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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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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 (152)

Tuesday
Aug282012

In Which We Dance To The Music Of Amy Sherman-Palladino

Head Of Buns

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Bunheads
creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Lamar Damon

Michelle Simms, 37, is a Las Vegas showgirl. She never takes her top off, at least in public, and complains good naturedly about superior financial compensation for those who do. It is not that Michelle (Sutton Foster) is unwilling to sell herself, it is implied throught the remarkably, comfortingly familiar first season of Amy Sherman-Palladino's Bunheads. She is simply holding out for the right price.

Over the past few years, Michelle's dancing and general grace has attracted a persistent fan, Hubbell (Alan Ruck, Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off reconstituted as a 54 year old shoe magnate). Each time he visits Las Vegas on business, he brings Michelle flowers and gifts. Because she is somewhat starved for other admirers, she allows his affections to persist, until one drunken night, she agrees to marry him and move to his home in California. The fact that it overlooks the ocean is explanation enough.

Neal Stephenson once observed that "no man is more comprehensively doomed than him whose chief source of gratification is making favorable impressions on some particular woman." After Michelle and Hubbell are married in a Las Vegas chapel, they relocate to a small coastal California town where he lives with his mother Fanny (Kelly Bishop, formerly Lorelai's unctuous mother on Sherman-Palladino's previous series, Gilmore Girls). On his way to meet them at a local bar, he dies in a car accident, leaving everything to his new wife.

Instead of telling Fanny to find other lodgings, Michelle graciously cedes the main residence to her and moves her things to the property's sizable cottage. She is unhappy, but nowhere near as unhappy as she was before.

Her mother-in-law runs a dance studio where the eponymous bunheads tout their wares. Dance is a wonderful art, but the ideas it gives young women about their bodies are so destructive they largely render the art impotent except in the most outstanding cases. Fretting over the size and shape of their instruments is routine for the four teenagers who constitute the rest of the show's main cast.

Sherman-Palladino writes the young women as the adults they inevitably are, which means these bunheads are more brimming with life than their Disney Channel peers. Just as on Gilmore Girls, the exaggerated rapid fire dialogue is at once completely ridiculous and wholly realistic. It is a joy to simply listen to Bunheads without images, in wonderment at the mind that created such unmistakable voices.

Unlike Aaron Sorkin, with whom she is so frequently compared, Sherman-Palladino has a real grasp on why people who talk too much talk too much. Every character does not sound exactly the same, although to be honest they all do resemble their creator to varying degrees. Parsed out line by line, Sherman-Palladino's scripts approach the intoxicating rhythm of iambic pentameter. Since she is always showing off, she is never showing off.

The women of Bunheads are unmistakably not from this generation. The fact that they feel a genuine connection with an older woman whose idea of dance is performing The Nutcracker is retrograde enough on its own. Teens don't obsess over cell phones, and generally seem to disdain technology. None of the girls are having sex, and only one is in a relationship. Above all, this is about utility. It was a lot simpler to write a dramatic plot when every person in the world could not get in touch with every other person instantly via text message.

Sherman-Palladino's portrait of America is mostly white, entirely secluded from the actual world we live in. (A dancer of color appears suddenly in the show's eighth episode, as if she suddenly remembered.) We are not on Earth, we are on Amy's planet, and it is enough that people try to explain themselves to one another — explaining the world is a task she leaves to other artists. The self contains everything in Bunheads; objects, places and ideas are simply the apparatus that surrounds them. Thematically, dance is a natural extension of this rule.

Yes, the protagonists on Bunheads are astonishingly self-centered. This is the only modern thing about them. They do not think about the news, except possibly gossip in US Weekly or whatever is happening in their tiny hamlet of Paradise. Michelle's interest in social concerns only stretches as far as trying to get a supermarket chain to move into town  because there is nowhere to get coffee. Politics is the area of a flip remark or casual joke, it is not serious.

In the episodes that follow her husband's death, Michelle considers a variety of relationships: a fabulously wealthy and attractive hermit, a boytoy surfer/bartender, a Jewish director. Men are scarce in Paradise, CA, but that does not mean that Sherman-Palladino does not accord them any importance. They exist as moons or satellites, ever present, but not always in view. Sherman-Palladino is actually incredible at writing males; she exhibits a rare empathy for their plight in her world. Since all the women on the show are so obviously her, males allow Sherman-Palladino to flex her creative muscles, and the archetypes she creates for them — some sad, others unexpectedly joyful — are like no others on television.

