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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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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Saturday
Apr112009

In Which You're The Only Woman I've Been Dreaming Of

Chinese or Pizza?

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Two Lovers
dir. James Gray
100 min

Ah, yes. The choice between the wealthy shiksa and the wealthy Jew betch. It is the choice that every young Jewish man (Joaquin Phoenix???) must make at one time or another. It is the choice at the heart of James Gray's Two Lovers, which takes place in Brighton Bay.

"you're not embarassed by our height difference, are you michelle?"I have a friend who is currently dating two women. He was upset this film was released, and so am I. The deepest desire of the male Jew must not be exposed at all costs. We are a secretive breed of hairy animals that live purely for black and white photography and rooftop intercourse with privileged white women.

"leonard, if you put it in me while my overcoat is on, i'm never gonna winslet an oscar" The shiksa in question is the famed acting virtuoso Gwyneth Paltrow playing Michelle, a troubled blonde temptress who lives in the same building as an unsuspected Jewish family with an older. troubled son. Watching women age is always a kind of justice, and even more so since that American Express commercial proved for a fact that Gwyneth is a larger tool than her fair trade husband. To be fair, she actually looks good in this movie, proving more women should wear hoop earrings and take drugs when they're pregnant.

"I'm so lost, Leonard," Michelle is constantly saying. She's seeing a married man, the absolutely awesome Elias Koteas. She never makes you forget for an instant who exactly she is, rendering the entire situation a tad unbelievable. But that's okay, because we want to know Leonard has no business caring about her just because she's a tasty little blonde treat. Gwyneth's idea of acting is saying Leonard a lot. She also shows her left tit, but only once, and you more feel sorry for her than anything. This is something like reality. Every time I see a left tit, I tend to feel quite upset afterwards.

in the end, jane goodall had a similar problem

At one point Leonard says, "You think if I got to know you I wouldn't love you, but I already know you and I love you even more." I laughed my balls off. The rest of the theater was not as amused. Really Leonard loves his mother (Isabella Rossellini) but he's unable to marry and wed her: his damnable laundry-owning father already has. My non-Jewish reading audience will never understand just how annoying this is — their mothers don't look like Rossellini, and they shop at Pottery Barn.

"and this one is my taint...look at the way the light catches my left testicle"

Amidst the slight tremors of anti-Semitism, Leonard's father encourages him to date the daughter of a rival Jewish launderer, even sending her to fuck Leonard in the man's own home. Soon enough Sandra (Vinessa Shaw) is telling Leonard that she'll take care of him, that she loved him ever since she saw him ask his mother to dance. If I even could recall how often people have told me that.

Like most Jewish males, Leonard believes himself to be one f'd up little piece. If I had seen this movie in the mid 1990s, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. Leonard's implausible backstory is that he dated a woman for whom he was a Tay-Sachs match, so her family broke it up. (This is probably in itself a fake sad story to appeal to new women, but a lie is a fashion by which the Jew is able to procure a shiksa, and it makes for a convincing story when Leonard tells it by rote.)


The second lover, Sandra, is a made to order Yiddish female, notable more for what doesn't distinguish her than what does. She's a pharmaceutical rep for Pfizer, and she bores poor Leonard to tears. Played by the stunning Shaw, I immediately tracked down this woman's Maxim gallery after the film was over.

The Jewish female is typecast to me, but a revelation to other people who might not have the extensive, priceless information I have learned by rote in how Jewish woman view marriage, sex, and their respective future. I would just as soon marry a Jewish woman as stick a knife in my arm, an inevitability that Leonard has already accomplished, with a CGI scar to show for it.

this betch's original surname was schwartz...don't hide who you are Vinessa!Choosing between the shiksa and the Jew betch is finally one onerous process, let me tell you. Since my father is Sicilian, he doesn't understand this dilemma. You can't really understand a Jewish woman unless you're a Jewish man. You came from her. It doesn't get any more real than that.

It's unfortunate that being slightly more believable than the incredible implausibilities of most movies now accounts for realism. Does anyone even watch Cassavetes or Rohmer? Nevermind. This is the only movie out I would ever dream of seeing. I'm just a sucker for Jewish fantasy stories. It's why I love E.T.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls right here.

