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Alex Carnevale

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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 (208)


In Which The Captcha Tells Our Future



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.


In Which You May Be A Lot Of Things But You're Not Alone

So Long To Wait 


It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One summer when I was very young my mother had a miscarriage and barely left her bed. My father had ordered a variety of magazines and products concerning her successful pregnancy and he told me to intercept them at the mailbox when I could. Every day she watched more than one soap opera, and since I had very little to do until Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came on television, I watched them with her, leaning up against the foot of the bed.

I barely watch my actual television now, at least not in the way I did then. Because I knew so little of what made up the world, absorbing the details of how adult relationships worked became an endlessly fascinating activity. I was astonished by the way adults seemed to hold onto their relationships, since long term planning and the endless series of codas inherent in any soap storyline was anathema to my own experience. Indeed, in the children's television of the time, everything existed purely within the realm of an event, a happening, and afterwards the behavior of that moment was rendered incidental.

Watching The Real L Word still gives me the feeling I had upon seeing those soaps for the first time. The Showtime reality show has entered its third season of focusing on the lives of variously successful lesbians in the Los Angeles area, expanding its purview to consider Brooklyn lesbians as well. The Real L Word is the best reality show ever created, and I don't know that it's particularly close.

from left: Romi, Cori, Kacy, Lauren, Sara, Whitney, Kiyomi, Amanda, Somer

Some cultures, perhaps even most, revolve around men. The lives of the women on The Real L Word do not concern men in the slightest. This comes as something of a relief to me, because the novelty of the male form wore off around the fifteenth time I viewed my penis. Growing up almost all of my teachers were women, and the male teachers I encountered seemed impossibly different from men like my father, and that was difficult to reconcile. Although I had little knowledge of it at the time, many of the most significant teachers I had were lesbians.

The distinctive feature of 21st century life, especially in urban areas, is the degree to which it revolves around the lives of the female gender. This is taken to the complete extreme on The Real L Word. Some of the lesbians know and are friendly with men, but the vast majority of these men are gay, and even the ones that aren't dress like Robin and wear exaggerated eyeglasses.

It was easy to think of The Real L Word's milieu as a kind of other world until this season. I have never lived in Los Angeles; I went there once for a wedding but the ceremony was on a boat. I'd last about five minutes lingering in traffic. Even though John Cage says that waiting in lines is an opportunity to practice patience, this is a fucking lie. 


This third season of the show focuses on a bicoastal look at lesbian life; you'd be forgiven if you thought there was any other place in the universe. The existence of the New York lesbian is of course different from that of the Los Angeles lesbian. It is hard to quantify this exactly, but color scheme, facial expressions and hoodies all play a major role. In addition, a Los Angeles lesbian is over three times as likely to be a jewelry designer.

Lauren (pictured above) is one such individual. She is tall and a bit slack-jawed; her features are so completely distinctive that it's impossible to mistake the sight of her at any distance. Her jewelry resembles leeches or black prawns. Even though she does not really know Romi, the recovering alcoholic lesbian who was the star of The Real L Word's last season, she feels a budding rivalry with the show's narrow-faced antagonist. This is because she's been fucking Romi's also alcoholic ex-girlfriend Kelsey.

Lauren was living in a house with two women, but she evicted them because her best friend Amanda is moving from New York to live with her. "We're young and we can afford it," Amanda opines as she hoovers a cigarette. "It's something we've always wanted to do." She is very similar looking to Lauren except that she is shorter and wears less makeup when she goes out. There has always been a nascent sexual tension between Amanda and Lauren, but when they lived in the same city before, both were in relationships. Their significant others struggled to deal with the intimacy between the two best friends, and Lauren expects a romance to manifest, or at the very least sex when neither finds a partner.

KiyomiSex is where The Real L Word transcends the boundaries other television shows needlessly impose on their nonfictions. We see sex when it happens, as it happens. Not all of it, but enough to where we struggle to discern the difference between the tree and a drawing of a tree. A fight takes place, a woman comes home to see her girlfriend. Two people wake up, always surprised to see they share the same bed, and the mere novelty of their proximity leads to languorous sex. This is the simplest of human acts, and yet it never takes place in any of our fiction, except offscreen or in a completely unerotic montage.

It's not that the sex in The Real L Word is particularly titillating. Watching it, I rarely find myself the least bit turned on so much as empathically happy for the individuals involved in it, because for the most part they seem to genuinely care for each other. Watching Kiyomi perform cunnilingus in the shower becomes a moment as intimate for the audience as her girlfriend Ali, who moments before had been completely enraged. Sex in this fashion does not draw our attention to something else, it exists simply for its own sake. This is a lesson young men are never taught.

Whitney (left) and Sara

Most often nude on The Real L Word is the show's white, dreadlocked constant, Whitney. She has been the show's central character since it began, both because she knows every single lesbian in the greater Southern California area, and because she's dumped most of them. Whitney derives a certain energy from her interactions, and people seem to feed off this. Despite being a relatively usual looking person, lesbians are drawn to Whitney's brusque sexuality and introvert/extrovert personality, and whatever darkness underlies her unique social abilities. Yet they expect her to conform to a certain type, and when she shows them she is not entirely what they thought, instead of feeling deceived they experience a malingering pity towards her that is very easily confused with sexual attraction and even love.