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 Showtime's The Real L Word.

"Take It With Me" - Tom Waits (mp3)

"Picture In A Frame" - Tom Waits (mp3)

Saturday
Aug252012

In Which He Felt The Need To Defend Himself

You can find the archive of our Saturday fiction series here.

by Gideon Rubin

Nine and Zooey

by ALEX CARNEVALE

He said, "It connects thematically with the transient nature of things, and the permanent nature of institutions." He always preferred to start a sentence with a vowel. His tears, extended over time, were icicles, but just now they were anguished droplets, patterning the piece of paper.

It was awkward to see him crying in the middle of class, but after a moment, the rest of the group relaxed. A woman named Virginia pointed at the sky. A girl named Jamie reapplied lipstick. He said, "If you establish something, then remove it, you haven't taken it away completely. The absence remains."

He let that sink in, sipped his coffee, accidentally slurped it. He wondered if that undermined his point, but dismissed this insecurity. The only emotion that was worth analyzing was the last, since it contained all others.

Jamie picked up the papers in front of her and shuffled them as if that might rearrange the words into something different. She said, "I don't care for the narrator. He's simply not likeable. If I met him, these are the very last things I would want to know."

Tony nodded, brushing back his long hair. They waited for him to speak but he never did.

Ariana said, "Just because you don't like one facet of a person, doesn't mean you dislike him entirely."

He felt the need to defend himself, but could not imagine how. Instead he told the truth. "It's just a representation of me. You're saying you don't like me."

Virginia said, "Nine times out of ten, I would agree with you. But I just can't sympathize with a smoker. He's giving himself lung cancer after all, and on some level I feel he deserves it."

Ariana said, "If you receive something you ask for, it's a gift, not a disease."

by Gideon Rubin

Jamie said, "Cancer treatment can be very expensive. But I don't feel that kind of pain here. Perhaps he could ask someone for money. It's easy to sympathize with an individual who desperately requires what we all need to survive."

Tony said, "I was watching the Yankee game last night. A ball was hit into the crowd. A woman caught it, and gave it to a child. The boy shook his head and placed it back into her hands."

Miguel said, "I found the part about the nuclear reactor distracting."

He directed the conversation to the ending. Ariana said, "You should never end something with a gesture. I read that somewhere, but I knew it was true even before I read it."

Virginia said, "What is the religion of the protagonist?" He answered that he did not know. "I do sketches in longhand for all my characters," she explained to the group. "I need to know everything about them, so if another character asks them a question, I'll have the answer."

Tony said, "I like to find out things about my creations that I didn't know."

He said, "How could you discover a new fact about a figment that is entirely of your own imagining?"

They took a break. Even though he felt bad about it, he smoked a cigarette. Orion's belt shone like an indecent flag.

Virginia said, "Now that you have some time to think about it, what's his religion?"

Ariana said, "When you cried, I did feel for you. Perhaps your character could cry as well."

An older woman who normally did not talk during the class, and who he knew was named Yvonne, touched his hand. He started from it, surprised. She said, "Have you ever read anything by Knut Hamsun?"

Later, Ariana said, "Have you ever read anything by Howard Norman?" She knocked on wood.

Tony said, "Ethan Coen wrote some inconsistent short stories. Your work reminds me of that."

Virginia said, mere minutes after his hand had been so suddenly impacted, "You'd really like Rabbit at Rest. It is my favorite of those novels."

Their instructor was in her late fifties, her long blonde hair adorned with barrettes of the exact same color. Her golden retriever always sat next to her; the dog was named after one of the characters on Babylon 5. At the end of each class, she made her pronouncement on the story up for discussion. Often it contained some repudiation of his classmates, occasionally she confirmed one or more of their views. At first he thought she touched her chin absentmindedly during these lectures, but the more he saw of the behavior, the more convinced he became she was self-conscious about her neck.

