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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
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 (206)

Thursday
May052016

In Which Water Remains The Sweet Elixir Of American Life

The White Clouds

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

"Every one of you here has the opportunity to live an authentic life," explains a guy wearing a really nice sweater. At Est, the concept of being trapped by other people's impressions and feelings about you is the real danger. "There is something so American about it," Elizabeth explains, since needing help with self-realization is a Western concept stolen from the East. They just didn't realize it.

Gary Snyder translated poems by a ninth century Chinese recluse named Han Shan that I was reading the other day. It is astonishing how modern they are, although Snyder's grasp of the timelessness of human expression in his translation is a major factor. Many Americans know and understand very little about life in other places, even within their own nation, and there has rarely been a good way of explaining it authentically.

This week Obama made an attempt at it, so he found himself drinking water in Flint, Michigan. It was an impressive feat; something I would never do. A famous moment in the 1992 campaign took place when Bill Clinton told an enraged protestor that he felt the man's pain; it also marked the permanent departure of the Clintons from the left-wing of that party. Why Obama drank the water I don't really know. It probably didn't taste very good, since afterwards he announced that "kids are very resilient" indicating that they could rebound from whatever illness the water imparted. Then he distributed filters for everyone.

One poem of Han Shan goes like this:

Spring water in the green creek is clear
Moonlight on Cold Mountain is white
Silent knowledge — the spirit is enlightened of itself
Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness.

This sentimentality is ancient. Even Elizabeth, after murdering an African-American woman with several kids, was momentarily absorbed into it. There is a literal nature to both politics and violence that Elizabeth grasps instinctively, in this episode directed by Matthew Rhys. What is common in both disciplines is a 1:1 relationship between the meaning of an act and the act itself.

Keri Russell's character embodies this completely. When Elizabeth says that Martha was simple, and straightforward, she was really describing her own outlook. To the extent that she has emotions, altering them isn't her forte, or her husband's.

Don't get me wrong: they can do what every good politician can do. It is only a matter of creating another feeling, and layering it over that initial anger. Bill Clinton did not "feel the pain" of the AIDS activist – in that moment he was merely a mirror. (The irony is that one of the campaign songs for Clinton-Gore was Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror.")

Martha was more complicated than a lot of people gave her credit for. She was more adaptable than she believed, although that was likely indicated by the fact she married her clandestine lover and suggested he take her from behind. For Martha, the world was not a literal place, full of sound and fury, signifying various somethings. No, the world is full of illusions of various values. Weighing one more heavily is only possible at the expense of another.

In light of that, Han Shan becomes a recluse. He writes,

There's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You'd get it and be right here.

It will take over two years to fix the pipes in Flint, Michigan. In the meantime, Kevin Drum put up a post explaining that very few children would be harmed by this, on average. He calculated half an IQ point, which was apparently not the biggest deal. I suppose it depends on how much of the water you drank.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, lots of people contracted cancer and many died. Looking at it statistically it must have been well above the average, for so many families to have parents taken away. Lots of theories went around as to why this was happening — many worked near a nuclear power plant, and there was other heavy industry in the area.

Most of those companies have moved their jobs overseas due to America's corporate tax rate. I don't think there are any travel agents around, and jobs in the region are hard to come by. Then and now, it was wise to make a point of not sampling the tap water. Some people were angry about the impact of cancer, but most tolerated it with good grace. We could not really know what had happened to us.

The Americans becomes a little too much like a fairy tale when Clark sobs for hours on end about how Martha is off to Prague. She made a choice, and knew what could happen. She's probably alive, and she should feel lucky that she had a chance to choose. I don't want to say that the people who make The Americans are spoiled, or that the people who walk into a town, sip the water and leave are inauthentic. I don't have any idea what motivates such an act.

The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Thursday
Apr282016

In Which Martha Hanson Strays From The Path

Clark?

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

Who among us hasn't wanted to give Martha a tight little punch in the chest? On The Americans, everyone gets a receipt for what they've done.

The notion of karma was invented in 1938 by a Ukranian tailor who emigrated to Sand Hill, NJ. His given name was Terence Hordiyenko, and he came to this country seeking a brighter future for his two daughters, Enid and Caroline. Enid was a soft girl who did not really fit into her new country. The younger Caroline fit in well, and joined others in mocking her younger sister. But her sister invented a process for stitching dresses more quickly, and Caroline never married. Still her father, who was called T-Bone by his friends, loved Caroline more than Enid. On his death bed he turned his unwanted daughter away, and God made his first appearance in New Jersey. God said, "Because you did not love both of your daughters, I have decided not to call you T-Bone in the hereafter." T-Bone was saddened by this, but he understood.

If you sleep with another person's betrothed, who knows what they will call you in the afterlife.

It bothers me sometimes that we have forgotten what Stan Beeman did. He cheated on his wife with a KGB agent. Why is that never brought up? Agent Gaad should have simply explained that he was playing "the long game" with Martha. "Playing the long game" is a fantastic excuse that I use whenever I don't want to do laundry, make borscht for dinner, or watch whatever is left of Broad City.

