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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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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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Entries in alex carnevale (176)

Thursday
Aug132015

In Which Rebecca West Splashed Her Colors About

Retreat At Marienbad

by ALEX CARNEVALE

I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet.

Rebecca West, 1920

The girl born Cissie Fairfield chose the name Rebecca West. She grew up in London's largest Jewish neighborhood, and by selecting an ethnic first name, she gave herself something of what was obvious in those that surrounded her. The handle itself was taken from Ibsen's Rosmerholm, where Rebecca West is the adulteress who persuades her married lover to join her in a double suicide.

Like regretting a particularly egregious tattoo, she turned on Mr. Ibsen shortly thereafter, writing "I began to realize Ibsen cried out for ideas for the same reason men cry out for water: because he had not got any."

She was hired as assistant editor at The Freewoman, an early British feminist weekly. She quickly grew tired of the paper's narrow focus on politics. She did not like criticizing women who were ostensibly part of the cause; she viewed herself as a kind of Mark Twain who destroyed ignorance by stabbing it slyly in the back, not by attacking from the front.

Rebecca and H.G. Wells

She also left The Freewoman for an unrelated reason: love. H.G. Wells read her review of his novel Marriage in the paper. Wells, 45, was already on his second marriage, and deeply unsatisfied sexually. His wife Jane knew of his numerous affairs, mostly with other writers who he admired or vice versa. He described his latest infautuation as having "a fine dark brow and dark, expressive, troubled eyes. I had never met anyone quite like her before, and I doubt if there was ever anyone like her before."

In another way, Rebecca's idiosyncrasies frightened him, and Wells could depend upon a more reliable mistress. Rebecca did not take the initial rejection kindly. (He gave her the slow fade, going abroad with his other girlfriend after their first meetings.) She wrote to him, "During the next few days I shall either put a bullet through my head or commit something more shattering to myself than death."

It was Rebecca's writing that brought them together again, especially her travel articles about France and Spain. He recognized the astounding talent in them, and he should have: she was, at a precociously young age, his equal with the pen. She waited a few weeks before having sex with him. It could not have come as much of a surprise when she found herself pregnant.

Their romance was not dimmed by this relevation at first. Role-playing quickly became their most amusing pastimes: she called him Jaguar and she referred to him as Panther, perhaps because of his speed. The two set up an elaborate sexual interchange that excited Wells to no end, and he forgot about his last affair in favor of the new.

Wells wrote, "Panther I love you as I have never loved anyone. I love you like a first love. I give myself to you. I am glad beyond any gladness that we are to have a child." They named the boy Anthony Panther, a choice which would disgust a generation of scholars. H.G. himself was absent for the birth.

Anthony and Rebecca

Their relationship could not help but grow more complicated. The last thing Wells wanted was a family life with his girlfriend — that wasn't what was missing from his life. He wanted her to make time with female friends, and pop up whenever he needed a fuck.

Wells hid Rebecca in an isolated suburb of London. Out of boredom and frustration, she wrote her first book, a tearing down of Henry James that met with Wells' approval. She loved her son dearly, but wished for a freedom impossible for a young mother. Adding insult to injury, she was not acknowledged as the child's mother in her own home.

As soon as she could, she sent four-year old Anthony to boarding school. Wells loathed her for this decision. She wrote him to explain, saying, "I hate being encumbered with a little boy and a nurse, and being helpful. I hate waiting about." As Rebecca's behavior drifted farther and farther away from what Wells desired of her, he started having regular intercourse with Margaret Sanger.

Whereas before Rebecca had been represented in his novels as a pleasant free spirit, now she was as disturbed in his fiction as he perceived her to be in life, replete with the medical problems that troubled Rebecca all her days. The only thing worse than how Wells treated women were his ghastly political views.

Anthony and Rebecca swimming

By the age of six Anthony Panther still could not read. Rebecca's slow pulling away from Wells' hold over her was the only thing that kept his interest alive. "I've not kept faith," he wrote her. "I've almost tried to lose you. You are probably the only person who can really give me love and make me love back. And because you've been ill I've treated you so's I've got no right to you any more. Have I ever got into your arms to cry? I would like to do that now."

