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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail)

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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Tuesday
Jun022009

In Which We Dreamed of the Way I Was For You and You Were For Me

Edward Hopper's 'Early Sunday Morning'What Could As Easily Not Exist

by WILL HUBBARD

I've been listening to Astral Weeks once every night. I like thinking about how the instrumentation was recorded after the vocals were laid down. I've gotten back into this album so many times that it no longer takes me back to the first time I heard it. For the record, though, that was on a dorm-room floor in the days when ecstasy had hold of us and I secretly believed I'd be a great painter one day.

In a gated-off patch of grass and brush along the waterfront near my house, a man has been living for some time off of the land. There is a hole in the gate that fastens shut with a padlock, a trail leading back to his tarpaulin, cardboard, and scrapmetal dwelling. Apparently he has a tape-player of some sort, because every time I pass along the gate "Madame George" is pressing out faintly through the ironweed. He might have gotten the single at a gas station music kiosk.

Last night, I had two thoughts about Astral Weeks, one leading from the other, that bore the mark of indelibilty. Still this morning, a Sunday, both thoughts would repeat, easily delineable. Now, hours later, the task of constructing an IKEA bedside table dividing me from them, I can get to but where the ideas were. A path, a channel. A locus of memory now deteriorated. I have the form of them but they are irrecoverable. I stand at the grave but it is empty.

I do however remember that a big print of Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning hung in parent's room when I was a child. We moved a bunch of times, but in every new house the faintly menacing, entirely tranquil scene would appear over my father's bureau. I suppose one day I will have a bureau, and important things to put into (and above) a bureau. I fear that I already have a bureau, and that I am typing into it right now.

There is a another man living down the street who is always on his stoop when I pass. Once a month he gets out his tools and constructs, with great precision, another steel bookshelf or storage rack. The sale of them apparently pays the rent. He has two children and a wife, all of whom are constantly around him, never at work or in school. They are the most cheerful and open children I have ever seen. She is a solemn but evidently content wife.

The more you think about it, the creepier it becomes ever time Van Morrison says chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild on Astral Weeks. Sure, the nymphet theme can be beautiful in literature and music, but does he have to keep saying chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild like that, all raspy and suggestive? At the same time, I guess I'd probably talk like that if I smoked. (Instead I'm breaking apart the last remains of a nicotine lozenge with the tip of my tongue and a molar.)

I was once told that those happy people down the street were Spanish—they speak Spanish to one another, good English to everyone else. The front door to their basement apartment is always wide open, children or dogs calmly coming and going, carelessly. Tonight they were grilling sausages out on the sidewalk, smiling at me as if in invitation to join their twilight celebration. I smiled back, as I always do, as if to say ‘thank you, but it is not in me.’ Their essence is constancy, the embodiment of the adverb always. 'To be born again, in another world, darling' is another thing I could have said to them but did not.

Come to think of it, I don't have much to say about Early Sunday Morning either; not that it's a boring painting, it's just that it doesn't bother drawing attention to any particular aspect of itself. Something electrifies the paint the moment before you look, and when you see the painting it bears what Frank O'Hara once termed "post exertion visibility." Funny how you can have no idea what a line of poetry means until you apply it to an otherwise indescribable phenomenon.

The love that loves the love that loves the love that loves the love that loves to love the love that loves to love the love that loves. Almost like a Kanye West lyric, except with more grammar.

Edward Hopper's father was a dry goods merchant. (What is a dry good?) Despite early potential, he did not sell his first painting until he was 31 years old. It is reported that the decade leading up to this sale Hopper spent long periods sitting despondently in front of his easel, unable to think of anything to paint, let alone paint. Van Morrison had no such trouble, already touring Europe with his band The Monarchs at the age of seventeen. His father raised masts at a shipyard.

Have you ever noticed that when something rises vertically above eye-level it seems to overhang? For example, standing on the ground between two large buildings, they enclose one's upward view as they rise, seeming to hang over the street in an incomplete pyramid. Toward the locus of our vision all things tend. It is the same with the mind—the superior idea immediately, as though by some magnetism, tends toward what already exists in our frame of reference. The phenomenon is more dangerous in the case of the mind, for while the building will surely not fall, new ideas have a tendency to implode in the presence of our pretensions to knowledge.

There is a black square in the top right corner of Hopper's painting that breaks its general symmetry. I experienced considerable stress as a child wanting to erase that black box. Why was it there? Was it a mistake? An error? Now I chalk it up to the shadow of a tall building meant to signal the imminent inexistence of the small town 'early sunday morning' peace. Yet it is not this also, this anti-focal point. Like the pause in Van Morrison's phrasing between "fourteen...... year old," the black box is something we can, depending on our present condition, ignore, worry about, or savor.

Early this morning, a Monday, I was running down a dark street lined with crumbling relics if the East River's industrial era. A man sleeping in a corner pulled back the heavy felt covers from his face just as I passed and yelled, all raspy and suggestive, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" He was right. I had no answer.

Will Hubbard is the executive editor of this publication. His tumblr of the week is here.

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E'rybody loves that Wavves meltdown.

