Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

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

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail)

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

Entries in alex carnevale (237)

Friday
Jan272017

In Which All Our Positive Memories Of Archie Have Been Erased

Forget the Blossoms

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Riverdale
creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
The CW

The first episode of Beverly Hills 90210 still holds up extremely well. Except for the proliferation of cell phones, nothing about America seems all that different from October 4, 1990, the day that Jim and Cindy Walsh moved with their two kids from Minnesota to California. It took another episode for Luke Perry to emerge on the scene as a cross between James Dean and Rock Hudson. He lived on the top floor of the Chateau Marmont and he was truly magnificent.

The ratings were not so great at first:

Beverly Hills 90210 had a decent debut for a pilot, but it was crushed by A Different World, a spin-off of The Cosby Show that depicted life at an African-American college. (Progress does not really go in one direction, and it is impossible to imagine such a show being successful on a major network today.) Bill Cosby's success gave him a lot of power at NBC and rightly so. By the second season, Beverly Hills 90210 picked up serious steam in all demographics and the show became a juggernaut for Fox that allowed them to compete with the major networks for the first time by expanding their programming to five nights a week.

It is the fate of soap operas to fall in and out of fashion. Watching 90210 today, all the more wild and less believable storylines the show naturally embraced as its run went on are so much more boring than the tight plots employed by Darren Star and his team of writers at the beginning. Yet it is natural for soaps to want to drive themselves off a cliff with wild stories as time goes on, since it takes a lot more to create engaging conflict when your characters are all white suburbanites without criminal records. I have never heard of a soap opera starting crazy until Riverdale.

Even Archie Comics eventually went in this direction, although the traditional stories still existed in one Double Digest or another. One of the wackier moments was Archie's team-up with The Punisher, which actually worked because the comic's slightly satirical tone mixed perfectly well with more serious elements, as long as he could still be Archie. There were a few things that Archie liked: girls, his friends, sports cars. He was not particularly a complicated person until now.

For some reason Riverdale's Archie (K.J. Apa) is a musician. "I wrote a lot of poems this summer," he explains to Betty (Lili Reinhart), "and then I realized they were songs." He is changing the subject because Betty is talking a lot about all the respect she has for Toni Morrison and her adderall prescription. Archie's singular characteristic was freckles. He does not have them anymore, since the preciously terrible actor who portrays him in Riverdale just has ginger highlights. They did not even cast a real ginger.

Half the point of Archie Comics was to make people realize that gingers were also beautiful and attractive; all that is gone in Riverdale. In the comics Archie and his girls never used condoms so any sexually transmitted diseases were passed on gainfully and pleasantly. Reggie Mantle, Archie's rival, was a good-natured fellow who mainly wanted a monogamous relationship with Veronica (Camila Mendes). These young people looked towards the future with a hopeful optimism; their lives in the present were not as all-important.

Clueless was one of the finest movies of its time, and it took serious inspiration from Archie Comics. Neither could really be called subversive, but nor were they an alarmingly innocent portrait of American life. Above all, Archie Comics were very funny. There is none of that in this joyless adaptation, and instead of starting small, Riverdale is absurdly ridiculous from Day One.

Creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa does not feel that actual so-called high school life is quite dark enough, so before the credit sequence even rolls on Riverdale we find out through a series of flashbacks that Archie has fucked a Julliard-educated teacher at his school. There is also a murder of a young man named Jason Blossom whose sister (Madelaine Petsch) is supposed to be some kind of ingénue. Unfortunately Cheryl's face looks like it was placed beneath a steamroller and her role as a vacuous, villainous cheerleader only exists because Veronica Lodge is supposed to be a winsome, sympathetic teen in Riverdale.

Luke Perry is still looking pretty good these days. His full beard obscures whatever has happened to his jawline in three decades. Luke and Veronica Lodge's mom seem to have a deep history together. I don't remember Veronica ever really having a mom: didn't being the child of single parent explain her inability to commit to any one man, who might supplant her father?

This kind of basic psychology may have been a sexist cliche, but it was a lot more engaging than seeing Veronica and Betty have a heart-to-heart about their broken families or sharing a fake kiss during a cheerleading audition.