1982

She had the trick of drawing all sorts of people to her, women and men, but especially writers. Her meeting with D.H. Lawrence invigorated a desire to focus on her work, and her next novels were a leap ahead from all she had produced before. Stylistically and emotionally, she was pulling away from Wells' grip on her, and towards a fiction influenced by the modernists who were her peers instead of the generation moving into old age and death. After he read her novel The Judge, he wrote, "She splashed her colours about; she exalted James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence, as if in defiance of me — and in despite of Jane and everything trim, cool and deliberate in the world."

Her admirer W. Somerset Maugham's letter had a different theme: "I do not think there is anyone writing now who can hold a candle to you."

wells in his auto

It was this sort of affirmation which allowed her to give H.G. Wells a final ultimatum - marriage or separation. He was insulted by the idea he would have to choose between her and his wife. Eventually, after Wells unexpectedly showed up during a retreat at Marienbad she planned with a few friends, Rebecca gave him up. She sailed to America in a geographical severance. It was her first time in our country. How they worshipped her here!

West was in New York only a few weeks before Charlie Chaplin began making aggressive advances on her person. The gossip that had spread about her strange arrangements in London only excited her new American friends, with one crowing, "We fell in love with you, you know. And if you are so fascinating when you are living through a tragedy, you must be dangerous indeed now that it is over."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"I Stand Up For Me" - Jaymay (mp3)

"Baby Maybe One Day" - Jaymay (mp3)

Monday
Aug032015

In Which Trainwreck Offers But One Saving Grace

It Is Offensive

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Trainwreck
dir. Judd Apatow
125 minutes

No matter what Trainwreck refers to, it is offensive. If it refers to Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer), it is offensive, since she has a decent job working for a men's magazine under a woman named Dianna (Tilda Swinton), and a boyfriend whose body is almost completely hairless. If it refers to the movie itself; probably the most joyless, pointless waaaah released since Apatow's last film, This Is 40, it is offensive, since they never should have released anything to theaters quite this bad or unfunny.

The one saving grace of Trainwreck is that there are no fat jokes, since Ms. Schumer has lost a lot of weight to play this role and her body looks every bit as impressive as the physique of her boyfriend Steve (John Cena, a former professional bodybuilder). Whoever had the idea to cast a wrestler as a closeted homosexual is offensive. Cena can't act either, and a long sex scene where Amy begs him to attempt dirty talk is more dull than amusing. The moment ends when he hangs a washcloth on his penis.

Amy Townsend's real love interest is Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), whose face resembles Scrooge McDuck's ungainly visage. He is completely ridiculous as an innovator in sports medicine whose best friend is LeBron James. James' acting is actually worse than Cena's, and he gets plenty of screen time in Trainwreck. Casting non-actors in major roles is pretty much the easiest way there is to make your movie an absolute chore to sit through, and Apatow should know better.


Also getting screen time for some reason is Colin Quinn, whose preposterous performance as Amy's offensive father makes the film even stupider. Everyone else in Amy's father's life is sick of the old man's act, and soon enough watching Trainwreck we are too. Fortunately Quinn's lame character dies about halfway through the film. His passing is a breath of fresh air; he was also wildly age-inappropriate for his part.

The smart move would have been to put a cast of talented performers around Amy to distract from her inexperience in more serious roles. This would have made her scenes about 100x easier than the painfully paced slog they are. It actually isn't just the cameos that make Trainwreck a chore to sit through: Apatow and Schumer cast a bunch of stand-up comics and comedians around her, none of whom are experienced actors except for Tilda Swinton. Unsurprisingly, Amy's scenes with Swinton are the best that Trainwreck offers. The rest seems like the awful machinations of an improv troup at a summer camp.

There is nothing remotely real about anything that happens in Trainwreck. This movement away from verisimilitude initially seems fortuitous after Apatow made a not-very well received film about his family life. Alas, Trainwreck is not bizarre in any kind of silly or fun fashion. It is just impossible to imagine this group of callous, unfeeling white people ever wanting to even interact with each other. Besides Amy, not a single person in Trainwreck even laughs.