"So Long" — Sisters (mp3)

"Lust is Just" — Sisters (mp3)

"Caspian Tern" — Sisters (mp3)

"Go Fast" — Sisters (mp3)

we will be together isabella

Friday
Apr102009

In Which We Are Living In A Manufactured Reality

It Is Still Only The Beginning, But Maybe I Can See The End

by MEREDITH HIGHT

It has now been six months since I moved to Los Angeles, almost to the day. Sometimes I forget where I am, where I have been. Then I go to lunch at Joan’s on Third in West Hollywood, and while I am in line ordering my deli salad trio, an urgent voice comes over the loudspeaker, imploring someone in the parking lot to move their black Bentley. Then I nearly bump into Nicky Hilton.

And I remember, oh yes, I live in Los Angeles now. I drive on the freeways, I spend $12 to park at the doctor’s office for an hour and a half, I drink Americanos from the Coffee Bean, and I wear JBrand skinny jeans. I resist becoming obsessed with my weight and my appearance, a feeling I have not experienced since adolescence. Yet this is the way in which Los Angeles affects you, the preponderance of beautiful people, the Prada purses, the models and actresses and celebrities who are approximately 1/3 the size of the average person.

Though it is tempting to strive to be “just like them,” you remind yourself that there are thousands of attractive and wealthy adults living in this sprawling, aspiring city who are suspended in an amplified and everlasting adolescence. Striving for stardom (read, validation) in the grown-up equivalent of high school, that is Hollywood.

And this is sad.

Parking remains one of the greatest challenges I face on a daily basis. This is a problem that has been compounded by a recent encounter with the parking attendant at my building. Reynaldo and I exchange reliable hello, how are you, have a good day greetings. Never once have we had a conversation beyond that, save for the day when I asked his name. Because, I have always detested the invisibility we impose on those in service industries, as though because they are washing your dishes, mowing your lawn or parking your car, they are their service, and not people.

This Tuesday, I park my car as per usual. I hand my keys over to Reynaldo, who it should be said is approximately five inches shorter than me and appears to be around sixty years old. He wears dark polyester pants, a paper thin white button down shirt and an approximation of a tie. He speaks with an accent that suggests he is not entirely comfortable with English, and he mangles my name every time he tries to say it.

He pauses after I hand over my keys. "You seem so sad," he says. "Did something happen?"

I know that I have been sad, and I know why, and I see the name of the boy in big block letters in my head. But was it so obvious? I don’t consider it appropriate to share any of this with Reynaldo, the parking attendant, so I say, "Oh! Thank you, no, no, I am OK. I am good."

"Are you happy?" he asks again, moving slightly closer, unwilling to accept my response. I think, this is very kind, almost brings a tear to my eye. It reminds me of a grandfatherly inquisition. "I’m fine," I say. I email a friend, really, do I seem that sad?

Two days later I park, I hand over my keys, and he asks, "What are you doing tonight? Sometimes I rent movie," he says. I realize what this is, and I have no idea how to respond. I am standing there trying to imagine how this could be even a fictional possibility, a short story about a young woman falling for an aging, Mexican parking garage attendant in Los Angeles, and the implausibility of even this keeps me standing there speechless. Reynaldo however has gone on to ask me when my lunch hour is, and how long I have for lunch, an hour? Someone else hands Reynaldo their keys and I take the opportunity to smile and walk away.

It occurs to me that like much in this city, nothing is what it seems. You think you know where you are, you see banners for earthquake preparedness, you hear older wealthy couples in argyle sweaters complaining about socialism in Beverly Hills, you see Orthodox, black clad men with boxy hats walking to the synagogue on Friday night. You find out in US Weekly that you attend the same church where Tom Brady and Gisele got married. You pass by Ethiopian restaurants and Koreatown and go to dinner in the Filipino part of town and you know this is a city, this is Los Angeles. But it is not the sanitized and glamorous city you see on television, in the movies.



On your way to work one Wednesday, you see a crew filming a baseball game, at nine in the morning, and you know someday, someone will see this on a screen and think they are watching a little league game in small town Iowa on a Saturday afternoon. You realize, this is all a manufactured reality, and this is where reality is manufactured.

