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

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose
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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 (157)

Tuesday
Jan012013

In Which We Make A Plan For The Year Ahead

View of the New Year

by ALEX CARNEVALE

In the ocean, there is a separation between myself and the world. Drying off dissipates it. I swam with my father as a boy. He told me that he thought of the day ahead, the world he would enter. I told him I thought of never leaving the wet, never breathing again. It was also an excuse that got me out of gym class.

When I read the familiar story of an outsider in an organization, I ask myself who really thinks of themselves as an insider, except perhaps Mark Zuckerberg's sister.

My old professor's marriage ended several years before he killed himself. When he spoke of his wife, it was like recalling Milton. Things that have already occurred fade so quickly. I miss him - not being around him, I gave up on that long ago, but wanting to have the memory of him without thinking of the sorrow. I hope they all have stopped existing so I no longer have to worry for them.

To be known to others only by what you write must be galling, especially if you are as talentless as Ian McEwan.

There is absolutely no point in having a penis. It is like an appendix, yet even less vital, since the appendix may yet have function we cannot discern with our simple minds.

A kind of uncertain pity for those who believe in God, a more assured empathy for those who find they cannot.

In Walmart the other day I saw a woman tap dance. Even that was partially expected. The only truly spontaneous act is absence because it is never truly anticipated. The illusion of control.

I did once climb Diamond Head, although I could not make to the top. I became claustrophobic in a narrow passage before the summit; women carried young children past me in their arms. Yes, I was taller than them, but relatively, not much taller.

Is a mirror.

I change the place it happens, or the time. Maybe it does not come, or arrives differently, not in the same fashion as when it left. This never used to bother me before, in the same way that this year I suddenly started to hate contractions.

Those who come in and out of my life may retain some lasting impression, but that perception pales in comparison to what I take from them. Revisiting their words to me is my occupation. Because I can only fathom myself through their influence, and I could not be more sorry to have to admit that.

Other things I have climbed.

The careful one touches his fingers to the glass before he wipes it.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about Django Unchained.

Paintings by Eric Nash.

"Equinox" - Photay (mp3)

"Sloth" - Photay ft. Mood Tattoed (mp3)

Monday
Dec312012

In Which We Examine Quentin Tarantino's Skull

Dark Rider

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Django Unchained
dir. Quentin Tarantino
180 minutes

Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) has a lot of money and is very, very bored, a position Quentin Tarantino has been able to identify with for some time now. Tarantino loved genre films as a young one; now he remakes them as if their conventions were high literature. He reminds me somewhat of how Charles Dickens reinvented the early serial drama of his predecessors into a somewhat more serious treatment of his place and time. In its sheer exuberance and energy, Django Unchained makes everything else released this year look amateurish and dull.

Dr. Schultz tracks down Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx) because he believes the slave can identify individuals with a considerable bounty on their heads, the Brittle brothers. He purchases the slave and promises Django freedom if he complies with Schultz' instructions. Most slave narratives have a white man making such a vow at one point or another, but Schultz keeps his word, and after Django helps him kill other white people, including Don Johnson and Jonah Hill (couldn't he have eliminated Emma Stone while he was at it?), they team up to assassinate more whites with bounties on their heads. The outfits they wear during their hunts are absolutely magnificent.

Tarantino gave into his more comedic impulses in his hysterical two-part revenge fantasy Kill Bill. It was still strange enough to make the films it was parodying seem normal in comparison. Django Unchained is not nearly as risky, for it must necessarily take its major subject - slavery - at face value. It is only near the very end of Django, when Jamie Foxx's horse is doing a humorous, Mr. Ed-style tap dance after eliminating the plantation where he finds his wife Hildy (Kerry Washington), when Django Unchained fully embraces the whimsical satire that all of Tarantino's films inevitably become.

