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Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Durga Chew-Bose
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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 (154)

Friday
Mar122010

In Which We Look Out For That Next Step

The Urge to Rehab

by ALEX CARNEVALE

In 1929 Congress appropriated the first funds that allowed for federal treatment of addicts. The U.S. Public Health Service Hospitals in Lexington, Kentucky and Fort Worth, Texas began treating addicts in the late thirties, although they were essentially prison hospitals from the first. When we compare the ball-licking treatment Tiger Woods receives for his sex addiction to the treatment the first national addicts faced, the difference is rather jarring. Tiger has a dedicated testicle-moistener who operates twice daily (even on weekends!); addicts of the 1930s had to milk cows, or work at the local cannery to justify the cost of incarceration. Back then, there wasn't really such thing as a free ride.

Addicts were routinely hassled by the government; there was no legitimate way to recover from the problems of drug addiction. By 1939, the Christian movement The Oxford Group had given rise to Alcoholics Anonymous, and the organization published The Big Book, the foundational text of AA. The rise of AA was a huge inspiration for the eventual formation of Narcotics Anonymous.

jimmy kinnon's notebook and other materials

A recovering alcoholic named Houston S received a job transfer to Kentucky in 1947. He had helped a man get sober who found himself unable to kick a concurrent morphine habit, and had seen the face of addiction to narcotics firsthand. Once in Kentucky, Houston suggested the AA model could work for addicts as well. The Narco Group began at the Federal Narcotics Farm in Lexington Kentucky around this time. One of the patients in that program, Danny Carlsen, would spread the first iteration of NA to the New York prison in the late forties.

Writing something down where it can be seen by others and verified (or not) has always been a critical part of recovery lore. The addict can't deny what his habit has wrought once he sees it in print. The initial thirteenth step of NA pleaded, "God help me."

Narcotics Anonymous would evolve beyond being a social service organization for victims of drug addiction once it was born-again in southern California over the next decade. The Brown Booklet was the first real piece of NA literature, and it reads wonderfully well even today, with none of the officiousness or preaching that addicts would come to expect from those attempting to change their lives. The organization struggled through the fifties before entering a real renaissance in the 1960s. Jimmy Kinnon, who arrived at Ellis Island from Scotland in 1923, was responsible for much of both the early NA writing, the NA logo, and the formation of the society as we now know it.

Because it has been extraordinarily successful, the basic outline and information provided by Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous has changed little over the years. Even the pamphlets look largely the same. There was an episode of Seinfeld where George convinced his girlfriend that toilet paper hadn't changed in 500 years; this is roughly true of addiction literature, which exists as a cipher through which the addict himself must find a place.

jimmy k's origination text for what would become NAYet the literature itself remains a weird reshaping of codes of behavior. Each of us, unless we were dropped on our head as a child, has a basic moral code we live by. It is impossible to know, Venn-diagram style, where this intersects with the morality of others, so NA literature explains the basic principles of life for addicts. It is a little shocking to see the world spelled out this way, but this is usually necessary for people prone to abusing themselves and/or others.

drug victims (probably)The presence of God - moreso in Alcoholics Anonymous, which also features deep sociological and psychological underpinnings - never leaves the literature or the people who preach it. There is no way to recover from anything without believing someone is watching you, whether it be some omnipotent being or your family and friends. Otherwise, you are accountable to no one, and the use of drugs retains its otherwordly flair. This is another interesting idea that on its face seems immoral to me, since it is based on a lie.

NA tries to go a bit easier on God than its hard-drinking brother-in-law. For those who have difficulty accepting their savior Jesus Christ, members are allowed to substitute the term "higher power" or read God as an acronym for "Good Orderly Direction." Members are not permitted to roll their eyes or make jokes about this aspect of their recovery.

Unlike AA, there is something unprepossessing about Narcotics Anonymous. It is probably related to the disease being recovered from. For those addicted to alcohol, there is always a happy return to use, and the poison itself is available on every street and every corner. Eternal temptation is eternal viligance. Harder drugs rarely offer a happy return, or a positive ending, beyond the thrill of the initial high. As such, addicts usually need to be very real with themselves in order to confront their disease.

What is most amazing about these programs is that they are effective at all. Tiger Woods' experience, and Steve Philips' experience, indicate there is a future full of things we can be addicted to, and treated for. We now view alcoholism as a disease; there is ample proof that it is, but the most striking reason is that we seem to believe it wholeheartedly, and it is best for us to feel this way.