This is where people pretend to be people, to help people understand people. Where lonely people write stories and screenplays and lonely people act them out, to help people be less lonely. The vacuity of celebrity culture is affirmed as you see the sadness in the eyes of the famous, the sense of being consumed by themselves and thus, lost. This is compounded by the illusion and expectation that we have created and imposed on celebrity, that says, you are young and beautiful and talented and rich and famous, how could you not be happy?

Which is something we believe in, only so that we can believe it is possible for someone to simply be attractive and gifted and moneyed and as a result, live without struggle and doubt and pain. We want to, need to believe in this manufactured reality. The real stars have transcended all this. They know that a life beyond work and magazine covers, a life of service and family, means more than the celebrity.

"Do you see stars?" asked a friend who was visiting.

"You mean, like in the sky? I guess I do, but not really. It’s not like in Texas," I say, the sky is not the same."

"Oh, I meant celebrities," she says.

"That’s good, though, it’s good that that is still what you think of, when you think of stars," she says.

A friend sends me A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace, and his take on David Lynch and television and Los Angeles are more than accurate, and now that I’ve seen Mulholland Drive and sets for major television shows in the lobby of my office building, and simply the city itself, I understand just how brilliant he was, even though I haven’t read Infinite Jest. “After absorbing so much about it from the media, actually visiting Los Angeles in person produces a curious feeling of relief at finding a place that confirms your stereotyped preconceptions instead of confounding them...” DFW writes, w/r/t to the city of angels.

Another friend insists I read Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. I leave the office at lunch, and I sit in the seventy-five degree sunshine, turning the pages.

He writes about the tackiness of Beverly Boulevard, and the plastic women who shop at Neiman’s, and Mirabelle’s college girl apartment in artsy Silverlake, and I know just what he means. He writes about men and women and love and how we both take pieces from the other for ourselves, even when we know we shouldn’t, when we know we are being used, when we know we are being selfish.

Only then does he realize what he has done to Mirabelle, how wanting a square inch of her but not all of her has damaged them both, and how he cannot justify his actions except that, well, it was life.


It reminds me of the boy and of how I am feeling about Los Angeles. That this city is taking from me, that I can see through it, even though there are parts of it that I love, that I want to keep. Like being able to see Fellini’s Amarcord at the small, faded theatre in my neighborhood, and Truffaut’s 400 Blows at an altogether different theatre, driving ten minutes to the sound of the sea, cheap pedicures, a fabric of experiences, a diversity of inhabitants and of course, In N Out.

But I see a flash of my future, and it is not in Los Angeles. I am living in a small town, somewhere quiet in a room of my own, at a wooden desk, looking out an open window, writing. I know that part of what I have been wondering — is Los Angeles for temporary or forever? — has been answered.

Meredith Hight is the senior contributor to This Recording. She recently wrote about moving to California and unavailable men in these pages. She tumbls here.

"State Number" - Magik Markers (mp3)

"The Lighter Side of Hippies" - Magik Markers (mp3)

"Shells" - Magik Markers (mp3)


Thursday
Apr092009

In Which We Hope You Enjoy Your Stay

hotel

"The Theatre of All of My Struggles And Ideas. . . ."

by ANDREW ZORNOZA

Hotel Theory
by Wayne Koestenbaum
Soft Skull Press

occidental-hotel

—A communication from a hotel comes from nowhere. The letterhead deceives. . . .

The record for most stolen bases in a season by a pitcher is nine, accomplished by Winifred Mercer in 1900.

Win's popularity with female fans convinced the Washington Senators' general manager to pitch him on Tuesdays and Fridays, stadium designated “Ladies' Nights.” After the umpire ejected Win from one such game, women stormed the field, attacked the umpire, and broke windows and seats in frustration. Three years later, Win checked into the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, California. And wrote the following on the hotel's stationary: “A word to friends: beware of women and a game of chance." He then killed himself.

About the Occidental Hotel: it is where the first Martini (then called a Martinez) was poured. And, also, coincidentally, where Mark Twain sat alone, on his hotel room bed in 1866. Contemplating suicide. “Many times I have been sorry I did not succeed, but I was never ashamed of having tried,” wrote Twain.

mark-twain

Wayne Koestenbaum's latest book is about hotels.

“I masticate literature that values smallness—a world quashing retreat to the infantile—and that stops short of suicide on a ledge called hotel.”