It is understandable that Aguirre-Sacasa wants to make this milieu more brooding, since he has mistaken the sometimes frivolous storylines of the comic books for a lack of depth. Maybe he actually dislikes the source material here, or he is just not willing to go far enough. When the climax of the teens' party after some kind of Homecoming Ball is a game of spin the bottle, it seems like time is completely out of joint.

"Do you miss New York?" Archie asks Veronica while they are imprisoned in a closet together. He tells Veronica that he and Betty are best friends, and he asks her if she had a boyfriend in New York. After this intimate talk, the two share a couple of chaste kisses and rush to reassure Betty that nothing happened. It is about three thousand times more innocent than 90210, which was twenty-seven years ago.

Weirdly, Mr. Lodge never shows up. As the pilot for Riverdale ends, we find out that Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) is an aspiring novelist who seems to be well on the path to revealing his homosexuality through delicate prose. He counsels Archie to explain to Betty that he is not good enough for her, which she seems to accept good-naturedly. "The night was far from over," narrates Jughead. What the fuck is this?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Friday
Jan132017

In Which She Was Only Beginning To Get Well

The Tiny Gospel

by ALEX CARNEVALE

America is going through a period of luxury and unrest bordering nearly on madness.

Alfred Stieglitz had left New York for Vienna in 1881. When he returned in 1890, the Big Apple was a completely changed city. The dark, dangerous metropolis Stieglitz had left grew incandescent in the evening, revealed by the onset of electricity.

+

One aspect of the city became open to him, another closed. His parents wanted young Alfred to marry a spoiled 20 year named Emmeline, called Emmy. Before his wedding, Alfred Stieglitz burned the diary he had kept since he was nine.

Emmy refused to have sex with her new husband, but this was nonce to him. He continued photographing the city and its denizens, and even improved his piano-playing. He gave his new wife the silent treatment. Four years into the marriage, Alfred and Emmy Stieglitz conceived their only child.

Edward Steichen's photograph of Kitty and Alfred Stieglitz

To commemorate the occasion, the family moved into a new apartment on Madison and 84th. Their daughter Kitty quickly became the center of their conflict, with Stieglitz insisting on photographing the girl almost every second of her life.

Emmy and Alfred were now on speaking terms, but it never got much better than that. As Kitty grew older and remained under the influence of her mother, daughter and father too liked each other less and less. Stieglitz had little time for his family spreading the tiny gospel that was still photography occupied most of his waking hours. "I would rather be a first class photographer in a community of first class photographers," he pronounced, "than the greatest photographer in a community of non-entities."

+

Kitty graduated from Smith with honors in 1921. She had written her father many letters during her senior year at that Massachusetts college, bonding with him for the first time in her life with her mother in absentia. Since her parents were not speaking again, Alfred could not attend her commencement, but the two grew closer in the years that followed her marriage to a Boston salesman named Milton Stewart.

In June of 1923 Alfred became a grandfather when Kitty gave birth to a son. Severe bouts of postpartum depression dominated Kitty's days. She alternated lashing out at her father for his neglect of her with expressions of closeness. "I certainly failed in so many ways in spite of all my endeavours to protect and help her prepare herself for life," Stieglitz wrote. "I realize with every new day what a child I have been & still am absurdly so. It sometimes disgusts me with myself."

O'Keeffe and Stieglitz much later, in 1944

This experience completely convinced Alfred that having a baby with his girlfriend, an artist named Georgia O'Keeffe, was a terrible idea. He continued affairs with other women as well, and he did not want babies with them either. He wrote romantic letters to the wife of his friend Paul Strand, although a relationship with Rebecca Strand would only ever be consummated by Georgia. O'Keeffe was annoyed by Alfred's behavior, rebelling against it whenever she could, but she did tolerate it.

"Stieglitz wants his own way of living," Rebecca Strand told her husband Paul, "and his passion for trying to make other people see it in the face of their own inherent qualities really gets things into such a state of pressure that you sometimes feeling as though you were suffocating." Meanwhile, Kitty's condition had put her suddenly doting father in a weakened state. He made peace with Emmy and together they admitted Kitty into a gorgeous sanitarium in upstate New York.

