tail for the kite the Banks children fly in the closing scene. Though Mary Poppins came out some decades after women’s suffrage in Britain, it nonetheless reinforces the idea that though women can vote, they really ought to stay at home.

Julia Clarke is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.

"I Do What I Love" - Ellie Goulding (mp3)