Told in columns of text, Hotel Theory has two narratives competing for your attention (for fontophiles, one in Pica, the other in Times New Roman).

Column one is a meditation on books, writers, philosophy, and movies, all filtered through an obsession with hotels and Heidegger. Column two concerns a largely naked Liberace and an infinitesimally more prudish Lana Turner.

The non-fiction oriented column one takes on a host of luminaries: Henry James, Joan Didion, Hemingway, Tanizaki, Sebald, Jean Rhys, Edward Hopper, Denis Johnson, Charles Simic, the Marx Brothers, William Hazlitt, John Malkovich, Richard Strauss, Paul Auster, Greta Garbo, Edith Wharton, and James Baldwin.

lana-turnerLana Turner has collapsed

All analysis is bent through the prism of “hotel theory.” Here, Apollinaire:

The hotel resident—Guillaume, male—spins like a dreidl going nowhere manically in the room's mourning embrace (“Je tourne en route / Comme un toton”). A sour smell of British Tobacco from the next room carries into Guillaume's chamber. The hotel fosters a chaotic plurality of languages, all babbling together (“Et tout” ensemble / Dans cet hotel / Savone is langue / Comme a Babel”). The hotel room plays host to ostracized masturbators, each resident affixed to a grindstone of solitary love (“Chacun apporte / Son seul amor”). The hotel absorbs street noise (“Le Bruit des fiacres”) and ugly neighbors (“Mon voison laid”): no escaping the filth. Apollinaire's hotel, legs spread open, typifies a sordid, familiar condition.

Almost all of Koestenbaum's passages on Chopin are startling in their clarity and insight:

TOWARD A HOTEL-ANALYSIS OF CHOPIN NOCTURNE #3 AND SCHERZO #1

A hotel analysis will notice that in the nocturne (Opus 9, No. 3), a melancholy and nostalgic (but not quiet) passage plays host to a tempestuous (minor-key) passage, and that in the scherzo (Opus 20), an angry frame (oft-repeated) extends welcome to a sweet-tempered (major-key) interior. Chopin tampers with host/guest relations. Nostalgia hosts (or buries) a tempest; anger (virtuosity, puissance) hosts a backward-looking guest, improperly curious about the past.

Hotels raise but cannot settle the question of anterior.

Although this prose may sound painfully intellectual . . . play the Chopin concurrently and you will be amazed.

chopinChopin

Column one makes the book. Kostenbaum deftly moves between high and low brow—and it's amazing how astute and far-ranging his observations can be. His monomaniacal obsessions with hotels seem to bring more to the table in the discussion of Elizabeth Bishop and Tennessee Williams than an entire heap of critical journals. The same with obscure contemporary artists like Martin Kippenberger and Stephen Lapthisophon: you don't even have to see the art to be engaged by his analysis.

The thread of thoughts on hotels gives us a line to hold on to when following Koestenbaum's tricky path. And because of their brevity and wit, these bits of skewed criticism move quickly despite their density. There are some missteps: a long section on Jean Rhys strains to justify its inclusion and a section on murdered NY Times reporter Stephen Vincent is wrenchingly sad, but out of place.

liberaceOut of place. . . .Despite the difference in content, column "two" manages to keep the similarly stilted language of its non-fiction neighbor (the book is written in Hotel Language—it's never quite at home), but it has some distinctive handicaps.

First, its major mouthpieces are Liberace and Lana Turner; second, Kostenbaum has managed to write the entire sequence without any indefinite or definite articles. All 'a's,' 'an's,' and 'the's,' are missing from the text. This stinks of gimmickry, but the effect is almost unnoticeable—and does nothing but speed up what can sometimes be a slow read.

Not slow here however:

Talk of schizophrenia made Liberace hard. He turned over on his stomach and rubbed tanning lotion on his buttocks. He reminded himself to shave them tonight. Hotel Languor was no excuse to let personal grooming slide.

Nor here—Lana and Liberace (wearing Jams) sunbathing on the roof of Hotel Women:

liberace

“I'm going to move my armchair to face you,” said Lana.
She groaned as she shifted its green bulk. Liberace inconspicuously fingered his nipples.