+

Alfred Stieglitz was suddenly 60 and one of the world's most celebrated photographers. Kidney stones made his nights restless. He passed the time by reading Ulysses. The divorce from Emmy was final. The following summer his daughter was discharged from the hospital to a summer house at Sagamore Beach. He proposed to Georgia; she declined.

By the fall Kitty had been returned to the sanitarium. Her doctor came to Alfred with a proposal. If he married O'Keeffe, they suggested, Kitty might come to a peace of mind that would aid her recovery. In light of these circumstances, Georgia accepted her boyfriend's proposal after considerable pressure was exerted.

Kitty Stieglitz photographed by her father with her uncle Joseph

The hasty marriage would change nothing, however, and Kitty's behavior was that of an indolent teen. She never left the care of doctors, spending the next fifty years trying to get well before her death. Kitty never permitted her father to visit, but her mother Emmy came every single week.

+

"Marriage, if it is real must be based on a wish that each person attain his potentiality, be the thing he might be, as a tree bears its fruit - at the time realizing responsibility to the other party," Stieglitz explained to himself. He was impressively dedicated, even in old age, to thinking of very good reasons why he could not be a faithful husband.

Georgia's health problems complicated their new union, restricting her to bed rest. She was only just beginning to get well when Stieglitz met 21-year old Dorothy Norman. The girl who incessantly hung around Alfred's gallery, asking question after question, was married to the son of the founder of Sears. Edward Norman was a deeply disturbed person who was mentally, physically and sexually abusive to his wife.

Dorothy Norman

Stieglitz initially tried to put Dorothy's at an arm's length. By the time he really got to know her, she was pregnant with her first child, a daughter. Like Kitty, Dorothy was a Smith graduate. Georgia noticed her husband's admiration of the pregnant woman, and it upset her greatly. To appease O'Keeffe, Stieglitz tried to confine his expressions of love to secret letters. "I want to incorporate knowing you into my life," Dorothy wrote back, and in order to position herself as closely as possible to the photographer, commenced work on an article about Alfred that would become a book.

Georgia was more and more skeptical of Alfred's protestations that the friendship was not intimate. In her own interview with Dorothy, she found the college graduate annoying, pretentious and transparent. When Dorothy talked with Alfred at the gallery, he told her to sit far from him, "out of danger."

Into his life at this time came Lady Chatterly's Lover, his new favorite book.

When Georgia went off to a retreat, Stieglitz finally consummated the relationship with his young admirer. His descriptions of that moment are nauseating at best: "It was as I have never dreamed a kiss could be." He wrote, "We are are one - Every day proves it more and more to be true. Dorothy, do you have any idea how much IWY." The innovative use of acronyms made the tryst appear more than it really was: at first, the couple only kept things above the belt.

This consummation pushed Alfred in the other direction. Georgia was happiest in New Mexico, and Stieglitz endlessly complained about the time she spent there away from him. She felt his pull  "It is always such a struggle for me to leave him" but New York was not her favorite place. "I think I would never have minded Stieglitz being anything he happened to be," she told a friend, "if he hadn't kept me so persistently off my track."

Alfred's photograph of Dorothy Norman from behind

Even though Alfred thought nothing of cheating on his wife, he flew into a fury whenever he suspected that she might be unfaithful. The balance of their relationship was changing, however, as Stieglitz was increasingly financially dependent on his wife's flourishing artistic career. He was determined to improve his marriage.

Stieglitz still saw much of Dorothy, who had given birth to a second child. He photographed Dorothy Norman for the first time in 1930, when she was 25 years old. Alfred bought Dorothy a camera, and told her that he loved her. Each saw the relationship as a supplement to their marriage, and sought nothing more from one another. A friend wrote to Alfred that talking to Dorothy was like "talking to a mirror in which one didn't see oneself but someone else. She presents no problem, no burden or personality to be dealt with. One can be with her and at the same time alone with oneself."

+

"He was perhaps the most impressive person I have ever known," Dorothy wrote later. "Yet the greatness of what he expresses was in terms of how people must be non-possessive." Alfred Stieglitz demonstrated this principle by comparing his wife and his young girlfriend in a 1932 exhibition that was the talk of the art community.