There exists an entire house full of Whitney's ex-girlfriends: Jaq, Alyssa and Rachel. They console each other, endleslly discussing Whitney and her burgeoning long-term relationship with Sara. (Sara's name is pronounced Sada, for reasons I cannot impossibly imagine.) This woman has achieved what many could not — she has inspired Whitney to pursue a monogamous arrangement with her. This first coda for Whitney's life is shocking considering the nature of her past sex life, but it is the sort of surprise that happens very often on The Real L Word. It is akin to the feelings I experienced watching soaps with my mother: a complete alarm at the unfamiliar situations my favorite characters found themselves in. I never thought Zack Morris would get married, no more than I thought Donatello or Raphael had working reproductive organs.

Whitney and Amanda

I have always been fascinated by what happens to people when you are not there to witness what will become of them. As a child I read too many books and assumed the impression I had of the endings scheduled for literary characters was nothing like actual life. I have found over time that the only real difference between the endings of the fictional characters and their living counterparts is in the number of endings, not in the strangeness. The lesbians of The Real L Word astound me with their capacity for change, in the way they adapt so seamlessly to the changing contours of their lives. I never liked change, whether it was a new school, a new place or a new group of people, not because I did not enjoy the novelty of new friends or situations, but because it meant saying goodbye to the old.

Romi at the house of Whitney's ex-girlfriends

Romi spent most of last season trying to stop drinking. The purpose of alcohol in her life was twofold: to lubricate her social interactions so she could enjoy going out in a large group, and to allow her to enjoy sex with her partner Kelsey. Each time she imbibed she was so inebriated that blacking out and not remembering her actions became a regular fixture of her evenings.

After Romi quit alcohol, she morphed into an irritable and quick-tempered woman. At the same time her sober self was more driven and focused on her relationships and career as a clothing designer. She constantly expressed her disgust with her girlfriend Kelsey's inability to hold a job, and if she came home and found Kelsey drinking a glass of wine, she exploded in a miasma of indignant rage. Television is absolutely the best way to fathom this kind of sea change.

It is revealed in the third season premiere that Romi has spent the past six months of her life in a relationship with a man, her ex-boyfriend Jay. When Romi finally works up the courage to tell a few of her lesbian friends about this development in her life (she's somewhat ashamed and also afraid of how they'll react to the news), she also brings up that she has been putting his penis in her mouth on a frequent basis. Her friends visibly shudder. Some of those who know Romi believe this is the ending to which her life has proceeded apace all along; others are convinced that this simply represents another avenue for Romi to get a disproportionate amount of attention for her behavior. The indeterminacy between these possibilities in her narrative contains all my own hopes and desires about what life might hold.

from left: Splinter, Raphael, Leonardo, April, Donatello, Michaelangelo

When I was a kid, I actually spent time wondering what happened to the Ninja Turtles when their television show went off the air. I even wrote short stories about their lives after Shredder and Krang were buried at the bottom of the ocean together in a gold-plated casket with all the foot soldiers. The turtles could not possibly exist in a state of continual adolescence — although I have to admit I found that an attractive ideal.

The ascent into maturity at first seemed to limit the capacity for change, since all the adults I knew when I was young seemed so completely static in comparison. Of course this was naive. I wondered chiefly what would happen to the intrepid reporter April O'Neil, friend to reptiles and their rodent master. In her old age she would speak movingly about the various intimacies she shared with these otherworldly creatures. The sewer was her Paris. It might have been confusing, if you knew her in both periods of her life, to decide which was the real April or when exactly her ending occurred. The question of what happens to the people you know after you stop knowing them never goes away.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about Iris Murdoch. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.



In Which We Contemplate Iris Murdoch With Amused Hostility

My Love


Like Socrates, perhaps love is the only subject on which I am really expert?

Iris Murdoch, July 1976

She was an only child. She thought of her little family as "a perfect trinity of love."

The first sentence she ever copied down was, "The snowdrop hangs its head down. Why?"

She wrote, "Jesus: my first (and last?) Jewish boy." She was the best student in her class; a mother of a friend called her a Botticelli angel. After she died, Harold Bloom wrote that there were no more first rate writers left in Britain. A variation of this escaped his mouth whenever anyone died, so that someone else might say it of him.


Hitler invaded the Rhineland; her Jewish and Indian classmates would go on hikes together, four at a time. Iris' closest friend was the school's headmistress. Auden came to visit her boarding school. According to her, he was "young and beautiful, with his golden hair."

Her first boyfriend was in training to be a dentist; they bonded over Virgil. She had her first drink at seventeen. She said, "the experience comes back to me surrounded by a halo of the purest and most intense joy."

Her first real boyfriend was David Hicks, three years her elder. He sent her C.S. Lewis' Allegory of Love, even now known as a strong move. As she grew into a charming young woman, many desired Iris, women as well as men. All the boys she knew at Oxford left to die in the war.

