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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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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 (202)

Thursday
Feb112016

In Which We Attend The Wagner Festival With Friends

Wolf and Kind

by ALEX CARNEVALE

In order to meet Hitler, Unity Valkyrie Freeman-Mitford had to learn German. A lot of her friends were dating young storms, which was what they called the Nazi stormtroopers. She found a restaurant where Hitler sometimes ate. It was named Osteria Bavaria.

She was with her friend Derek Hill, in a Munich tea room with his mother, when Hitler strolled into the place from his black Mercedes. Her teacup shook. She nearly dropped it.

Diana and Unity at the Osteria

A month later, Hitler had one of his ostensible allies, Ernst Röhm, executed. Unity Valkyrie wrote to her sister Diana: "It must have been so dreadful for him when when he arrested Röhm himself. Then he went to arrest Heines and found him in bed with a boy. Did that get into the English papers? Poor Hitler."

Diana Mitford was also learning German, in a Berlitz course. The sisters moved into a Munich hotel together. On Unity’s instructions they dined often at the Osteria, too shy to approach the great man. Whenever one of her brothers and sisters made it to Munich, she took them to a long lunch.

Soon Hitler could not help but notice this tall English girl who always seemed to be having her meal at the same time. He nodded when he saw her.

On February 9th, 1935 a man approached Unity and said, “The Führer would like to speak to you.” They talked of England, a conversation that ended with Unity suggesting he visit. “He said he would love to but he was afraid there would be a revolution if he did,” she wrote to her father.

Unity and Hitler talked movies and the man paid for her lunch, signing a postcard. “I suppose I am the luckiest girl in the world,” she wrote. In order to intensify this admiration, Unity refocused herself on what had only been a passing phase before now: her hatred of Jews.

She was having tea a few weeks later when Hitler invited her to sit with him again. Her third invitation involved meeting Herr Goebbels. Hitler and Unity Valkyrie became fast friends, meeting for tea or lunch whenever Hitler was in Munich over the next four years. Hitler’s advisors were surprised and wary of how much time he dedicated to the woman.

Knowing very little of Great Britain, Hitler never really understood how prominent Unity’s family was in English society — her father was a massively wealthy landowner, and Winston Churchill was her cousin, after all. Unity Valkyrie introduced the Führer to most of her family. Her sister Pam found him "very ordinary, like an old farmer in a brown suit."

In order to emphasize her devotion to the Nazi cause, Unity wrote a letter to an anti-Semitic newspaper. "Our Jews work only behind the scenes,” she wrote, "and therefore we cannot show them to the British public in their true dreadfulness."

This letter got Unity headlines in British newspapers. Photographs of Unity Valkyrie giving a Nazi salute accompanied the stories. Later on, as the country neared war, a few British newspapers began coming around to Unity’s way of thinking, and helped in making her sick views more acceptable. She now referred to herself openly by her party name. She tested out her pistol, a 6.35 Walther, while on vacation. When asked why she was shooting cans, she explained she was practicing to kill Jews.

In order to amuse herself, Unity’s sister Nancy tweaked her by claiming the family was 1/16th Jewish. This was not true; the family had a long history of abhorrent behavior towards England's Jews. Unity sister’s Diana was among the worst offenders. Diana Mitford had married a prominent British fascist and anti-Semite and was deeply in love.

Diana and Unity went to visit the Goebbels family whenever they could, and Hitler invited Unity and Diana to be his guests for the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin. When they returned to London, Diana was invited to lunch with the Churchills. She told them what she knew about Hitler, insisting that Winston and Adolf would get along famously.

the Mitford sisters as girls

Unity Valkyrie was now permanently ensconced in Munich, where she had two white pet rats and a puppy named Flopsy. She spent her days waiting for Hitler’s call. "The greatest moment in my life," she explained to a comrade, "was sitting at Hitler’s feet and having him stroke my hair." She gave parties in her apartment for the SS.