“You're cute,” said Lana.
“Thanks,” said Liberace. “So are you.”
“Why aren't you naked?”
“To exercise self-control.”
“Are you stoned?”
“Yes,” said Liberace.
“I like you stoned.”

The little bits of slapstick and witty repartee between Liberace and Lana are good for a healthy smattering of chuckles. Liberace is hilariously bifurcated, one minute he is calm and implacable, the next he seems ready to thrash about in his own skin. Lana is a transparent headcase much of the time--but can be as impenetrable as a stone. A small roster of minor characters occasionally break the focus away from these two stars. Whitehead, the hotel manager, and Lana's mother, Mildred, provide some comic relief and are timely, autonomous, and unpredictable in their minor roles.

Unfortunately, some later sections sag, when Liberace's family (determinedly uninteresting) arrive and Koestenbaum takes us through some tired bouts of cold war paranoia (Lana and Liberace almost consummate in the hotel's bunker).

wayne-koestenbaumKoestenbaum

Koestenbaum smartly steers us away from delving too far into Liberace's homosexuality (he always denied it - oh no you didn't!) or the real-life crime case of Lana Turner and her lover Johnny Stompanato. Echoes of these events beat underneath the narrative, but Koestenbaum never makes them the focus. Just as he displaces a multitude of cultural elements by taking them out of their context, he de-glitters Lana and Liberace in the most discomfiting way — he turns them into hotel intellectuals.

A genre is a hotel in which other hotels stay for the night.

Context is a lot of what Hotel Theory is about. The neatest trick of the book is its almanac-like assemblage of material. Walter Benjamin, the German cultural critic, is mentioned several times. Although the author sets Heidegger's “In Being” as a cornerstone for Hotel Theory, it is Benjamin's unfinished Arcades Project that is Koestenbaum's most direct antecedent.

These notes devoted to the Paris Arcades were begun under an open sky of cloudless blue that arched above the foliage; and yet—owing to the millions of leaves that were visited by the breeze of diligence, the stentorous breath of the researcher, the storm of youthful zeal, and the idle wind of curiosity—they've been covered with the dust of centuries. For the painted sky of summer that looks down from the arcades in the reading room of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris has spread out over them its dreamy, unlit ceiling.

bibliotequeReading room of the Bibliotheque NationaleMore Benjamin, sounding stuck in Hotel Malaise:

"the man who walks long and aimlessly through the streets" in an anamnestic intoxication . . . feeds on the sensory data taking shape before his eyes but often possesses itself of abstract knowledgeindeed, of dead factsas something experienced and lived through."

walter-benjaminWalt Benjamin

Walter's beautiful sprawling work of more than 1000 pages has been recreated by historians who have unearthed earlier versions (the last known draft was destroyed by the author).

Ostensibly its only subject is the outdoor malls of Paris. Yet Benjamin blends in hundreds of precariously tangential and extensive quotations from other writers, as well as his own notes, criticism and observations. All assembled into a mosaic that he called: “The theater of all of my struggles and ideas.”

 

Benjamin found a way to sublimate himself into the world surrounding him by pulling himself through the needle of one question: Why did he love the arcades?

arcades

David Markson does the same, in his recent books, bombarding us with facts about artists. Buried in all that collaged text lurks a shape. A shadow struggling out from under an emotion.

Kostenbaum's narrator goes one step further, sublimating himself not into things, but into a state, into a mode of consciousness that is never fully at home.

Every item checking into Hotel Theory goes through the wringer of Koestenbaum, everything is rendered transitory, uncomfortable, strangely familiar, anonymous, spoiled, confused, discomfited. It's not a pleasant place to be, really. There is a whisper of a plot near the book's end, but it's just a small joke.

Neither theory (column 1) or narrative (column 2) are able to answer the riddle of Hotel-being. It's a well-earned victory that there is no overt overlap between the two sections. Convergence would be too neat. What lies between the columns is up to you.

Note that Walter Benjamin was found dead in a hotel: Room No. 4 of the Hotel de Francia, just across the Spanish border into Catalonia.

This was in 1940, and he was certain of being captured by the Gestapo.

He swallowed a massive dose of morphine.

Andrew Zornoza is the senior contributor to This Recording. He lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. His photo-novel "Where I Stay," is forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky Press. You can e-mail him at azornoza at gmail.com.

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