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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 (206)

Thursday
Feb182016

In Which We Remain Far From Amused By The Glorious Surprises Of Karl Marx

"Gedenkflug oder Karl Marx als Schwartze Madonna" by Inna Levinson

Notes on Marx

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The biggest phony, the most long-lasting piece of garbage was Karl Marx. I hate saying his name.

On the 8th of March, Marx wrote, “Yesterday we were informed of A VERY HAPPY EVENT. The death of my wife’s uncle, aged ninety.” Why would Karl Marx write such an awful thing? Because he stood to make £100 from it.

This is where Marx really believed wealth came from — inheritance.

Marx made disgusting comments about both Jews and blacks in his letters to Friedrich Engels. For Marx, ethnic identity was a kind of egoism, which allowed people to set themselves apart from one another. Of a enemy who he slandered as a Jew, Marx wrote to Friedrich Engels that "the fellow's importunity is also nigger-like."

Engels' family loathed Marx, who was financially sustained by them for most of his life. They wanted Engels to work in the family business, which was cotton. Papa Engels asked his son to choose between a life in Calcutta or one in New York. In order to support Marx and his family, Engels joined his father's company. He received 200 pounds plus expenses in his job there, which allowed him to fund the "political" work Karl was doing.

Marx taught himself English by memorizing Shakespeare. He eventually brought in some money by selling his political columns to newspapers. If he needed more money for alcohol or drugs, Marx pawned his wife’s family silverware or begged for it.

On Christmas Marx gave his kids gifts. He explained the event by suggesting that Christ was a poor carpenter killed by rich men. One biographer, discussing the fact that Marx’s writing rarely made any kind of logical sense, writes, "his vices were also his virtues, manifestations of a mind addicted to paradox and inversion.” Jesus Christ.

While his pregnant wife was off asking a relative for money, Marx drank a lot and threw rocks at policemen. To amuse himself, Marx fucked the housekeeper, a maid named Helene Demuth. The family all slept in one disgusting room. Engels paid for the ensuing child to be removed from Marx’s presence. The baby boy, Frederic, was given to a Jewish family in London. The child was so ashamed of his real family he visited his mother by the back door of the house.

Marx regretted getting married at all. He believed marriage was a silly institution, and he taught his daughters the same.

The phrase "from each according to his abilities" was originally an insult that Karl Marx levied at his intellectual rivals. It meant the individual in question had no ability. So we begin to understand the foundation of an all-powerful state — it presides over idiots for their own good.

Fascism tells us that all men are liars, that they cannot be trusted. Communism suggests all men are fools. Marx took almost forever to compose his magnum opus, Capital, forcing his family to live in abject poverty while he wrote the book's volumes in longhand. At first things seemed to be coming together quickly; Marx told Engels in April of 1851 that "I am so far advanced that I will have finished the whole economic shit in five weeks time.” He still had not, sixteen years later.

Prussian spies tasked with covering Marx could not believe how he lived. In their reports they noted

He leads the existence of a real bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are all things he does rarely, and he likes to get drunk. He often stays up all night, and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the coming and goings of the whole world.

Marx had asked for the position of London correspondent in a number of letters. The New York Tribune, a newspaper that he roundly denigrated to Engels, reached an audience of 200,000. He told the editor, Charles Anderson Dana, that he would be ecstatic if they featured his columns. So began Marx's career in journalism, and the regular income was sorely needed.

Marx took a break from writing his column in 1853, because a boil between his nose and mouth became so infected that he could not speak. Except for that sabbatical, he rarely missed a week.

In a 1951 epistle to Engels, he wrote, "At home everything’s always in a state of siege. For nights on end, I am set on edge and infuriated by floods of tears. So I cannot of course do very much. I feel sorry for my wife. The main burden falls on her, and fundamentally, she is right. Industry must be more productive than marriage."

Marx idolized his father and spoke often of the man, a well-to-do lawyer who converted to Lutheranism because of anti-Semitism. He loathed his mother, a housewife who spoke German with a heavy Dutch accent, after she cut off his allowance. He was not the slightest bit upset when she passed. "Blessed is he who hath no family," he wrote once in a letter to Engels.