After they stayed with Goebbels’ family for the Olympics, Diana and Unity attended the Wagner Festival, where The Ring and Parsifal were performed. (Parsifal was not a hit with Diana. Hitler explained she would like it more when she was older.) Unity and Diana now felt so comfortable with Hitler that they hectored him about some of his decisions, albeit in the most loyal way imaginable. Hitler’s subordinates were shocked and appalled by this increasing familiarity: they lived in abject fear of their leader's temper.

the horrifying Mitford family together at last

Hitler called Unity “Kind” and she called him “Wolf.” Diana Mitford became quite close to the center of Nazi power. She was close with both Hitler and Magda Goebbels, and and often watched movies with the Führer. Hitler was only unavailable to the women while he was with Eva Braun at his headquarters in the Bavarian Alps, the mountain retreat called Berghof.

The Goebbels hosted Diana’s wedding to her husband in their lavish apartment. As Unity and Diana waited for the ceremony, they “saw Hitler walking through the trees of the park-like garden. The leaves were turning yellow and there was bright sunshine.” The next day they flew back to England.

Unity

Unity marched with Hitler through occupied Poland. On this tour she took ill with pneumonia. Over her sick bed, Unity’s father met Hitler and found him quite personable.

The Daily Mirror gave Unity Valkyrie a political column, where she explained that England and Germany should be allies, and suggested the future of Europe hinged on the togetherness of the Nordic race. Through her friend the Führer, she knew well of the vicious murder perpetrated against Jews, praising a massacre in which Jews were herded to an island in the Danube and left there to starve to death.

The papers suggested that she and Hitler might marry. Unity informed Hitler that Churchill was planning war, and his intelligence confirmed the possibility. The remaining English in Germany were now being evacuated, and Unity no longer had any friends in country. She refused to leave but grew miserable. "I might disappear into the mountains in Tyrol, perhaps, if war is declared," she wrote to Diana. "Of course the other way seems the easiest way out, but it seems silly not to wait and see how things turn out. It might all be over in a week."

the Mitford sisters

On Sunday September 3rd, Unity Valkyrie received a telegram informing her that Britain had declared war on Germany. She wrote her parents to say goodbye and suggested that after the war they could all see Hitler often. She told the consulate that she would like to be buried with the signed photograph of Hitler and her Nazi party badge. In the gorgeous Munich park where she had often walked Flopsy, Unity shot herself in the temple with her Walther.

A bullet in the head does not kill as often as we are led to believe. Unity Valkyrie regained consciousness a week later. The bullet lay obstreprously in the back of her skull, and could not be removed. Hitler sent roses and called as often as his schedule permitted. In the hospital Unity attempted to put a final stop to things by swallowing her swastika, which had to be extracted via probe.

being taken to the hospital

Her family knew nothing of Unity's condition and the German press were silenced. Eventually the story broke, with the papers reporting Unity dead. By the time her family was able to reach her, she had lost thirty pounds and could not stand upright without assistance, but she was still alive.

Forever a Nazi: the crone Diana Mitford in later years

Hitler paid all the medical bills. In England Unity required police protection. Unity's brain damage was severe, and it was a long time before she had even realized what she did to herself. Friends described her mental age as 11 or 12. Eventually she learned to drive. The rest of the family was similarly embarrassed by what their daughters had been up to during the war, and Diana went to prison for three years. After her release, her favorite diamond swastika was returned to her. Like her mother, she hated Jews with every breath until her death in 2003.

The reason Hitler nearly conquered the continent was not because of a polite ignorance of his aims, or fastidious desire to avoid bloodshed. Many British people saw nothing wrong with what he professed in Mein Kampf. Perhaps Hitler understood a great deal more of the character of Great Britain than Unity believed.

Unity in the last years of her life

Before the war, their sister Jessica Mitford moved as far away as possible from this collection of hateful shrews and became a communist in northern California. She barely reacted to the death of Unity Valkyrie, writing, "Of course I mourned for my Boud years ago when I realized we couldn't be friends anymore."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Can't Take It Back" - Lissie (mp3)

"Back to Forever" - Lissie (mp3)

Tuesday
Feb092016

In Which We Will Never Drink Out Of Cups Again

Portmanteau

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Knight of Cups
dir. Terrence Malick
118 minutes

There is this scene in Knight of Cups where Rick (Christian Bale) is dry-humping a prostitute named Della (Imogen Potts) and he interlaces his hands with hers and they sort of swing them back and forth in a silly way, like two kids might. The couple never actually speaks to each other, we only hear their inner thoughts in voiceover. This is a Terrence Malick joint.