There she was the pet pupil of Eduard Fraenkel, who recognized her talent immediately and would spend countless hours talking to her. He would later call her the only truly educated person of her generation. Others were forced to agree. A classmate described her as having "a lioness' face — very square, very strong, very gentle."

Her first real love was a guy named Frank Thompson. Even as she dated someone closer to home, she believed she would marry Frank. A self-described "left intellectual," he was captured and executed by Bulgarians, with a volume of poetry by Catullus in his front pocket.

In 1980, she had a dream that she, Frank and her husband John Bayley were living together happily. She wrote, "A dream about Frank. I was with Frank and he told me he loved me. (As he did on that day in autumn 1938 in New College.) I was very moved but not sure what I felt (as then). He went away and then I realised I loved him. (As I really did come to love him later.) In the dream, realising I loved him I felt great joy at the thought that I could tell him now, and I sent for him. He appeared at the top of a steep slope, dressed as a soldier, with a black cap on. As I climbed up the slope towards him I felt sudden dismay, thinking I cannot marry him, I am married already. Then I thought, it is all right, I can be married to both him and John. We met and were all somehow very happy and yet awkward too."

Iris was a prolific letter writer: "When I was younger, I remember I loved writing long letters to all sorts of people — a kind of exhibitionism I daresay." She often wanted her boyfriends to send her pictures of themselves, under the guise that "I hate to not know what my friends look like."

She visited Paris and met Sartre. He signed a copy of Being and Nothingness over to her. She was starting to feel like a philosopher again.

She became engaged to a man who showed little to no interest in her work, and confessed "doubts & terrors" towards the prospect of their marriage. In Prague, he left her for a girl named Molly. Even after they dissolved their arrangement by postal mail, Iris still gave him money.

She spoke only French to Raymond Queneau. They went on hikes together. He told her about his analysis. He introduced her to the work of William Faulkner. He never liked to talk about his work, except with her. Queneau described Iris as "Irishwoman. Big. Blonde. Common-sensical. A little bun. A perked cap. A decided walk, somewhat heavy, military. Beautiful eyes. Charming smile. She loves Kierkegaard. Is interested in the problems of blacks. Likes Colossus of Maroussi. She is weary. Her work interests her sufficiently. She skis."

She thought he "had a very beautiful head."

When she returned to England, she took up with Donald MacKinnon, in almost full view of his suffering wife. She became more and more depressed. She went to visit the widowed mother of Frank Thompson, which did not help matters. The old woman gave Iris the volume of Catullus that had been returned to her.

She came to Cambridge, where she met Wittgenstein. She thought of him as a handsome but disturbing figure, with "a trampish sort of appearance." They never connected, but Cambridge was full of romantic possibilities. She took up with a number of men, but none of them for very long. Later she would write, "that business of falling in love with A, then with B, then with C (all madly) seems a bit sickening."

To break the pattern, she considered a relationship with Wittgenstein's protege, a woman named Elizabeth Anscombe. The relationship was never consummated, but Iris fantasized about kissing the back of her neck, and the emotional side was very real.

She took a post teaching at St. Ann's College, where she became the resident expert on moral and political philosophy. Her circle of friends, largely the ethnic misfits of the school, grew and grew. (In The Black Prince she wrote that "most friendship exists in a state of frozen and undeveloping hostility.") Her skill involved paying her friends exactly the amount of attention they required, but not so much that they lost their desire for being with her. Once, she offhandedly remarked to one of her students that didn't she agree "that any worthwhile person ought to have at least some Jewish blood?"

Iris became engaged to another man, but cheated on him with the philosopher Michael Oakeshott. A friend described them both as "addicted to love at first sight." She did not like to ask things of her boyfriends, and she generally hated if they made any demands on her. She contrived an exception to this rule by taking up with a frail Jewish philosopher whose debilitating heart ailment was aggravated by sex. He died.

As a consequence, her next relationship was with the writer Elias Canetti. He was very different from her other boyfriends. Their three year affair was kept secret from all close to them; she was neither the first nor the last of his mistresses. Canetti was the king of flattery, an expert manipulator. He would often read a writer's entire oeuvre before meeting them so he would know what to say. Behind their backs, he could be extremely cruel. Iris' friends suspected that Elias was the sort of literary intellectual monster she feared becoming.

Among other things, Iris found him to be the best sexual partner she had ever had. She wrote, "He holds me savagely between his knees & grasps my hair and forces my head back. His power. He subjugates me completely. Only a complete intellectual and moral ascendancy could hold me." She compared him to Zeus. "He takes me quickly, suddenly... When we are satisfied, we do not lie together, but contemplate each other with a sort of amused hostility." Her next boyfriend did not like Canetti, and was nothing like him.

Even though I never knew her, I still miss her.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about the life of Lee Krasner. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Blue Skies" - Tom Waits (mp3)

"Old Shoes" - Tom Waits (mp3)

with John Bayley, 1998