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Editor-in-Chief
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 (216)

Thursday
May122016

In Which Aging Remains Difficult For Some

Children Get Older

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Captain America: Civil War
dir. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
147 minutes

Hello, My Name Is Doris
dir. Michael Showalter
95 minutes

Getting older seems so difficult: unless things actually improve with age. Tony Stark and Doris Miller have lived substantially more than half their lives and they find the prospect of going on daunting. One thing is absurdly clear: they intend to make serious changes in their personalities in order to accommodate this new reality.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is consciously uncoupled from Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) when Captain America: Civil War begins. She was very unhappy when he murdered a generation of Eastern Europeans battling a robot voiced by James Spader. She was willing to accept his drinking and flirting with other women, but all the death really soured the relationship.

The primary relationship of Doris Miller (Sally Field) was with her mother. The woman was something of a pack rat, and Doris inherited some of her mother's inclinations while keeping her data entry job at an advertising agency. When the agency's new art director John (Max Greenfield) tells her that he likes her glasses, she becomes obsessed with him.

Tony Stark's obsessions take a different form. After the tragedy of the last Avengers film (it claimed Joss Whedon's credibility as well, a serious loss), Stark has kept his eye on a Queens teenager. He shows up at the boy's house, sits on his bed, and relays instructions as to what to tell his family and friends. This actually happens in Captain America: Civil War, the most tone deaf movie since Taken 2. But really, discovering Spiderman is only a distraction in Captain America: Civil War. Stark is most focused on subduing the will of another, less susceptible person.

Steve Rogers (a magnificent Chris Evans) holds things together by dint of his colossal charisma. Captain America: Civil War subtly alludes at a love relationship between himself and the winter soldier Bucky Brooks (Sebastian Stan) who he tries to protect from the government and the other Avengers when a man attempts to frame Bucky for a terrorist attack. The two make a very handsome couple, and short shrift is given to Rogers' beard Sharon Carter (a bloated looking Emily VanCamp), a disloyal intelligence operative.

Steve actually is quite old, and previous films chronicling his return to the world focused primarily on how he would adapt after being frozen or something. These jokes never made much sense, since besides the advent of the computer, almost nothing has changed in American life that cannot be understood by watching three hours of cable television.

All the people Steve cared about are dead besides his winter lover. Tony Stark was abandoned by his close ones by dint of his own behavior — except for his parents, who he lost at a young age before he could make them proud. His new family was more recently ripped from him when Pepper started dating her own male assistant, who was much more savvy when it came to understanding her idiosyncratic romantic requirements.

Stark's new family is a bunch of mutants. Most of them are men. He is not really effective at forming relationships with women; in previous films he simply harassed them into a disturbed submission. In Captain America: Civil War, he confines the telekinetic Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen, more radiant than ever) to her chambers with instructions for an android (Paul Bettany) not to let her out. He has reached an eerie detente with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) who doesn't seem to view him as a romantic prospect whatsoever, despite the fact this was a key feature of the comic.

This is sad for Natasha, who plays the role of therapist for the disturbed people involved in these mass murders. Johansson tries really hard, but Mark Ruffalo is nowhere to be found and she has little chemistry with the other possibles. Her outfits are unfortunately mediocre, as if no one involved with this production even thought very much about her.

Captain America: Civil War is mostly focused on the men, which is fine, since Hello My Name Is Doris has enough to say about women for both movies. Sally Field works overtime here, oscillating facial expressions so that we can see she is more full of emotions than anyone else in her story. Without her vamping there would not be much to admire about Doris Miller.

When the object of Doris' affection finds love near a blonde woman with a questionable singing talent (Beth Behrs), Doris immediately plans to sabotage and ruin the happiness John has found. She posts lies on his facebook page in order to break up the lovely couple. We are still supposed to sympathize with her — I guess taking into consideration the questionable idea that the elderly are not fully responsible for their behavior.