 "So Bored" - Wavves (mp3)

"No Hope Kids" - Wavves (mp3)

"Sun Opens My Eyes" - Wavves (mp3)

"Goth Girls" - Wavves (mp3)

Monday
Jun012009

In Which Birds Flying High You Know How She Feels

Tough-Looking Female

by ELISABETH REINKORDT

The portentous opening shots of trains in Wendy & Lucy leave no doubt exactly where Wendy Carroll (Michelle Williams) is headed, but the hour and twenty minutes we spend with her over the few days she spends in an unnamed Oregon town are no less entrancing.

(Un)necessary brief plot synopsis: A 20-something woman named Wendy is en route from Indiana with her dog Lucy in search of seasonal cannery work in Alaska. She's got short hair, wears a blue hoodie, western shirt & cut-off corduroy shorts, drives an '88 Honda Accord, and it breaks down in a town in Oregon. This is one of a few things that do not go well and leave a major dent in the sum at the bottom of the page in the meticulously kept notebook in which she tracks her dwindling finances.


Oh, the beauty of film! Shot on Super-16, Wendy & Lucy is full of impeccable colors, especially in forest scenes, gorgeously done night scenes full of all the grain that results from an optical blow-up to 35mm, and depth of field simply not possible on video.

As Lucy (played by Reichardt's dog) makes friends with a group of crust-punk types around a bonfire and Wendy follows to retrieve her, Reichardt's camera seems to become perspectival, focussing from face to face as if Wendy is gauging trustworthiness.

It is the fact that this is a female eye (lens) tracing the path of the female protagonist's eye that makes this scene work; were the camera to float away from the person speaking (a drifter played by Will Oldham) to other faces around the bonfire -- including lingering shots on the only other and very tough-looking female of the group -- without the distinct sense that we are engaged in the self-aware nature of Wendy's position as a solo female traveler, this would appear a sloppily edited sequence. In a far more dramatic echoing of the sense in this scene later in the film, I began to think that I had never seen such material shot in that manner before.

There are simply so few women making films that it is hard to make a compelling case that the gaze of the female director is different, but this film makes solid strides in that direction.

Furthering its minimalism, the film eschews a score, opting instead for a repeated theme -- composed by Oldham and played slighlty amplified -- of Wendy humming. The overt pathos of dramatic orchestral elements would ruin the pain we feel, slowly & experientially, for Wendy's predicament. Reichardt lets moments happen. Birds fly by, high in the air, and it is clear from the focus-pulling that this was a shot taken because it just happened. It is downright beautiful.


Reichardt is a gifted, principled director. (The full text of a fantastic interview done by Slant Magazine is worth the read.) A professor at Bard College, she gives solid pushback when the interviewers begin asking questions about how her filmmaking might change with the onset of "success."


Slant: You've talked before about wanting to continue working at these sensationally low-budget levels. Isn't that something filmmakers tend to say and then disregard once they meet with a certain level of success?

KR: Well, what's your definition of success? I find that to be a fucking annoying question, I have to say.

Slant: Why is that?

KR: This constant implication that success has one picture is so limited—and talk about American! I'm constantly asked this, as if teaching is some loser profession, or an uninteresting place to be. I've been out in L.A. for five days with my film, just doing stuff that I've never done before, press junkets and stuff, and I'm like—this is it? This is what everybody thinks is the most special fucking thing on the planet? Are you kidding me? It melts your brain. It's really hard to stay small, actually. That I've been able to make these last two films without anybody paying any fucking attention and just go off and have complete artistic freedom—what are you gonna trade that for? What do you consider success, since you're asking me that question?

Slant: I think I was just suggesting that if you were to raise more, you'd probably spend it wisely. There's no discernable difference between the scale of your films and a Woody Allen film, but he can spend 20 million and the money buys access to more filmmaking tools and sought-after actors and so forth.

KR: Give me an example of a woman who can do that.

Slant: A woman who can insist on creative control and still raise 20 million?

KR: Yes.

Slant: I can't name any, but I have a reason why I can't.

KR: I have a reason too—there aren't any! Okay, forget about 20 million. Name a woman at the level of Gus Van Sant or Todd Haynes. Give me a female example of that.

Slant: Allison Anders. In 1996. I can't think of any on the spot, but in that category I know there are some.

KR: And she wasn't getting 20 million, by the way. She was living off a grant. Please. The idea that we're struggling to think of one that might have existed at some point—maybe that's why that question pisses me off. I'll also say that I can't think of a woman who has this benefit either: Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick can put out films and not have to go out and talk about them. If I want to think about what real success would be, it would be to be able to make a film without anyone breathing down my back and then not have to go out and talk about the film after you've gone to great lengths in your film to not over-explain everything. To not have to go out, that would be true success, but then you're just screwing over your distributor or your investors.

Amen.

Elisabeth Reinkordt is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a filmmaker living in Nebraska, and she writes here.