In the old days, it was not easy to become addicted to sex. The overstimulation of the internet celebrates our best senses, elaborates on our finest indiscretions. People are addicted to the internet and they will probably not require recovery. The internet is the solution more than the problem, but it is still a fairly big problem. I don't really know how rehabilitation works - I usually believe it doesn't work, and that's why these organizations that profess eternal viligance are so popular and effective. How did Michael Vick stop believing that betting on staged dogfights wasn't a fun activity on a Saturday afternoon? About the same time he received the Ed Block Courage Award?

There is also something distinctly American about recovery, and to separate it from a Christian impulse would be to sever the head at the neck. There are worse countries to live in than a Christian one. Whether is it good to become a compassionate country, as George W. Bush basically put it, or whether it is better to tolerate less capriciousness from our fellow man is an open question. The degrading conditions of the first American addicts make a strong argument we are improving as a society. I don't know if it's sad or what that this is as good as we've ever been.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He twitters here and tumbls here.

"See If They Salute" - The Streets (mp3)

"Lovelight of My Life" - The Streets (mp3)

"David Hassles" - The Streets (mp3)


Tuesday
Feb232010

In Which We Entertain The Concept of An Invulnerable Human Being

Unbreakable

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Modernity has brought along a new set of pleasures along with its challenges. Before luminaries like Leonardo Da Vinci, Marcel Proust and Dave Meltzer, how were we to know, definitively, who the most dangerous human being on the planet is?

I have an idea for a reality show in which having found the most dangerous man on the planet, I take him into various bigoted places of the world and watch locals screw with him. Were it not for the perplexing evolution of firearms, this would be a no-lose concept. Of course, we would have to determine the most feared human in hand-to-hand combat first. Actually, we wouldn't, because his name is Fedor Emelianenko.

Since I found out about the existence of Fedor sometime around a decade ago, I can't help but be fascinated by the idea of an individual who feels no pain and cannot be defeated by anyone. In the fall, this individual made his debut in the Strikeforce promotion, where he fought heavyweight Brett Rogers. Here was the result:

 

Although no Fedor win is ever the least bit surprising, this one was a little different because Rogers broke his opponent's nose on the first punch of the fight. Sure, this happens sometimes, and a broken nose isn't a broken arm. But it is unclear Fedor was aware he had even had been touched.

Fedor was born in 1976 in Rubizhne, the easternest region of the Ukraine. His parents were unaware they had birthed a child of such possible ferociousness. Indeed, despite having no history of combat in the family, all of Emeliananko children went into human combat. In 2006 Fedor was asked about his hobbies: "I like to draw if I have some time and inspiration. I like to listen to music and read books. Sometimes, in the winter, I like to swim in an ice hole."

Fedor's training methods have become relatively notorious. In 1997, he gave up weight-lifting completely. His main activity is running, with his training in different styles making up the balance of his time. Fedor's conditioning has become legendary. He never appears to become fatigued during fights, always advancing on his opponent with the same maddening, shuffling gait, never not pressing the attack. The effect of this approach is psychological and practical. Mentally, the opponent can never gather his resources or stall the fight to rest. Practically, Fedor prefers the opponent to always be on his heels.

Recently Fedor published a book that reflecting a vast store of knowledge from someone who said he started fighting because he was broke. Fedor's command of submissions is particularly impressive - he never appears to be a master technician, perhaps another strategic psychological advantage. In a match with a large opponent where Fedor's reach makes him more susceptible to strikes, submission is usually his preferred finish.

if you see your children so arranged, best to separate themLike his wildly popular welterweight counterpart Georges St. Pierre, Fedor has closed all the weaknesses in his game. He is nigh-on invulnerable being struck; he can't be taken down by an opponent. He's like what a troll is in Faerie. How do you defeat such a creature?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here.

"Don't Let The Record Label Take You Out to Lunch" - Jeffrey Lewis (mp3)

"No LSD Tonight" - Jeffrey Lewis (mp3)

"Alphabet" - Jeffrey Lewis (mp3)

Sunday
Jan312010

In Which We Are Either Betty, Veronica or Neither

The Italian Archie

by ALEX CARNEVALE

James Ivory's The Golden Bowl begins with two lovers in the ruins of Rome, explaining why they can't be together. The woman Charlotte (Uma Thurman) has no money. Neither does the man, native to Rome Amerigo (Jeremy Northam). So it is concluded they cannot really be together, despite the exquisite image of their bodies pressed against one another.

A few years later, the man marries Charlotte's girlhood friend Maggie (Kate Beckinsale). This is not in itself a tragedy. The new woman is warm and loving, her father is loaded with cash he plans to spend on building a museum on the Upper East Side of New York City. Amerigo is ostensibly happy with his new arrangement, but then Charlotte appears in his life again in time for his wedding to Maggie.