Even the most disturbing partnerships are in fact partnerships. A weird sexual tension perverts every relationship of its kind: friendships are rarely so entwined. Without their parents it is only natural that Paige feels a closeness with Henry that goes beyond the strictures of traditional brother-sister behavior. Her metaphoric pouring into his cup made me think of Tijuana. It was there, also in 1938, that remorse was defined as a philosophical concept.

But now the year is 1983. Stan Beeman is maybe the worst FBI agent in the office besides his direct boss. They have Martha, I mean they really have her, and Stan is channeling visions of himself lying down with Martha and then torturing her in some flophouse on Martin Luther King Boulevard. You see, if Stan was in a similar situation, the only thing he could think to do was kill himself. And the irony is, of course, that he is in that exact situation.

Elizabeth shows up at Rock Creek Park. We never see the gun in her pocket, and why even bother? Maybe it's a needle filled with poison, or a picture of herself in coitus with Clark Westerfeld. Either would be just as effective in stopping the beating of Martha's heart. Clark knows his mark better than anyone, and even if she needed the story of him joining her in Moscow, she'd lose faith at another lie.

It seems clear Martha will not be making it to Moscow, which is a damn shame. The show was better off with her comic relief. I don't really see how she is useful to Russia anymore, and if she was smarter she probably could have got something by lying to the FBI and explaining she was blackmailed into cooperating.

She could have told them about Clark, and Frank Langella, and maybe the rat in the fridge would have bought her a house in the Hamptons. She could tell them phone numbers, places, dates, the particulars of the Kama Sutra. How Clark fucked her, loved her, and left her. Even if they didn't believe her, she would have still been an American.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Previously on the Americans

Young and Foolish - Episode Six

It's Enough Paige - Episode Five

Birdwatching in Winter - Episode Four

Makeup - Episode Three

Church Garb - Episode Two

Son of a Preacher Man - Episode One

"Magnificent Time" - Travis (mp3)

Friday
Apr082016

In Which We Will Not Beg Keri Russell To Stay

Birdwatching in Winter

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg
 

Betrayal!

A man, enthusiastic for a new life! He stands on the precipice of the old, peeling back his woman's blanket from her face! He is more uncomfortable than comfortable, he is more imperceptive than perceptive, he is more un-American than you know what! His bowling improves over long years! Where at first he used the bumper system, until he abandoned it because it was the worst possible metaphor for his life! His son works a joystick at both ends!

Move effortlessly backwards in time from the decision of a divorce, recalling each moment that led to the separation! For Stan Beeman life seems more peripatetic in reverse! When he was poring over the various lozenges and sarcophages of his co-worker, he feels both the thrill of the deceit and the astonishment of delving into a life more consummated than his own! In America, there are always further levels of knowing, passions unknown to the Russian people, who stop at the first orgasm, certain that life could not possibly improve from the state that it is in!

Stan Beeman's real other half, the Russian one, skulks and towers through a shit park to save the one he loves! But the way he loves her! Annet Mahendru, in discussing the illogical fate of Nina Sergeeva, whispered to some reporter that she missed her character! They must have been really tired of having her on set! I have heard of the Stanislavsky method, but never such a fine implementation as in this case! You have probably heard of David Mamet's method of acting! The only thing he tells the performers is to speak the dialogue, the less inflection the better! The only thing he was ever in love with was his ideas!

That is what I think when I see that poor scientist who cared for Elizabeth and Philip like he was their best friend! It is very good to have a friend, especially when you are sick! It turned out that Elizabeth simply had a nasty reaction to antibiotics! They really can make you nauseous! She took it well, all things considered! Life is very precious, especially American, Caucasian life! There must be a respite from the world, and there is something about knowing you are in a house, okay, and pretty soon no one is going to be living there except for the molecules, and in time they will be gone, too!

I am so tired of you, Paige! I am so exhausted by your need for attention! One of the things I dislike most about you is how you let the phone drop to your shoulder when a call becomes too emotional! How is the other person on the end of the line supposed to sense this! You know perfectly well there was no Skype in the 1980s! Sometimes it makes me upset when I think that Paige is alive somewhere, a lot older than me, and way more jaded about everything! When Demi Lovato comes on the radio she probably screams or fondles her gorgeous crucifix necklace! I don't know what the word bespoke means in almost any context!

Sometimes I feel like I am inside Nina's dream! On one level it is weird that she had kind of a brother thing going on with that Jewish guy! I mean, do you really have time to friendzone someone while you are living in a prison cell! She keeps a red diary there! She betrayed plenty of men, except the last one she ever knew! Her betrayals of women were only secondary, and there is something both sexist and progressive about that, and about The Americans in general! That is a terrible feeling: when you think you are taking a step forward, but quite possibly you are mistaken and it is a step back!

A step back from what, you ask, sipping chardonnay with your pinkie finger extended slightly in the ether, like sideways rain! You could be moving onto something great! It could be a substantial improvement over what you left behind, or the person who left you behind! Martha's sad dinner speech was the echo of this idea! You'll never truly know until what happens, happens! The future could also be worse, and the part of the brain dedicated to knowing such things is like the appendix, in that it became vestigial over time, but once this organ had a great purpose!

Trust me!

Do you understand?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Wizard" - M83 (mp3)