As a star vehicle, Schumer writes herself as a depressing molotov cocktail of a human being. It is obvious from her Comedy Central series and her incisive standup that she has more to offer than the backwards tale of a woman who has to be ashamed of her own sexuality, but none of that is in Trainwreck. It is a serious step back for everyone involved.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Doing What You're Told" - Josh Pyke (mp3)

"Someone To Rust With" - Josh Pyke (mp3)

Thursday
Jul302015

In Which Mr. Robot Feels Especially Insecure

Watching You

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Mr. Robot
creator Sam Esmail

Sam Esmail directed a small romantic comedy featuring goofy Justin Long and wretched Emmy Rossum in major roles. 2014's Comet was not a success by any measure, and watching it made feel like you wanted to destroy from space anyone who thought these two smug millennials were sympathetic or interesting in any way.

In his USA series Mr. Robot, Esmail has magically used his talent for writing characters that are insensitive and annoying to his advantage. It is hard to know even why Mr. Robot is so bizarrely joyful in the way it sees its dark, dangerous settings and maladjusted set of characters. Mr. Robot never cringes at clichés — the show simply runs head-on into them.

Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) is an employee at Allsafe, a cyber security firm that is pretty terrible at its job. Like any fictionalized depiction of computer crime, Mr. Robot segues into some lame hacking sequences to describe for laypersons what Elliott is doing in his free time when he uses backdoors to penetrate private networks. This is the least interesting part of Mr. Robot, since it duplicates the issue all such dramas have had since Sandra Bullock's seminal 1995 film The Net: watching characters intently stare at screens gets a bit dull.

Irwin Winkler directed The Net when he was 64 years old, and certainly had no idea what was possible or even feasible about hacking or identity fraud. Then again, The Net was silly, but it also featured a basic kind of truth to how easy it made this type of thing seem. If stealing secure documents was so difficult, then it wouldn't be happening every single day, especially to governments. 

Mr. Robot presents the schizophrenic Eliot as a kind of hero, since he wants to subvert existing power structures through nonviolence, unlike the rest of his hacker group fsociety. Under the advisement of older man who calls himself Mr. Robot (a horrendous Christian Slater), Elliot explains how fsociety can infiltrate a secure facility in upstate New York that contains the data backups for an Enron-esque company termed Evil Corp by its adversaries.

Elliot's next-door neighbor is a sweet young woman named Shayla (the phenomenally talented Frankie Shaw). She sells him drugs and solicits his protection against her abusive dealer boyfriend. When its cliffhanger serial about corporate destruction is not unfolding, Mr. Robot concerns Eliot's technological advantage in creating revenge for his friends in the real world. It would be white knighting if Malek's glue-faced Elliot were not an Egyptian-American.

Elliot's major adversary is an executive at E Corp named Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström). Mr. Wellick is a Patrick Bateman-esque sociopath, and his morally bereft character is so fun to watch that he is on the verge of becoming Mr. Robot's secret protagonist. Encouraged by his sadistic wife, Wellick has gay sex to commandeer a rival's phone for information, and seduces the wife of his superior by telling her how boring her husband is. Elliot is the only character in this reduced world over whom he has no power.

Wellick is major part of what makes Mr. Robot like nothing else on television. It is so tiring to watch shows where every scene is the exact same length. The peripatetic switching back and forth between characters at an identical pace never allows the viewer the satisfaction of not knowing where she will go next. Mad Men and The Sopranos succeeded partially based on their avoidance of this patterned structure, and Mr. Robot features long, ambitious set pieces that measurably heighten the drama and suspense.

Esmail's signature visual style also represents a refreshing shift. Instead of putting human faces in the direct center of the screen so that they can still be viewed comfortably on standard-definition televisions, he uses the entire widescreen canvas on offer, often displaying the action from low or high angles. This strategy always places the individual characters of Mr. Robot in contrast with their disparate environments, giving Mr. Robot an authentic feel it desperately needs among its silliness.

Michael Mann released his own hacking movie Blackhat earlier this year, and it was a tremendous failure for the same reasons that Mr. Robot emerges as a triumph. It had no fun with the absurdity of the world it inhabited — it made cybersecurity seem like any other field rife with criminals and greedy thieves. That isn't what is entertaining or true about the subject at all. The compelling part of internet wars is that they attract people for reasons other than money, showing how little finance means to us. People are motivated by so many more interesting things.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Drunched In Crumbs" - Albert Hammond Jr. (mp3)

"Power Hungry" - Albert Hammond Jr. (mp3)