Were you interested in the less cohesive aspects of The Tree of Life without necessarily needing a whole lot of plot or exposition? Knight of Cups provides that important experience, in a package you will recognize completely. Half the shots might have been ripped straight from Grand Theft Auto V and L.A. Story. Los Angeles, and Christian Bale as an amoral womanizer, are both too familiar.

Knight of Cups is not really about any of that. Malick photographs most of the movie with a convex lens, and much of the camera movement creates motion sickness. Do not be alarmed — this is the strongest emotion you will experience during the journey of Rick, or as I prefer to call him, Master Rick.

Master Rick spends a lot of time strolling. The only time he shows the slightest bit of evidence that the world as it exists is affecting him in any way is during an earthquake. To be completely honest, I have trouble identifying with a character like this because I recently cried during an episode of the now-canceled CBS sitcom Angel from Hell.

Master Rick's brother Barry (Wes Bentley) takes him on a tour of the less impressive aspects of Los Angeles. Malick is deeply afraid of actual homeless people, so he casts actors in their roles. Much like Master Rick, Barry is very disappointed in the world. He sticks a fork in his hand and proclaims that he wants to feel something. This is the same guy who filmed an image of a paper bag getting knocked around in the wind and proclaimed that it was beautiful.

Master Rick gave me this idea. It is time to hold actors responsible for the content of their roles. An actor never really kills or maims, so you will not have to judge him for that. You will have to evaluate the sons of Stanislavsky on what they say. David Mamet always said that action talks and bullshit walks, but I mean, does it?

A brother's untimely death is the reason that Master Rick is sad. He tries to get over it by objectifying and projecting himself into various women. It turns out that his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett) is not having any of that. She wriggles away from the touch of Master Rick! The two have zero chemistry; it occurs to us that maybe Christian Bale cannot even understand his ex-wife's accent. She complains that he became angry for small things, like maybe she was not the best housekeeper or she was facebook messaging a real estate agent named Gary Percival.

None of these examples are actually in Knight of Cups, but the movie becomes very boring so it is natural to imagine the lives of the characters if they were not complete clichés. "When I'm with you, I forget everything else," Natalie Portman puts it at one point, wearing a mesh sweater that looks like a fishing net.

Nancy and Master Rick start having sex in a bathtub (this might have been a flashback) but their dog interrupts. (I don't know the exact breed, it could have been a pinscher of some kind.) Nancy and Master Rick shared a contemporary style bungalow with a really nice pool, but neither of them struck me as swimmers. None of this really seems to affect Master Rick and Malick generally shoots Bale from behind, forcing us to intuit his responses to most of this horseshit.

Knight of Cups features a consistent focus on animals and how they move and walk: if they sway, if they dart off balance, how a duck saunters, how a fly buzzes, that sort of thing. This observational perspective channels how a child reacts when he sees an animal, emitting a basic wonder that they are not as we are. Such intimacy with nature originates as a childish notion, and most of us move beyond it by the time we reach the advanced age of ten. I get the feeling that when Terrence Malick witnesses a bee buzzing he probably achieves a hard-on, or at least wants to get one.

I don't mean to be too harsh on this guy. Maybe he hasn't seen the 100 movies released last year about disassociated and depressed white men. Malick has the character most akin to him explain that women — and their associated problems — are "a distraction." He probably doesn't understand that on some fundamental level casting a bunch of beautiful, talented actresses as accessories to the travails of a rich, complainy white guy is incredibly offensive. I mean, Master Malick was born in 1943. There were not even civil rights then, and suffrage for women in America was only twenty-three years old.

None of these women seem to have a particularly close connection with Master Rick. A few of the sex workers would be the same age as his daughter. Natalie Portman gives off a weird sister vibe with Bale and their intimate scenes together feel remarkably like incest. She puts her foot in his mouth and laughs. She is the most like him, the only other character in Knight of Cups who actually has a dilemma and story of her own. So of course it is hinted that she kills herself.

