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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

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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In Which We Are Witness To The Fallacies of The Age

Capitalism and Its Contents


Walking through Times Square at evening is dangerous proposition. Not because of makeshift hoodlums who lurk to sell you their rap CDs. It took good old-fashioned psychotherapy to teach us that while we like choices, we don't like many choices.

This aphoristic point of view is largely a lie - most of us prefer an infinite number of choices, and modernity is not sufficiently variegated for us not to be able to account for them.

Times Square is more like a square than ever, with tourists sitting on a beach of madness, and Radio City Music Hall hiding in its shadow. It's never been pretty to look at it, but at least it's daytime forever somewhere besides Alaska. For many out-of-towners, Times Square is Nuevo York, but for me it's just a place I pass on the way home, walking. And believe me, not bragging.

We are finding out in California what driving the away the rich really does. With an exorbitant demand on a minority of Californians, the system was bound to end up losing out to states with fairer laws about these things, e.g. no income tax: Texas, Florida. The government's entitlement to an out of proportion income tax is a sin akin to murder -- because it is the economy that dies. New York is the corraborating witness.

In Times Square, nobody seem to be making very much money, and sitting around and staring is preferable to other activites.  On a normal day, the marks can't get enough of the show, although Broadway is unable (or unwilling) to capitalize on the available market and do theater for less than the cost of a bagel. In addition, New York has the highest income tax rate in America. Why should that be?

Ironically, the most useful aspect about this capitalist orgy from the tourist's point of view is that it doesn't really cost anything. Like Madison Avenue (moments away!), the glitzy storefronts are merely for show, whether it reads Ernst & Young, News Corporation, or ESPN Zone. The companies themselves are taking a bath - they just have to keep up appearances.

Closer to 8th Avenue, things begin to get a little seedier. Nudie booths, virtuals, Starbucks. It's not really comforting to know that commerce goes on in these places. Frankly, New York used to be much better at doing what a city does - conducting business. Now its prohibitive prices push real people away, tourists simply gawk or purchase cheap souvenirs of a fake city, and net, it's a loss.

Long-term it wasn't just our banking system that was phony to its core. The advertisements that blaze on screens are a declining proposition, and network ratings dropped right along with the stock market. The new culture is good at casting the attention of the masses on the relatively inconsequential - and even the extremely consequential - but it can't manage to get the public's attention regularly, or even profitably. Capitalism becomes harder, not easier, in a depression.

There's too much else to distract people - that's why the internet is fearsome to old media types and goofy new Luddites who write bad novels alike. The essence of what American capitalism is changing, and whether the end result will be better or worse is a complicated question. Right now, it's not terribly better for the consumer, as corporations that can afford to lose money crowd small businesses out of the marketplace, and bailouts only help the already strong. But the lesson is that all things that don't earn will die - no company is strong enough to eat losses forever, even if Obama would have saved them if he could.

The end result is what matters, not how you got there. The consumer will be the final decider, and even if his choices are becoming progressively more complicated, he's better at making them then bureaucrats and thieves that stalk the corridors of Washington, propping up companies that haven't made a decent car since the Model T.

My folks returned from their first European vacation recently, and all they met from that part of the world asked them why they'd leave America to come there. There is still some free, admirable quality to this country, a redeemable element that we don't fully grasp since we've grown spoiled by it. The neon lights and billboards used to frighten me with their excess, but now they seem like the storm before a calm, pushing air out of a toothpaste tube before the blue comes out to clean.

That's why capitalism is the greatest - when it's dysfunctional, it repairs itself. It doesn't matter how many silly altruists wish to rescue companies that can't make it on its own. Even here, in this place, it is comforting to trace your finger in the air, in the shape of a dollar.

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

"Stroke Their Brains" - Spoon (mp3)

"Tweakers" - Spoon (mp3) highly recommended

"Tweakers (remix)" - Spoon (mp3)


In Which We Read With Awe And We Read With Wonder

From the introduction to The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat...