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"It's Always Sunday Around Here" - Lacrosse (mp3)

"We Are Kids" - Lacrosse (mp3)

"Song in the Morning" - Lacrosse (mp3) highly recommended

lacrosse myspace


Sunday
May312009

In Which We Decipher The Consequences of Lady Detecting

Lady Detectives of the 2009 Period

by ALEX CARNEVALE

There has never really been a series like The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and I doubt there will be in the ensuing years. Perhaps the show will be of such interest to Africa that it will be profitable, but it seems unlikely that such a Western take on life there would work artistically. Really, the show is for the English speaking world, and no matter where it is actually filmed or written, it is a show about how the West views Africa.

That's not a bad thing. It is better we address our perceptions of other races and people directly; it is a hell of a lot better than excluding them or relegating them to sidekick, ancillary roles.

Africa is a terrific setting to disabuse people of such notions, because it explodes our American perceptions of what 'black' is, and shows us a range of characters, some good, some bad. Sure, the stereotypes still flow, but their effect is deadened among such variety.

Botswana was the setting of Alexander McCall Smith's mediocre series of books upon which the movie-length pilot, directed by the deceased legend Anthony Minghella, and the ensuing series is based. But as bleh as the books were, there was always the opportunity for more. The characters and setting offer a multitude of possible stories, whose ultimate resolutions could offer real surprise in their outcomes.

Unfortunately the series isn't as devoted in tweaking our perceptions of the mystery genre as it might be, but that's OK. The real draw are the deep characters and relationships that are unique both to Africa and the West.

Start with the show's protagonist Precious, portrayed by Jill Scott.

The erstwhile R&B singer has never looked better. She's one of the hottest women on television, and since her character Precious is single, the romantic interplay on the show is one of its most exciting elements. Camryn Manheim and Christina Hendricks just get raped on office floors for their trouble, but the fearless Precious should be able to have a much more exciting (and safe) sex life through the course of this show.

The premise is very simple, since the show's creators obviously felt the Botswana setting was enough to get the show's viewers acclimated to. Precious' inspiration, her dear old Daddy, passes away and gives her a substantial number of cows that she sells to move to the city and open a private detective agency.

Her backstory prominently features being raped by her ex-husband and losing her child, so she doesn't exactly escape the curse of the Big Boned, but she's strong as hell.

Precious' morals are a little differently constructed than the majority of TV protagonists. She sometimes lets bad people off the hook and squashes others like bugs without much difference in  their respective moral culpability. It is what substitutes for a different way of thinking in a strange place.

The difficult climate and openness to invaders has turned the beginnings of human civilization into a hard place with a unknown future.You can't help feeling that this is how the West views Africa - constantly unable to decide whether it is best closely monitored or left alone.

Bush gave more money to Africa than Clinton, and we can suspect that our current president, having ancestry in the region, may cause still more money to be spent. Whether this is good or bad is hard to know, but the memories of our inaction in the Sudan still make all people of conscience tremble. Leading intellectuals on both sides of the aisle had trouble calling for action in the dual genocidal cleansing grounds of Kosovo and the Sudan, and while you can respect their lack of appetite to send American troops into places they don't fully understand, it was our moral obligation and duty to prevent the slaughter of innocents.

jill scott & anthony minghellaAlthough this choice is now behind us, it's unlikely that we will not be forced to face it again. It is interesting to watch this show, slanted as it is, and think of what might have been worth saving, and what a more powerful interventionist agenda could have accomplished. The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency is a rough allegory for the potential success of such policy-making.

The Botswana of The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency is in some ways modern and prosperous, but in other ways it lacks a rule of law we take for granted here in the States. Coming from a decrepit small village to the busier metropolis, Precious sticks out like a round thumb. She finds herself hiring the number one graduate of the local secretarial school, puts off the sloppy advances of a local mechanic, and generally makes her way in the world.

The world is Botswana, a Democratic republic with a strong government whose behavior with respect to the local diamond industry has been a model for other nations with similar resources. Still, for the Western observer, Botswana is a stark place, more brush and dirt, landlocked and dry to the touch. They call everyone by sweet familiars, and they bake in the heat. It is no wonder that life here was harder for its residents, warm as it is.

The cars, the dress, and the landscape is more familiar than foreign. It is Africa remade as the United States of the 1960s, in fact: a hilarious gay friend, an old, rattling car, a floral printed shirt. It is difficult to fashion a mystery in the post-information age, but information in the Botswana (of this show at least) is harder to come by.

Parts of the show are conventional, even boringly so, but other parts offer a freshness of vision. There is a simple delight in watching a mechanic's mischievous employees dance around before singing him Happy Birthday, or the agency's youngest employee, Wellington, scampering around to hand out fliers. It is a part of the message: that it is about living together, or dying alone.

Botswana is a nice model, and a safer place than most in the third world. The challenges that less fortunate peoples face in Africa are numerous, and the problems of disease and malnutrition in the people, and disease and corruption in the government loom large. Ultimately, this is a place in the world where we can make a difference by helping citizens rather than government. And that is sort of the point of any well-meaning detective agency, isn't it?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbles it all here.

"Atlantis to Interzone (Black Sessions version)" - Klaxons (mp3)

"The Bouncer (Black Sessions version)" - Klaxons (mp3)

"Two Receivers (Black Sessions version)" - Klaxons (mp3)

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