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Alex Carnevale
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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 (208)

Friday
May132016

In Which They Consider Themselves The Awkward Stepchildren Of The Nuclear Age

Pleasures of the Open Air

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

Next to a nude man in a queen-sized bed, Elizabeth Jennings slightly uncovers herself so that her asshole can experience the routine pleasures of the open air. It is always pleasant to wake up next to someone before they do. Their lives are in your hands, or at least remain perilously close to your hands, for those fleeting moments.

When I was a kid I had a friend who never liked to leave his bed. He did all his homework there. Sometimes he convinced me to sit on it and play the game of Life; other times I requested we do so on a table like human beings. If there is no safe place, then a place must be made safe. I have developed plans to place this sentiment on a bumper sticker and merchandise it on several platforms.

Nothing really changed on the family's vacation except Paige is now working people like a pro and Elizabeth feels moral compunction over some simple blackmail. It was honestly his fault for going up to her apartment in the first place and drinking wine. Then, he demurred at the slightest touch of her hand to his leg - bullshit. He knew why he was up there, he just wanted to seem somewhat reluctant to make them both feel better.

Pastor Fucking Tim can't leave well enough alone. When someone goes out of their way to secure you a great deal on international travel, you do not tell him that his daughter is sad. Tim will likely never come back from this African country, panicking his wife. Then he will show up suddenly with an African bride. Tim's ill-advised trip to Africa reminded me of how little an impact racism or sexism plays in the Cold War.

Despite the fact that Oleg seems to sleep with every single one of his gendered colleagues, nothing is made of this and the elegant, hardscrabble Tatiana seems to be using him for intel. It is still kind of messed up that they are so willing to be with this whimpering sod of a KGB officer. When Oleg finds out, defects to the United States and begins to feed her false intel, this will make Tatiana even more ridiculous. Unless this has already occurred?

Sleeping with other people, or pretending to, is the main intelligence-gathering function for women in the KGB. Just once I would love to see Elizabeth get what she needs by friendzoning some poor security guard. Presumably things are the same on the American side – we will never know since the closest thing to a woman operative is Agent Gaad's wife, who has taken him to Thailand for debriefing. For some, The Day After came and went a long time ago.

Paige's slow descent in agentdom is going better than ever, but it would be fun to see Hans get more screentime on the show as a boy she casually meets at church and brings home to her parents. They could sit on the edge of her bed and listen to records. I doubt she is wanting to talk much about God, but she could tell him all about her parents, and how all their friends are as straight and white as the day is long.

While Elizabeth was babysitting three Korean-American children, she taught them all the ways of her people. Pizza, racquetball and Chevrolets. It is impossible not to become addicted on some level to what is on offer, precisely because of the availability. We get good at everything we do repeatedly, finding all the shortcuts. If Elizabeth were to disappear to another part of the country, leaving all this behind, we sense she could do it without a second thought. Masks become habits.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Brand New Feeling" - Matt Costa (mp3)

Thursday
May122016

In Which Aging Remains Difficult For Some

Children Get Older

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Captain America: Civil War
dir. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
147 minutes

Hello, My Name Is Doris
dir. Michael Showalter
95 minutes

Getting older seems so difficult: unless things actually improve with age. Tony Stark and Doris Miller have lived substantially more than half their lives and they find the prospect of going on daunting. One thing is absurdly clear: they intend to make serious changes in their personalities in order to accommodate this new reality.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is consciously uncoupled from Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) when Captain America: Civil War begins. She was very unhappy when he murdered a generation of Eastern Europeans battling a robot voiced by James Spader. She was willing to accept his drinking and flirting with other women, but all the death really soured the relationship.

The primary relationship of Doris Miller (Sally Field) was with her mother. The woman was something of a pack rat, and Doris inherited some of her mother's inclinations while keeping her data entry job at an advertising agency. When the agency's new art director John (Max Greenfield) tells her that he likes her glasses, she becomes obsessed with him.