Casting was once Tarantino's forte, but now his friends are actors, and it's more important to find work for his buddies, along with the token comeback role for a guy like Don Johnson, than find the best actors for the role. Waltz is basically reprising his role as a disturbed Nazi from Inglorious Basterds, except now he is on the other side, playing a bounty hunter who returns the corpses of wanted men for cash. Dr. Schultz seems to be more excited by the danger his profession entails than the potential monetary rewards. (Again, the parallel to Tarantino, whose use of the word "nigger" completely subsumes the dialogue of Django Unchained, is obvious.)

Waltz' overall diction and facial expressions are virtually unchanged from Basterds. He is good at what he does, but about halfway through Djano Unchained, when the two bounty hunters arrive at the plantation of Leonardo DiCaprio, you realize you are as sick of him as Django is. Schultz does not really possess the right kind of personality for the reserved Foxx to play off, and later scenes where Django purses his objective alone are filled with a more exciting kind of tension. We do not want our black hero's vengeance encumbered by a white man any more than he does.

DiCaprio himself, portraying plantation owner Calvin Candie, is far and away the most talented actor in Django Unchained, and like most of Tarantino's villains he gets the best lines. (His teeth are revolting and perfect.) Calvin Candie's own second is a simpering, aged Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the role of the black man loyal to the plantation. This, DiCaprio explains at length, is because African-Americans have a part of the skull which renders them more submissive than whites. Jackson's role is mostly played for comedy, and its only difference from the traditionally offensive roles of blacks issued in films from the early part of last century is that the actor behind the role voted for Obama.

The rest of the cast gets little in the way of screen time. As Django's wife, Kerry Washington is painfully muted. She is the only one slave who experiences tortune in Django Unchained as a slave. Sure, one man is torn to death by dogs, and another is beaten to death in a staged fight to the death, but that is not slavery. Slavery is not violence alone; it requires duration.

Mostly, the blacks of DiCaprio's not-so-idyllic Candyland lounge about, not working the fields or feeling the lash of the overseer. Washington's scars, when displayed at a particularly eventful dinner, are the only evidence of violence present. Her screams do not make us shudder when she emerges from the salty hotbox where she is punished for fleeing, and her anguish, or anyone else's, is never offered at length.

That is not the kind of movie Tarantino is making, which is something of a shame, because Quentin is the best technical director working today. He has abandoned his unnerving, electric habit of using long shots and pans that so set him apart from his fast-cutting peers in his early career, trading it in for a more flexible style. At times he seems to be even making fun of much imitated moments in his earlier efforts, repeating his most famous nausea-inducing pan from Reservoir Dogs as he circles around a group of Scottish slavers that includes himself, 100 pounds heavier than when Quentin Tarantino first cast Quentin Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs as the slender Mr. Brown.

Roots this is not. "Slavery is not a spaghetti western," Spike Lee informed us, as if this were in doubt. There are few spaghetti westerns played for laughs. Django Unchained is a slavery comedy, plain and simple.

Here we find a reminder of what slavery was, without the evidence of degradation over time that distinguished it from mere oppression. Maybe that is just as well. White audiences have never tolerated an extensive reminder of their ancestors' foibles; much easier to simply witness the murder of slaveowners and feel superior and glad as blood cartoonishly spews from their bodies when Django executes them. It is not dissimiliar to the congratulatory feeling that Zero Dark Thirty offers at the violent execution of Osama Bin Laden. At least Django does not throw a lively party and announce a press conference afterwards. We cannot help our enjoyment at watching evil people die, but nothing offers more diminishing rewards.

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. He last wrote in these pages about Rebecca West and H.G. Wells.

"Freedom" - Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton (mp3)

"Who Did That To You" - John Legend (mp3)

Tuesday
Nov272012

In Which We Hate Waiting About

The Woman

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 with which he came in contact. 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 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 admired 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."

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.

"Thorn in My Side" - Veronica Falls (mp3)

"Eighteen Is Over The Hill" - Veronica Falls (mp3)

1982