The ascension of Napoleon gave Marx an easy target. His wife handled the secretarial work, churning out tract after tract from his illegible handwriting. When Marx was not writing, he hung out at a wine shop that he called his synagogue and binge drank. He smoked through the night, cheap cigars being the only thing Karl Marx could afford.

Engels was the only correspondent with whom Marx ever discussed intellectual matters. The rest of his letters were mostly trash talk, gossip, and complaints. He never engaged with any developments in philosophy, economics, social sciences, life sciences. He already knew better.

Marx's fifth child, Franziska, died shortly after her first birthday from a bout of bronchitis. Marx could not afford funeral arrangements, so Jenny begged for two pounds. Cholera was among the bigger threats to the survival of Marx's children, caused by sewage leaks to London wells. Only three of his kids lived to adulthood in such a poisonous environment.

Marx rarely managed to afford a doctor, so he spent what money he had a nice outfit for his wife. Pregnant with his next child, Jenny went to Trier to ask his relative for money. She had to look her best; it would too obvious if she went begging dressed as a pauper. Jenny returned with the needed cash; all the while Marx drank gin and his mistress took care of his children.

His sixth baby, Eleanor, was born sick. He wrote to Engels that the baby was “unfortunately of the 'sex.' If it had been a male child, well and good." (That daughter, Eleanor Marx, later killed herself by swallowing cyanide when she found out her boyfriend married a younger woman.) The distraction of Eleanor's infirmity was superseded by the sudden illness of their eight-year-old son Edgar, who was very ill with consumption. The boy died in Marx's arms.

Though Marx suffered a great deal of avoidable tragedy, he was never sympathetic to anyone else's pain. When Engels' father passed away, Marx received an unexpected windfall. Engels' inheritance allowed Marx to focus on Capital. He called the death of Friedrich Engels Sr. "a glorious surprise" and explained the whole family was "filled with glee" upon receiving £100 from Engels' inheritance. Marx spent most of the money publishing a manuscript he had written about a rival who falsely claimed he was in league with the secret police.

Jenny was so overtired from copying and recopying Marx's broadside that she contracted smallpox. The only thing that kept Marx from falling totally apart was the substantial distraction of a very bad toothache.

That book, Herr Vogt, sold 80 copies and the publisher went bankrupt. The printer demanded twenty additional pounds. Jenny recovered from her illness, but her face was a mess: she compared herself to a "hippopotamus which belongs in a zoological garden rather than in the ranks of the Caucasian race."

To give himself distance from this monstrosity, Karl Marx went to Holland to ask his uncle for money. On the way he partied in Berlin, but soon found the Germans not to his liking. He met a woman there, a connected one who satisfied him sexually. Marx's uncle gave him £160, money which lasted all of four months on Marx's diet.

Engels had been tapped out by the decline in the cotton industry, and Marx had no choice but to consider a job. He secured a position at a British railway office.  After decades of work on the manuscript, the publication of Capital was met with resounding silence. To be fair, reading the massive tome was likely to take weeks or months and most reviewers could not be bothered. The copy he sent to Charles Darwin was never touched after the first eighty pages. Darwin sent along a terse and unwelcoming thank you note. This insult inspired Marx to suggest an alternate theory of evolution: that it was prompted by changes in the soil.

Marx amused himself by copying French pornographic poetry to Engels in the interim. Capital began achieving its first real notices when it was translated into Russian. Marx had always railed against the Russian culture, specifically the aristocracy, so this reception came as a bit of surprise to him.

Engels decided to bail out of the family business and retired with £12,500. This was happy news for the Marx family, but when Engels' wife died of heart disease Marx was less than sympathetic asent his friend a letter complaining about his finances for several pages and wishing it had been his mother who died. Engels forgave him in a letter later in the year, as he always did.

Jenny Marx died in 1881, and Marx prepared to follow her shortly thereafter. Marx was ill in his last years, travelling outside of Europe for the first time in his life, spending time at resorts in Algiers and Switzerland. He shaved off his hair and distinctive beard. His bronchitis worsened, but he never told his daughters, writing to a friend, "What's the point of alarming them?" 

Marx's daughter Jennychen developed cancer while pregnant and beat her father to the grave, perishing in 1883. In his last days Marx drank a pint of milk mixed with rum and brandy for every meal. Only eleven people showed up for his funeral.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Killing Time" - City and the Colour (mp3)

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)

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