Early in The Golden Bowl, Charlotte and Amerigo go shopping for a wedding gift for the latter's fiancee. They visit a jewelry store where they see the eponymous Golden Bowl. Charlotte appraises the rest of the collection and pronounces the verdict, whether out of malice or good sense: "There is nothing here that she could wear." The two quarrel about the collapse of their previous relationship. Over time, Charlotte becomes engaged to Maggie's overbearing father. Charlotte and Amerigo then consummate their relationship on the sly.


Adultery is tricky business in the cinema. The male adulterer is rarely approved of. He is largely given a bad rap; he sometimes hurts Richard Gere's feelings. Charlotte's portrayal is no better.  Such drama is the kind of illusion only important to the rich. Perhaps the relative economic status of these individuals is immaterial, but as they stroll casually through an epic mansion, their concerns seem less important than the decor. The once-deprived Amerigo stands at attention to the splendor of the other creatures whose world he inhabits. For him, the only real world is Rome. He is always trying to go back there.

Cheating on someone seems exciting, for awhile. Cheating on your wife with her father's wife, even more so. The excitement thus heightened, Amerigo's swarthy attentions are naturally paid to his vivacious blond former lover rather than his brunette wife who so recently, we suspect, had breast enhancement surgery. Such were the strange vicissitudes of life around the turn of the century.


Banging your wife's father's wife is known in some circles as the reverse Oedipus; in other circles it invariably results in a Cleveland Steamer and the severing of all concurrent relationships. Our families naturally become closer together in affluence, and such implausibilities are rapidly rendered most plausible.


Looked at from the other perspective, it is still harder to merit sympathies for the victims of such Biblical indiscretions. Maggie is a naïve imp; she cares for Amerigo's child from a previous whatever with all the aplomb we expect from how the wealthy tolerate weaknesses in the less fortunate. If the would-be victim is already vulnerable, aren't they asking to be taken advantage of?

Anjelica Huston plays the original matchmaker of Maggie and Amerigo, Fanny. No one better channels the way a segment of yourself disappears by how you behave than Huston when she practices her craft. Having set up Maggie and Amerigo, Anjelica's Fanny feels great guilt, even harassing Amerigo when he risks appearing with Charlotte in public: "I have noticed before with you that you like having a thing without liking to call it by its name."


Despite disapproval from such quarters, Amerigo carries on his affair. Naturally, the possibility of love within other love excites him. It excites every man with blood flowing towards his penis. Amerigo becomes the victim of these two feminine ideals. Henry James essentially told us about the first Archie.

Uma Thurman or Charlotte or whatever you insist on calling her, is the escape. Amerigo met a woman who freed him from an entire part of his self-possession. There are reasons, in themselves, to disregard everything you know.

Kate Beckinsale or Molly McAleer or Maggie is the darker, more intensive brew. (Brunettes are always symbols for something or other.) From the moment you start dating her, you have to be good with the idea you will appear in every page of her personal journal, that she will take everything from you and spit out whatever doesn't make sense or reconfirm her view of the world. Such paramours are usually either a tremendous disappointment or the love of your life.

Despite having two female protagonists, emanating from the approximate direction of The Golden Bowl is a rare misogyny. Someone once called a friend of mine a literary misogynist, but this wasn't quite true. The real adulterer is not a misogynist or hypocrite, for he does not pretend to offer any of the comforts of a lover; he manages the abandonment of those comforts. When you find a woman willing to give that up, you can hardly blame the man involved.  

The relationship between Charlotte and Nick Nolte's Adam Verver is the most fascinating of those in The Golden Bowl. We all wonder at how relationships begun under shaky premises evolve and develop. Charlotte has no love for Adam; she disdains his museum, she finds his art collecting eccentric in a fashion that deliberately takes attention away from her. In time, they move closer together, eventually becoming intimate. In this case the American identity, in photos and film, the art forms themselves, repossess the people they represent.

This is The Golden Bowl's way of suggesting that all love deserves a context. Everything deserves a context, argued James in every line of his extant prose. His mastery was in making the unappealing overly appealing, and then switching it around again. He was never afraid to push people towards each other, even in hatred, to see how the rest of the world was accommodated by the result.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. He tumbls here and twitters here.

"Simple Line of Decline"  - For Love Not Lisa (mp3)

"Travis Hoffmann" - For Love Not Lisa (mp3)

"Traces" - For Love Not Lisa (mp3)