Doris' friend Roz (an amazing Tyne Daly) is deeply worried about her disturbed infatuation. By the time we reach Doris' age, individuals of all genders should understand the meaning of this childish concept. Just as different substances scale as uniquely appetizing, so too do people. Roz no longer feels such elementary pangs of humanity for others; the self-acceptance she radiates seems to be what eventually gets Doris to act as a mirror.

There is still a wisdom in youth before it is corrupted by later events. In Captain America: Civil War, Nigerian king T'Challa (the mercurial Chadwick Boseman) sees a man kill his father so he reacts by heading off to repay the favor. Roz's granddaughter Vivian (Isabella Acres) possesses a similarly straightforward perspective as she counsels Doris on her stalking. In her world, if a guy pays attention to you, he probably likes you. It is only further on in our lives that attention is traded so easily, for so little in return.

When Tony Stark was young, people constantly observed him because he looked and sounded good. They required no other reason — what need would there be for one? After the basic impetus of beauty fades, human beings have a tough time adapting to any kind of indifference from the universe. We must be essential: not simply caught in the flow of our lives. The only pleasant surprise is that in these humbling moments we are most ourselves.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Can't Go Wrong" - You Won't (mp3)

"Friends in Exile" - You Won't (mp3)


Thursday
May052016

In Which Water Remains The Sweet Elixir Of American Life

The White Clouds

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

"Every one of you here has the opportunity to live an authentic life," explains a guy wearing a really nice sweater. At Est, the concept of being trapped by other people's impressions and feelings about you is the real danger. "There is something so American about it," Elizabeth explains, since needing help with self-realization is a Western concept stolen from the East. They just didn't realize it.

Gary Snyder translated poems by a ninth century Chinese recluse named Han Shan that I was reading the other day. It is astonishing how modern they are, although Snyder's grasp of the timelessness of human expression in his translation is a major factor. Many Americans know and understand very little about life in other places, even within their own nation, and there has rarely been a good way of explaining it authentically.

This week Obama made an attempt at it, so he found himself drinking water in Flint, Michigan. It was an impressive feat; something I would never do. A famous moment in the 1992 campaign took place when Bill Clinton told an enraged protestor that he felt the man's pain; it also marked the permanent departure of the Clintons from the left-wing of that party. Why Obama drank the water I don't really know. It probably didn't taste very good, since afterwards he announced that "kids are very resilient" indicating that they could rebound from whatever illness the water imparted. Then he distributed filters for everyone.

One poem of Han Shan goes like this:

Spring water in the green creek is clear
Moonlight on Cold Mountain is white
Silent knowledge — the spirit is enlightened of itself
Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness.

This sentimentality is ancient. Even Elizabeth, after murdering an African-American woman with several kids, was momentarily absorbed into it. There is a literal nature to both politics and violence that Elizabeth grasps instinctively, in this episode directed by Matthew Rhys. What is common in both disciplines is a 1:1 relationship between the meaning of an act and the act itself.

Keri Russell's character embodies this completely. When Elizabeth says that Martha was simple, and straightforward, she was really describing her own outlook. To the extent that she has emotions, altering them isn't her forte, or her husband's.

Don't get me wrong: they can do what every good politician can do. It is only a matter of creating another feeling, and layering it over that initial anger. Bill Clinton did not "feel the pain" of the AIDS activist – in that moment he was merely a mirror. (The irony is that one of the campaign songs for Clinton-Gore was Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror.")

Martha was more complicated than a lot of people gave her credit for. She was more adaptable than she believed, although that was likely indicated by the fact she married her clandestine lover and suggested he take her from behind. For Martha, the world was not a literal place, full of sound and fury, signifying various somethings. No, the world is full of illusions of various values. Weighing one more heavily is only possible at the expense of another.

In light of that, Han Shan becomes a recluse. He writes,

There's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You'd get it and be right here.

It will take over two years to fix the pipes in Flint, Michigan. In the meantime, Kevin Drum put up a post explaining that very few children would be harmed by this, on average. He calculated half an IQ point, which was apparently not the biggest deal. I suppose it depends on how much of the water you drank.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, lots of people contracted cancer and many died. Looking at it statistically it must have been well above the average, for so many families to have parents taken away. Lots of theories went around as to why this was happening — many worked near a nuclear power plant, and there was other heavy industry in the area.