Their professional ties were solid as well. Dorothy involved herself in Alfred's fundraising efforts at his request, for a gallery that she would run in his name. This closeness rankled Georgia even more, and she sunk into a depression partly brought on by a friend of Alfred's suggesting that she befriend Dorothy.

Stieglitz's self-portrait, 1890

When Dorothy could not find a publisher for her manuscript of poems, Stieglitz demanded he publish them. This final insult pushed Georgia into the arms of the poet Jean Toomer, who she invited to stay with her on Long Island.

In the spring of 1936, Elizabeth Arden asked Georgia to paint a massive mural in her salon. More flush with cash than she had ever been, Georgia rented a penthouse on 1st Avenue to work on it, a cold, drafty, beautiful workspace. There Alfred suffered his first heart attack, ending his photographic career.

Alfred was now 74 years old. In his feebleness, the arrangement with Dorothy could be nothing more than close friendship. The affair dissipated without ever having a formal break. Both had provided something the other needed, is how Dorothy saw things, something essential and something clandestine. "There was a constant grinding like the ocean," O'Keeffe wrote of her husband. "It was as if something hot, dark, and destructive was hitched to the highest, brightest star. He was either loved or hated there wasn't much in between."

In the days that followed Stieglitz's small funeral, Georgia called up Dorothy Norman. She told Dorothy to clear all her stuff from the gallery, commenting that she found Dorothy's relationship with her husband "absolutely disgusting." After Alfred's death, Georgia O'Keeffe lived forty more years.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Tuesday
Dec132016

In Which We Keep Up The Pretense Of Lying About Our Age

Status Quo

by ALEX CARNEVALE

For the female of the species, it's a fatal thing for an artist to marry, her consciousness is too much disturbed. She can no longer live sufficiently within her self to produce. But it's hard to accept this.

Josephine Nivison, at the tender age of 30, occupied a one-room studio in the attic of an old house between the Plaza Hotel and the New York Athletic Club. She was still a virgin, and would remain one until long after her fortieth birthday.

self-portrait 1903

She drew as often as she could, publishing her sketches in the Evening Post and the New York Tribune. She loved to sketch artists at their work, patterning her portraits after her mentor at the New York School of Art, the painter Robert Henri. Her favorite subject was the dancer Isadora Duncan. Henri was quite taken with Josephine's repose, making her the subject of a large canvas:

 

Jo dabbled as an actress here and there. Getting paid for her work difficult in these fields, and the Depression would sour things further. Her teaching sustained her as she labored for various causes. She hoped one day soon to support the war effort. In the interim, she pitched in at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, of which she wrote, "Altho I have worked among them, I a not a Hebrew. The Hebrews are too clever a people to discriminate against Gentiles when their service can be of value to them."

With recommendations from orphanages and newspapers alike, she was accepted as an occupational therapist by Red Cross, and was sent overseas to Brittany. In a flash, Jo Nivision came down with bronchitis and was forced to return home after a month or two. Back in New York, she lost her job, her boyfriend made off with another woman, her mother died and she was homeless.

With the rest of her life stripped away, there was hardly any point in not being an artist. Such work could hardly sustain her entirely, so she returned to her former profession of teaching at a hospital for contagious diseases on the Lower East Side. She caught diptheria almost at once.

She began to lie about her age shortly after her illness, reducing it by seven years at her most brave. Because she was quite small and her beauty was unchanged, she found it not very difficult to pull off this deceit. She constructed her studio at 37 West 9th Street. No one showed up to her first open studio except her cat Arthur, and a single critic, Margaret Bruening.

with Edward Hopper

Arthur was her sole focus of attention; she could not really boast any other. She suggested to others that Arthur "knew traffic cops, the maitre d'hotel at the Brevoort, people at the Jefferson Market Court." Wasting away, continually ignored, quite sad in general, Josephine Nivison come across one unexpected stroke of good luck: because of the illness she contracted in a city school, she was granted a lifetime disability pension of $1750 per year.

