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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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 (180)


In Which Mr. Robot Feels Especially Insecure

Watching You


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)



In Which We Would Like To Explain To The Citizens Of West Germany



Deutschland 83
creators Anna Winger & Joerg Winger

Germany in 1983 was a very special time and place to be a part of. Sundance Channel's Deutschland 83 begins where last season of The Americans ended — Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire speech. No one takes Reagan the least bit seriously in East Germany, if they could even watch the speech, which was mostly about the evil of women aborting their children. Enlisted East German soldier Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay) has bigger problems: a blonde named Annette (Sonja Gerhardt) whose sexuality is a beacon in this grim time.

Martin doesn't take communism very seriously. Annette is more devoted to the cause. When she finds some banned books in the house of Martin's mother, she immediately takes them to the Stasi. "That's a good book," Walter Schweppenstette (Sylvester Groth) tells her upon seeing a paperback copy of 1984. "But it's not permitted in East Germany."

Martin is deployed by the Stasi as an aide to a West German general named Edel (Ulrich Noethen), the disobedient son of a Nazi officer. Edel is the real hero of Deutschland 83, a man trying to unite his country in a good faith democracy and turn back the communists. Every single person around him, from his wacky wife, to his commune-residing daughter, to his turncoat son Alexander (Ludwig Trepte), seems focused on impeding that goal.

Martin is not much of a spy. At an important NATO meeting he is almost killed by an American operative. His sloppy work leads to a floppy disk no East German computer can access. Tasked with seducing the secretary of a NATO representative, Martin can't bring himself to let her drown when a cleaning lady finds a microphone he has placed under her desk. (Another agent runs her over with a car.) It is precisely because Martin is so goofy that the West Germans don't suspect he is endangering all their lives.

Nay only has three or four main facial expressions, but he vacillates between them at a moment's notice. He is blackmailed into his service by his aunt Lenora (Maria Schrader), who insists that his mother will be moved up on the kidney transplant list through his continued service with the Stasi. Martin continues his work even after his mother gets his own kidney, recognizing that he is in too deep with these people to simply abscond.

Filming Deutschland 83 in the native language of the period adds a lot to the diegesis. The German language is gorgeous and practical in the right tones, but screeching and inhuman when elevated through anger or pain. Unlike English, it very quickly ceases to make sense when stress is put on it — a facile metaphor for Germany's national character in the late part of the 20th century.

Deutschland 83 presents a nuanced view of the country. No one comes across very bad: the worst thing you can be in a serious time is silly, and no one has ever accused the Stasi of that. There is a lot of humor here, but it is always a broader comedy, never at the expense of the individuals involved. The German state is ridiculous — the people that comprise it are only doing their best.

The husband-and-wife team behind Deutschland 83 marches the German versions of 80s music over the proceedings like it is the first time anyone has thought of using "Boys Don't Cry" ironically. It's actually the millionth time, but there is a certain triumph in the innocence of Deutschland 83 — nothing here is especially new, but the series doesn't do its viewers the insult of assuming you have seen and heard it all before. It is more important to be in the spirit of a period that may have never really existed, than to get it all down right.

Despite the fact that he believes she is carrying his child, Martin becomes disillusioned with Annette. Instead he begins a relationship with General Edel's daughter Yvonne (Lisa Tomaschewsky). Yvonne is a backup singer who has escaped her society by taking up with the nonviolent Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh worshippers. She is the most beautiful thing in the entire world, so it is not a surprise that Martin is drawn to her after his fourth or fifth murder.

While the music and dialogue might feel a bit familiar, the wonderful sets, striking color and wildy different scenarios of Deutschland 83 all add up to an experience not previously possible in television. The series brings a sense of absurd fun to historical events that has evaporated from dull jaunts like The Hour and Aquarius. There is really nowhere to go with the show from here except to explore darker and more horrifying avenues, and that may ruin it. The Wingers seem intent on preserving the history itself, reminding us that it is more important to remember things as they were, before going on and on about why they ceased to exist.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Unstoppable" - Lianne La Havas (mp3)

"Green and Gold" - Lianne La Havas (mp3)


In Which Halle Berry Has Involved Herself With Some Questionable Individuals

End This


creator Mickey Fischer

There is a scene in CBS' miscarriage of a television series Extant where Halle Berry starts to make out with her alien son. She is interrupted by bounty hunter J.D. Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) before things get too exciting. Halle Berry is looking kind of run down. I'm worried about her.

Every Extant begins with a recap of the series so far, which takes about twenty-five minutes. It is then followed by a moment of Halle Berry screaming about one of her sons. The first is named Ethan, and he is an android. The second was the alien son she conceived in space, and for whom she harbors a quasi-sexual attraction. Her reaction to this situation, as with every other stressful moment, is to break down in womanly tears.

There was only one movie, Mathieu Kassovitz' masterpiece Gothika, where Halle Berry was locked up into a mental institution and acted completely unhinged through the film's running time. Every single person involved in Extant took this to heart as the most magical thing. Berry's Molly Woods has the same initial reaction to every situation she is put in — she starts screaming and fecklessly battering the person with which she is upset.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan was brought onto this horrific tragedy of a television show to explain "I have a problem with authority." He is a veteran of the war in Iraq. His acting has regressed to a primordial state in which every single line he delivers is smirked out. Unlike previous roles, Morgan has grown in his grey beard and he looks every bit of his forty-nine years. "Listening to bullies isn't my strong suit," he explains. Mmk.

The most charismatic young actress in Hollywood was brought onto Extant to class things up a bit. Kiersey Clemons was cast as an unfeeling android named Lucy. (They were unfamiliar with the movie of the same name.) This strikes me as a misuse of Clemons' considerable talents, but that is the least of Extant's problems. Switching the casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Clemons would have made for a show that is about 100x more interesting.

The first thing Lucy asks when she wakes up is to look in a mirror. The scientists behind this program have equipped Clemons' character with an ethical implant, which is an incredibly made-up sounding thing. It seems that something subtle has gone wrong with Lucy, and we are meant to know this by the fact that she takes a woman's dress from a closet without her permission.

Molly's android son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) is tucked into bed with a children's book every night. His most recent tome was The Velveteen Rabbit, which is about a stuffed rabbit coming to life. Do you get it, or do you maybe need to watch another recap of Extant? Molly Woods went into space... BUT SHE DIDN'T COME BACK ALOOOOOOOOOOOONE!

The government tries to kill Molly and her alien son in a drone strike while they are making out. When she survives, they incorporate her as part of their team to track down the alien. Team leader Toby Shepherd (David Morrissey) has no other options. "We're putting our faith in a woman of questionable emotional stability!" someone screams in objection. They give Molly a superpowered gun and some remedial instruction. "When I set my sight on a target, I nail it!" she cries out happily.

But don't forget about the nerd! He wears a sweater to work! Someone thinks this is a real thing:

We can fix this, one of the scientists tells the nerd. We can change the algorithms. Oh, good. Fixing Extant is completely out of the question, it is like watching kids get dressed up to perform their part in a school play. Actually, the acting and writing is substantially worse than that. About 90 percent of the scenes begin with someone saying, "Let me get this straight," so we know the story is being recapped.

It turns out that Halle Berry's alien son is impregnating a bunch of women. They die as a result of conception, which is incidentally not really his fault. Although she has agreed to murder her son, she finds she is too weak to actually go through with it. Instead she begins to cry.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Royal Geography Society" - China (mp3)

"Pinwheels Spinning" - China (mp3)