Tony Stark's obsessions take a different form. After the tragedy of the last Avengers film (it claimed Joss Whedon's credibility as well, a serious loss), Stark has kept his eye on a Queens teenager. He shows up at the boy's house, sits on his bed, and relays instructions as to what to tell his family and friends. This actually happens in Captain America: Civil War, the most tone deaf movie since Taken 2. But really, discovering Spiderman is only a distraction in Captain America: Civil War. Stark is most focused on subduing the will of another, less susceptible person.

Steve Rogers (a magnificent Chris Evans) holds things together by dint of his colossal charisma. Captain America: Civil War subtly alludes at a love relationship between himself and the winter soldier Bucky Brooks (Sebastian Stan) who he tries to protect from the government and the other Avengers when a man attempts to frame Bucky for a terrorist attack. The two make a very handsome couple, and short shrift is given to Rogers' beard Sharon Carter (a bloated looking Emily VanCamp), a disloyal intelligence operative.

Steve actually is quite old, and previous films chronicling his return to the world focused primarily on how he would adapt after being frozen or something. These jokes never made much sense, since besides the advent of the computer, almost nothing has changed in American life that cannot be understood by watching three hours of cable television.

All the people Steve cared about are dead besides his winter lover. Tony Stark was abandoned by his close ones by dint of his own behavior — except for his parents, who he lost at a young age before he could make them proud. His new family was more recently ripped from him when Pepper started dating her own male assistant, who was much more savvy when it came to understanding her idiosyncratic romantic requirements.

Stark's new family is a bunch of mutants. Most of them are men. He is not really effective at forming relationships with women; in previous films he simply harassed them into a disturbed submission. In Captain America: Civil War, he confines the telekinetic Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen, more radiant than ever) to her chambers with instructions for an android (Paul Bettany) not to let her out. He has reached an eerie detente with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) who doesn't seem to view him as a romantic prospect whatsoever, despite the fact this was a key feature of the comic.

This is sad for Natasha, who plays the role of therapist for the disturbed people involved in these mass murders. Johansson tries really hard, but Mark Ruffalo is nowhere to be found and she has little chemistry with the other possibles. Her outfits are unfortunately mediocre, as if no one involved with this production even thought very much about her.

Captain America: Civil War is mostly focused on the men, which is fine, since Hello My Name Is Doris has enough to say about women for both movies. Sally Field works overtime here, oscillating facial expressions so that we can see she is more full of emotions than anyone else in her story. Without her vamping there would not be much to admire about Doris Miller.

When the object of Doris' affection finds love near a blonde woman with a questionable singing talent (Beth Behrs), Doris immediately plans to sabotage and ruin the happiness John has found. She posts lies on his facebook page in order to break up the lovely couple. We are still supposed to sympathize with her — I guess taking into consideration the questionable idea that the elderly are not fully responsible for their behavior.

Doris' friend Roz (an amazing Tyne Daly) is deeply worried about her disturbed infatuation. By the time we reach Doris' age, individuals of all genders should understand the meaning of this childish concept. Just as different substances scale as uniquely appetizing, so too do people. Roz no longer feels such elementary pangs of humanity for others; the self-acceptance she radiates seems to be what eventually gets Doris to act as a mirror.

There is still a wisdom in youth before it is corrupted by later events. In Captain America: Civil War, Nigerian king T'Challa (the mercurial Chadwick Boseman) sees a man kill his father so he reacts by heading off to repay the favor. Roz's granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres) possesses a similarly straightforward perspective as she counsels Doris on her stalking. In her world, if a guy pays attention to you, he probably likes you. It is only further on in our lives that attention is traded so easily, for so little in return.

When Tony Stark was young, people constantly observed him because he looked and sounded good. They required no other reason — what need would there be for one? After the basic impetus of beauty fades, human beings have a tough time adapting to any kind of indifference from the universe. We must be essential: not simply caught in the flow of our lives. The only pleasant surprise is that in these humbling moments we are most ourselves.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Can't Go Wrong" - You Won't (mp3)

"Friends in Exile" - You Won't (mp3)


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.