At the bar afterwards, Ariana said, "I'm completely frightened by what she will say to me. You're so lucky."

Virginia gave him a cocktail and pressed an index finger to her temple. When he thanked her she nodded and said, "You know how sheets list their thread count on the package? Everything should do that." She headed right for the bathroom after that.

Ariana said, "Your eyelashes are so long. Have you ever read Mavis Gallant?" When he stared at a row of vodka bottles, they shined in his eyes like spanish dubloons. He had never seen such gold.

In class, Tony had said, "I don't personally find it believable when after I'm done reading something, no one has eaten or slept."

He had responded, "So you're saying every work of fiction has to contain eating or sleeping?"

Tony had answered, "There's a difference between hinting at an event occurring, and actually depicting it."

His instructor had said, her left hand stroking her chin, her right hand petting her dog, "Confusing a tiny part of the thing with the whole is a mistake reminiscent of a poor semiotician. We control each and every part of our lives; no one else shares this burden. Tony."

"Yes," Tony said, and looked at him.

Slowly, as if she were surveying a canvas wider than it was high, his instructor directed her attention to the same place, addressing him thoughtfully. "When you meet someone new, do you tell them everything about yourself?" He shook his head. "And why not?"

"Because I don't know everything." The females laughed, the men just shook their heads.

by Gideon Rubin

The instructor said, "If you met someone, and you wanted her to know you completely, and you wanted to know her completely... What would be the best way of telling her this?" No one answered. "That's right. There is no good way."

Jamie said, "A hurricane approaches from the southeast. All bow."

Tony said, "When I read the word 'speckled', I feel bile rising in my throat."

Ariana said, much later, "When you come it's like you're apologizing. But I like that."

Virginia said, "What does this have to do with what we've read?" His instructor levelled her gaze like a clothesline.

"Maybe you'd rather get to know her more slowly. That way you could adjust yourself to her, and she might do the same. But at the end of it, you would find the identical result, unless you willfully held something back. Actually doing that is harder than it is for me to say it. You want something of her, and to get it, you have to lie. That's what this art is, and nothing else."

He said, "I have never been a very good liar."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here.

"Alone's Just Fine" - Holly McNarland (mp3)

"You'll Forget About Me" - Holly McNarland (mp3)

by Gideon Rubin

Thursday
Aug022012

In Which The Captcha Tells Our Future

Physic

by ALEX CARNEVALE

To calculate exactly how much influence chance plays in auts is a tricky subject. A certain biomechanical tally could hold falsities. I ran this situation by my therapist, but she could offer no solution. There was nothing making up the mass.

(We were the mass.)

I began getting messages, on and on. You know the type. I'd like to see you again. A likely story.

The onset of randomness was chronicled by a happy man. Could bet that he was keen on seeing his own idea through.

Imagine Kant after completing a manuscript. Sheer elation, that's what an aut is. Someone could probably invent a word for it.

Miniatures were a passion of my therapist, and I understood the appeal. She construed them as docile. They were her followers. I possessed a friend in high school who collected those harsh, neon-haired trolls. He made fools of them.

In 1948 three different sets of twins perished in a global conflict. This kept occurring, until someone was able to make something out of it. In the reproduction, their faces glisten like tiny, far away stars.
     The troll-collector - the one who was my friend, I mean - he ended up joining the army. I asked him if he ever made up voices for the trolls and he laughed. I couldn't then admit that in my head, I had been.

The messages increased in frequency. It was someone who knew my mother, but any other information about the informant remained unclear.

My therapist has this theory of orbits. She hasn't patented it yet. The patent is presumably pending. The patent itself is not an aut, because it is only reproducing or categorizing something that exists already.

An orbit represents a casual link, but implied in the term is that the aut comes back on itself. It is a wrinkle that explains fate too easily, and thus opens the field to greater speculation. Galileo's drawings of the moon resemble captchas more closely than any other object in the universe.

One of the messages said to meet her at a particular time. I had a hard time understanding what anyone wanted.

To change within an aut is a worthy goal. I wouldn't say otherwise. To do something simply for its own sake is a bad way of putting it.

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 The Real L Word.

"Imitate Love" - Quigley (mp3)

You can download the latest EP from Quigley, Pleiades, here.