Most of those companies have moved their jobs overseas due to America's corporate tax rate. I don't think there are any travel agents around, and jobs in the region are hard to come by. Then and now, it was wise to make a point of not sampling the tap water. Some people were angry about the impact of cancer, but most tolerated it with good grace. We could not really know what had happened to us.

The Americans becomes a little too much like a fairy tale when Clark sobs for hours on end about how Martha is off to Prague. She made a choice, and knew what could happen. She's probably alive, and she should feel lucky that she had a chance to choose. I don't want to say that the people who make The Americans are spoiled, or that the people who walk into a town, sip the water and leave are inauthentic. I don't have any idea what motivates such an act.

The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Thursday
Apr282016

In Which Martha Hanson Strays From The Path

Clark?

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

Who among us hasn't wanted to give Martha a tight little punch in the chest? On The Americans, everyone gets a receipt for what they've done.

The notion of karma was invented in 1938 by a Ukranian tailor who emigrated to Sand Hill, NJ. His given name was Terence Hordiyenko, and he came to this country seeking a brighter future for his two daughters, Enid and Caroline. Enid was a soft girl who did not really fit into her new country. The younger Caroline fit in well, and joined others in mocking her younger sister. But her sister invented a process for stitching dresses more quickly, and Caroline never married. Still her father, who was called T-Bone by his friends, loved Caroline more than Enid. On his death bed he turned his unwanted daughter away, and God made his first appearance in New Jersey. God said, "Because you did not love both of your daughters, I have decided not to call you T-Bone in the hereafter." T-Bone was saddened by this, but he understood.

If you sleep with another person's betrothed, who knows what they will call you in the afterlife.

It bothers me sometimes that we have forgotten what Stan Beeman did. He cheated on his wife with a KGB agent. Why is that never brought up? Agent Gaad should have simply explained that he was playing "the long game" with Martha. "Playing the long game" is a fantastic excuse that I use whenever I don't want to do laundry, make borscht for dinner, or watch whatever is left of Broad City.

Even the most disturbing partnerships are in fact partnerships. A weird sexual tension perverts every relationship of its kind: friendships are rarely so entwined. Without their parents it is only natural that Paige feels a closeness with Henry that goes beyond the strictures of traditional brother-sister behavior. Her metaphoric pouring into his cup made me think of Tijuana. It was there, also in 1938, that remorse was defined as a philosophical concept.

But now the year is 1983. Stan Beeman is maybe the worst FBI agent in the office besides his direct boss. They have Martha, I mean they really have her, and Stan is channeling visions of himself lying down with Martha and then torturing her in some flophouse on Martin Luther King Boulevard. You see, if Stan was in a similar situation, the only thing he could think to do was kill himself. And the irony is, of course, that he is in that exact situation.

Elizabeth shows up at Rock Creek Park. We never see the gun in her pocket, and why even bother? Maybe it's a needle filled with poison, or a picture of herself in coitus with Clark Westerfeld. Either would be just as effective in stopping the beating of Martha's heart. Clark knows his mark better than anyone, and even if she needed the story of him joining her in Moscow, she'd lose faith at another lie.

It seems clear Martha will not be making it to Moscow, which is a damn shame. The show was better off with her comic relief. I don't really see how she is useful to Russia anymore, and if she was smarter she probably could have got something by lying to the FBI and explaining she was blackmailed into cooperating.

She could have told them about Clark, and Frank Langella, and maybe the rat in the fridge would have bought her a house in the Hamptons. She could tell them phone numbers, places, dates, the particulars of the Kama Sutra. How Clark fucked her, loved her, and left her. Even if they didn't believe her, she would have still been an American.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Previously on the Americans

Young and Foolish - Episode Six

It's Enough Paige - Episode Five

Birdwatching in Winter - Episode Four

Makeup - Episode Three

Church Garb - Episode Two

Son of a Preacher Man - Episode One

"Magnificent Time" - Travis (mp3)

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