A Few Thoughts on Krazy Kat


As a cartoonist, I read Krazy Kat with awe and wonder. Krazy Kat is such a pure and completely realized personal vision that the strip's inner mechanism is ultimately as unknowable as George Herriman. Nevertheless, I marvel at how this fanciful world could be so forcefully imagined and brought to paper with such immediacy. THIS is how good a comic strip can be.

Interestingly, Krazy Kat gains its momentum less from the personalities of its characters than from their obsessions. Ignatz Mouse demonstrates his contempt for Krazy by throwing bricks at her; Krazy reinterprets the bricks as signs of love; and Offissa Pupp is obliged by duty (and regard for Krazy) to thwart and punish Ignatz's "sin," thereby interefering with a process that's satisfying to everyone for all the wrong reasons. Some 30 years of strips were wrung out of that amalgam of cross-purposes. The action can be read as a metaphor for love or politics, or just enjoyed for its lunatic inner logic and physical comedy.

Despite the predictability of the characters' proclivities, the the strip never sinks into formula or routine. Often the actual brick tossing is only anticipated. The simple plot is endlessly renewed through constant innovation, pace manipulations, unexpected results, and most of all, the quiet charm of each story's presentation. The magic of the strip is not so much in what it says, but in how it says it. It's a more subtle kind of cartooning than we have today.

To the bewilderment of many readers, there are few endings in Krazy Kat that qualify as "punchlines." Instead, it's the temperament of the writing and drawing throughout the strip that is the joke. If you don't think it's funny that a strip should have an intermission drawing, or that a character would refer to his tail as a "caudal appendage," you're reading the wrong strip, and it's your loss.

Quirky, individual, and uncompromised, Krazy Kat is one of the very few comic strips that takes full advantage of its medium. There are some things a comic strip can do that no other medium, not even animation, can touch, and Krazy Kat is a virtual essay on comic strip essence.

In their headlong rush for the "gag," most cartoonists run right past the countless treasures Herriman uncovered simply by taking his time to explore the freedom of his medium. The self-consciously baroque narrations and monologues ("From the kwaint konfines of the kalabozo del kondado de Kokonino — Officer 'Pup' gives answer") show that words can be funny in themselves, just as drawings can. The sky turns from black to white to zigzags and plaids simply because, in a comic strip, it CAN. No other cartoonist ever approached his blank sheet of paper with so much affection for all its possibilities.

The scratchy drawings delight me no end. They have the honesty and directness of sketches. So many of today's strips are slick and polished, the inevitable result of assistants trying to develop a mechanical style that can be continued indefinitely. The drawings in Krazy Kat are whimsical, idiosyncratic, and filled with personality. The bold design of the Sunday strips neatly compliments the flat expanses of color or black, and the wonderful hatching brings character to the otherwise posterish approach.

Nothing in Krazy Kat had a supporting role, least of all the Arizona desert setting. Mountains are striped. Mesas are spotted. Trees grow in pots. The horizon is a low wall that characters climb over. Panels are framed by theater curtains and stage spotlights. Monument Valley monoliths are drawn to look more like their names. The moon is a melon wedge, suspended upside down. And virtually every panel features a different landscape, even if the characters don't move. The land is more than a backdrop. It is a character in the story, and the strip is "about" that landscape as much as it is about the animals who populate it.

As the artwork is poetic, so is the writing. With the possible exception of Pogo, no other strip derives so much of its charm from its verbiage. Krazy Kat's unique "texture" comes in large part through the conglomeration of peculiar spellings and punctuations, dialects, interminglings of Spanish, phonetic renderings, and alliterations. Krazy Kat's Coconino County not only had a look; it had a sound as well. Slightly foreign, but uncontrived, it was an extraordinary and full world.

Darn few comic strips challenge their readers anymore. The comics have become big business, and they play it safe. They shamelessly pander to the results of reader surveys, and are produced by virtual factories, ready-made for the inevitable t-shirts, dolls, greeting cards, and television specials. Licensing is where the money is, and we seem to have forgotten that a comic strip can be something more than a launchpad for a glut of derivative products. When the comic strip is not exploited, the medium can be a vehicle for beautiful artwork and serious, intelligent expression.