The money was godly to her then. She could take time away from New York, absconding to Provincetown where the Gingerbread Inn was willing to allow her cat the run of the place. She was working mainly in watercolor now, and to her considerable delight, her efforts began to attract attention from art dealers and critics. One art colony she had not sampled was in Gloucester, MA.

It was there she met up with an old acquaintance, Edward Hopper. A towering rail of a painter, he dwarfed the tiny Nivison. Gail Levin, in her marvelous investigation of the painter, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, records that the man seduced her in French, using Verlaine. They painted boats and houses together. At this point in his career, he was only slightly more of a success than Jo, but she helped get his work into a show at the Brooklyn Museum.

That winter they went to the movies a lot. He wrote her little notes, promising to take her to Paris. (They never went.) When summer thawed the city, the couple wanted out. They were married on July 9th, 1924, and on the certificate Josephine kept up the pretense of lying about her age. In reality, she was forty-one years old.

The marriage had not been taken up in an idealistic fashion, and it would not proceed in one. Bumps in the pavement emerged quickly. His mother and sister disliked Jo quite intensely; Arthur could not quite get used to this spindly man being in his space. She kept her studio and the cat stayed there.

Hopper expected a wife to cook and clean, but Jo wasn't much in the kitchen; too focused on her painting to do anything else. He loathed her friends. 

There was the question of sex, now that she was a married woman. She wrote in her diary:

About the first week or so I realized always with amazement, but I knew so little about this basic concern, except to be appalled at prize hog proportions that the whole thing was entirely for him, his benefit. Upon realizing this - & with the world so new & all & I emerged in such vast ignorance - I declared that since that was the status quo of that - let him have it all. I withdrew all my interest - There was my body, let him take it - but I'd not consent to be hurt too much - only a certain amount - I'd not be the object of sheer sadism. I was forbidden to consult with other women over the mysteries. If he had drawn a lemon, I needn't advertise his misfortune.

In other ways, they were able to help one another. Jo took up her husband's correspondence; the impact on his career was immediately obvious. (He sort of ignored her work.) His modest watercolors began to sell, and his biggest supporter was Frank Rehn, who sold Hoppers out of his gallery like they were going out of style, which they were.

Edward and his wife planned a trip west. Shortly before their departure, Arthur vanished, never to be seen again.

caricaturing his desire for his wife to feed him

As Edward's career took off, their relationship began to crack further. The two quarrelled over Henri, Hopper's reclusiveness and their lack of intimacy. Josephine still lacked a studio, and although she admired her husband's efforts, it was pretty obvious to her and general hindsight that she was the superior artist. By now, his drawings were often a satirical commentary on how much he resented his wife.

She returned this view. "He can do all the chores, look after the stove, feed it oil, drag water, wash sheets even & string beans & think nothing of it. Go right back to work." The question of his that she loathed more than any other was, "How about a little something to eat?"

They moved to an apartment overlooking Washington Square Park. As before, they still shared a bathroom with another couple. They attempted to build a summer house together, but instead of bringing them closer together it separated the couple. Josephine complained of being "a kitchen slave," Hopper could barely paint in his new environs. As herself, she had attracted attention as a painter; as Edward Hopper's wife, his friends sneered at her work. Neither, when asked, could even think of a reason why they kept painting, other than that it was a means of survival.

Some time into their marriage, physical abuse entered the picture. At first it was purely as an accompaniment to Hopper's sadistic reviews of his wife's performance in the kitchen and bedroom. Once Edward held her down with his knee and bruised her thigh; she had to scratch and claw at him to get away.

Hopper at work

They fought often about the car; he consistently refused to let her drive. Josephine records Edward Hopper throwing his 55 year old wife out of a moving vehicle. Yet the verbal abuse was just as pernicious: "To exist at all, one must do battle. He sais insulting things about my mind, the impenetrable stupidy, the impossibility of me learning anything.... It would have been a terrible thing for him to have had a child."

Edward did offer Josephine something she must have craved. It is difficult to find the joy in their marriage, but if any was present, it could be characterized by the fact of always being there. Edward Hopper may have painted his wife as a crude caricature at times, vacillating between worship and horror at the intimacy they shared, but he did paint her.

He was, Jo told a friend, "very beautiful in death, like an El Greco."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Hopper's painting of a nude Jo