One of these women is a stripper with a philosophical streak named Karen (Teresa Palmer) who tells Master Rick he can be whatever he wants to be. "We're like clouds, aren't we?" she explains to him. He responds to that by pushing her around in a shopping cart and skateboarding. Master Rick is inert, but sometimes he can follow a woman if she is looking back at him while she moves forward. I have never met anyone like that.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Better or Worse" - Beacon (mp3)

Tuesday
Feb022016

In Which Chip Baskets Has Lost A Considerable Amount Of Body Fat

Renwah

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Baskets
creator Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis & Jonathan Krisel

Chip Baskets' mother (Louis Anderson) has these plants in her house with large fronds. She won't trim them because it would be like doing harm to something she loves, no matter how much they get in her way as she attempts to ascend the stairs of her home. This is the kind of compassionate, dispassionate attitude assumed by virtually everyone in the brilliant new FX series Baskets, except for its central character: a California clown named Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis). Unlike the rest of the people in his life, he knows exactly who he is.

Chip's identical twin brother Dale runs a correspondence degree mill that pumps out certificates in occupations like middle management and cell phone repair. He is used to his brother coming to him for money, and doesn't really resent the imposition. Chip asks him for $40, money he plans to use to fund the HBO subscription of a French woman who no longer has any interest in him.

Louis CK recently released the painful first episode of Horace and Pete, a three camera comedy that stars himself and Steve Buscemi as white brothers running a bar. You can feel CK's presence in Baskets, but it is more in the subtle diassociation from reality.

CK has not received enough credit for bringing some of the character of live theater to television; in Horace and Pete this melding such a disaster the show feels like a parody of Death of a Salesman. On his own HBO series, Louie, this unique feel to the television product made it seem vaguely otherworldly, and the same effect is achieved by the marvelous Baskets.

Chip Baskets' world is Bakersfield, California, which consists of the places he ventures as he rollerblades from the rodeo to his home base and back again. He only goes somewhere else when he is escorted, since he cannot afford a car and a bee caused him to crash his scooter.

Galifianakis is at his best when he is not playing too weird. The fact that he is about half the man he once was made him look like a turtle without his shell in recent performances. By now we are used to the slimmer version. At base, Chip Baskets is the kind of good-natured simpleton, but Galifianakis plays Chip with a depth the character sorely requires and maybe does not deserve. As Chip fails out of French clowning school because he amusingly speaks no French whatsoever, we have quickly finished sympathizing with his naivete: the man is no charity case, he simply needs to figure things out.

To set him on the garden path, his mother purchases him a Costco executive membership from Chip's only friend, a woman named Martha (Martha Kelly). The role of Chip's buddy is written exactly to suit the stand-up comedian, whose deadpan, unenthusiastic delivery never exactly made her a roaring hit onstage. Some of the ways Chip dismisses Martha seem a little too pat, but Baskets works better as a personal journey rather than a love story anyway. Chip responds well to Martha's understated nature and tries to ape it in his clowning, and eventually in his life.

Although Chip performs at a rodeo, lots of obvious jokes are avoided in favor of more personal storylines. In the show's second episode, Chip takes an interest in the clowning career of a Juggalo (Adam William Zastrow) with no experience in the art. Through Chip's intervention, the young man is able to pursue a fruitful career as a cashier at Arby's. Amidst the dark humor involved with Chip's maudlin existence in Baskets, there is an inspiring undercurrent about what positive things we can absorb from other people without even meaning to do so.

This is maybe not the hilarity audiences would expect from Zach Galifianakis as a clown, but who cares? There has not been a comedy as good as Baskets on television for a long time. Watching other comedies becomes the observation of a race towards a singular joke. Once achieved, the entire paradigm is thrown away for some other gag. Angie Tribeca, a horrid series which recently premiered on the equally unwatchable network TBS, at least attempted to turn this into a Mel Brooks-type zaniness.

Unfortunately Mel Brooks is not funny unless you are under ten years old or substantially more interested in puns than you ought to be. Rashida Jones is wasting her career as the titular detective, and honestly she was never really cut out for these sorts of gagfests anyway.

What comes across in Baskets is the same sort of basic humanity that is represented in everything Louis CK admires. He honestly appears to respect regular people a lot more than he does his actual friends and peers, so he casts them in the roles of working class individuals. Horace and Pete descends too far in this direction; it is too obvious that the entire cast not who they appear to be. The show even makes Rebecca Hall resemble a regular person, forcing her to kiss Louis CK on the lips as part of the show's opening moments. Although this dull sense of normalcy is more deftly done in Baskets, on the whole this humbling is a welcome change.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"You're Mine" - Lola Marsh (mp3)

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