Krazy Kat was drawn well over half a century ago, and yet it's a much more sophisticated use of the comic strip medium than anything we cartoonists are doing today. Of course, a 1930s Sunday Krazy filled the entire newspaper page, whereas editors today usually cram at least four strips in the same amount of space. This reduction of size greatly limits what can be drawn and written and still remain legible, and it goes a long way toward explaining the comics' devolution.

Even so, the whiteness of paper is still vast, uncharted territory, ripe for exploration. There are plenty of exotic lands for a cartoonist to map, if he or she will leave the well-worn paths and strike off for the wilds of the imagination. Krazy Kat is like no other comic strip before or after it. We are richer for Herriman's integrity and vision.

Krazy Kat was not very successful as a commercial venture, but it was something better. It was art.

Bill Watterson is the creator of Calvin & Hobbes.

"Stinker" — Elton John (mp3)

"I've Seen The Saucers" — Elton John (mp3)

"You're So Static" — Elton John (mp3)


In Which You Can Shelter Me And I Will Shelter You

from Journal


The distance between us is neither long nor short, merely imperishable, like the sentiment in an old song.

My neighbor is building his patio, laying bricks meticulously. The sun beats on him. Heats rises off the bricks into his face. I'm in here writing. He'll have built a patio. I'll be punished.

Deborah wants to have her eyes fixed so they'll look like white eyes and she hates her landlady who gave her the Etna Street apartment, choosing her over 157 other applicants. Her landlady assumed Deborah is a good girl, clean and quiet. "A Japanese angel," says Deborah with a sneer. I was shocked by her racism. I hadn't imagined she thought of herself as Japanese. She showed me photos of her family. Mother, father, brothers, sister — all Japanese, but I hadn't supposed she thought she was, too. What the hell did I imagine? Never to have to think of yourself as white is a luxury that makes you deeply stupid.

Evelyn told me that Sally, her dearest friend — "Don't ever repeat this!" — came down with the worst case of herpes she'd ever seen.

Feelings swarm in Eddie's face, innumerable nameless nuances, like lights on the ocean beneath a sky of racing clouds. Eddie could have been a novelist or poet. He has emotional abundance, fluency of self. He's shameless. "Believe me, I'm not a faithful type. I've slept with a hundred women. More. But it's no use. She hits me, curses me. She says 'I don't want to be touched. I don't want to be turned on.' No matter. It begins to happen. She relaxes, lets me disgrace myself. She tells me, 'Lick the insides of my legs while I make this phone call.' My father slaves six days a week, year after year, just to put me through medical school. For me to do this, to lick this woman, he went to an early grave."

Margaret tells me her lover is wonderful. "He makes me feel like a woman," she says, "without degrading me." I don't know what she means, but can't ask. What is it to feel like a woman? or to be made to feel that way?

Sonny was six years old when she went up on a roof with a boy. He pulled down his pants. She pulled down hers. They looked. Years later she still worried about what she'd done, thinking she could never be famous because the boy would tell everybody she'd pulled her pants down. She was a success in school and had innumerable boyfriends. None of that changed anything for her. At the age of six, in a thoughtless moment, she ruined her life.

It was cold, beginning to rain. Deborah was afraid she wouldn't find a taxi. She'd have to walk for blocks in the rain. She didn't want to go, but her psychotherapist wasn't charging her anything. A few months back, she told him she couldn't afford to continue. He lowered the rate to half. Even that became too much for her, so he lowered it to nothing. She stood, collected her things, and pulled on her coat like a kid taking orders from her mother, then fussed with her purse, her scarf, trying to be efficient but making dozens of extra little moves, rebuttoning, untying and retying her scarf, and then reopening her purse to be sure there was enough money for a taxi if she could find one. She wanted to stay, to talk more, but couldn't not go to her psychotherapist. She felt he really needed her.

I told Sonny I love her. She said, "I'm a sucker for love."

Leonard Michaels is the senior contributor to This Recording. He died in 2003. You can find the first four entries in Leonard Michaels' Journal here, here, and here, and here.

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"Left Bank" - Air (mp3)

"Night Sight" - Air (mp3) highly recommended

"Space Maker" - Air (mp3)

art by Jake Longstreth