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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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 (249)


In Which We Are Underneath The Ground, Hoping To Grab Your Feet

Hell Is Other Loan Officers


For me, hell is being a loan officer at a California bank. For others, it's a delicate heaven, and Justin Long is a trained psychologist and also your boyfriend, and his mother wants him to marry a lawyer, and you're not good enough. Sam Raimi's incredible return to the horror genre takes this basic dismaying premise and makes things so much worse I was begging for sweet relief.

'i sense that you are juno's understudy...does this word 'juno' mean anything to you?'I have never been particularly good with horror films. A book can be put down; you can't see it, anyway. A light can be turned on in a dark closet. A grizzled old man who brushed against you accidentally on a crowded train can be reported to the police. But a film - that is a different story altogether. The only way to get around the diegesis, in this case, is to realize that the only thing that lurks in those shadows is death, and death is not really all that scary - in fact after watching an episode of Nurse Jackie, it's a welcome revelation.

Sam Raimi and his older brother Ivan have gotten around this by creating a series of hells, all of which exist in the real world, and have to be dealt with. There is actually something in all those shadows, there's no Macguffin making it all happen, no trick ending waiting. There's just eternal damnation, and running from it as fast as you possibly can.

sup?Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is in the pickle I described, and she has to think of a way out of it. She's a bright, well-meaning young person, the kind of woman that under other circumstances you'd like to know or even impregnate, but not these particular circumstances, no. Her face is perfect for Raimi's purposes - even in quiet confidence it betrays an inner fear. Replacing Ellen Page, Lohman is a dead ringer for the androgynous young person, and she's as talented an actress.

go ask obama, I'm totally sure he'll write you a checkAfter denying a disgusting Gypsy woman another extension on her mortgage to impress her boss (David Paymer), she gets cursed with an object that marks her as fodder for a demon called Lamia. Demons! They just don't understand fiscal responsibility. The fact that Raimi turns this into a joke is hilarious, but there is also a major truth underneath this well-timed setup.

The banks were blamed for targeting the weak, for okaying loans that couldn't possibly be repaid. Little condemnation has come in for those who couldn't make their payments. Probably there is blame on both sides, and since the government bailed out only one of those sides, I'm not even sure who to be sympathetic to. That is where we are in American life - there are no winners, just different levels of losers in hock to a federal government that has no idea when to stop spending.

Thankfully it is in Drag Me to Hell that Judgment comes, Raimi-style. It doesn't matter who you are: if you have a button on your shirt, you're going underneath the ground where Hell is.

this happens at every single seance i go to

In order to avoid this fate, Christine gets barfed on, she kills animals, she throws up, she bleeds out, she tries anything to get herself uncursed. And as funny as this all should be, it's seriously frightening to know it's not in her head. She's a dead woman, but she won't die -- she'll live on in Hell.

By the end of the film she's trying to find a reason to justify condemning someone else to her fate, even wanting to bop off her sniveling Asian coworker before thinking better of it. The decision she comes to, and the ending the film spirals toward in the 99 minutes it holds you I won't spoil here, but it is more exciting than anything else that will hit theaters this summer.

lamia also nabbed david carradine recentlyWhat makes Raimi such a masterful director? When he's taking himself seriously instead of delivering another hammy Spiderman sequel, he is the best at stringing together action and humor, a relentlessly eye for how things should pile on top of each other to create something surprising and funny, but wholly real.

With Spiderman, he took a series of increasingly nonsensical scripts, and made a film completely foreign to them out of their mediocre dialogue and situations. He turned the superhero genre into comedy, and in doing so made all other like movies over-serious and dull. As in Spiderman, everything here holds a demonic menace: a messy psychologist's office, a medium's goat, the button on Christine's shirt. The next day, you can't even look at a doorknob without imagining yourself going through it full bore. There is no one better in the genre, and we can hope he finds reason to come back to horror again after Drag Me To Hell.

The film's had some moderate success at the box office, and while it is devoid of big stars, I think I have some idea why audiences didn't exactly flock in droves. It's pretty much the September 11th movie all over again. We have no desire to relive these horrors when worse is befalling us every day, in the seeming safety of what was America. We won't be safe again, not here. We will tear each other apart even if big banks lend more and people are able, again, to buy beyond their means. Once you've been cursed, you can't go back.

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

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"Reborn as a Wind Chime" - Silent Paper Radios (mp3) highly recommended

"Rise of the Foundling" - Silent Paper Radios (mp3)

"Bullet Holes" - Silent Paper Radios (mp3)

Silent Paper Radios myspace


In Which We Found Something You Can Get For Your Dad

12 Books Even Your Dad Would Love


We can't all have a father, but some of us have fathers, and they require presents this time of year. The book is the perfect gift for Father's Day (Sunday!) because it tells your dad that you love him but you're not in love with him. Here are some books for their pleasure which will make them believe.

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein's classic tale of lunar revolution is a page-turner on an epic scale, nurturing your daddy's interest in global politics and differential gravity. Heinlein's masterpiece is compulsively readable; it is also the best textbook on government ever conceived. All it's missing is the sex, and your pop probably is used to not getting that. One of the greatest American novels ever written, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress beats the shit out of anything published this year for sure.

The first novel of the poet Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle has had a strange cult following since its release that I think the CIA should be looking into. It's a relentlessly funny smart book. If your dad is crotchety and boring like Tom Brokaw, I don't say that this is the right move, but if he's more like Woody Harrelson, I think you're safe.

John Derbyshire is a Brit who lives on Long Island. He's on the crotchety side, is a lot old-fashioned, but these are the kinds of exacting people who you want writing a serious history of mathematics. His chronicle of Bernard Riemann's story is a masterful retelling on the level of Dava Sobel's equally entertaining Longitude. For the dad that makes everyone listen to his stories.

'Popular military historian' isn't a thing you grow up wanting to become. Victor Davis Hanson is the finest of the kind, having written a memoir/history of California's immigration problem (Mexifornia) and a terrific book on the Pelopennesian War. Ripples of Battle is a great gift for the kind of dad who drives a pickup truck and believes he's smarter than he actually is. VDH will appeal to him on every conceivable level except his love of sweater-vests.

While many science fiction writers have become household names because of movies, Hollywood hasn't come calling for Robert Silverberg. This is regrettable, because as SF fabulists go, Silverberg's among the smarter conceptualists and better executors. His novella 'Nightwings' became the first part of his novel Nightwings, and it won a major shitload of awards at the time. It's the perfect fable. The protagonist is even old. It's what derlies love to read about, and it has alien invaders and a future dying Earth and pretty much anything I've ever asked for in a work of fiction.

Unlike most people I know, I went through a serious phase in which I read a lot of serial killer novels, the kind you take with you on planes and throw in the garbage somewhere in the middle of the Colorado rockies. The finest of such novels in my mind is Jeffrey Deaver's The Empty Chair. I have some small but meaningful requirements for a novel of this kind. First, it must have explicit sex. Second, the protagonist should have to overcome an incapacitating physical failure - in the case of Detective Lincoln Rhyme (played by Denzel Washington in The Bone Collector) he's a quadrapilegic. Third is a Southern setting. The Empty Chair has all three, along with a kickass villain and enough twists to puzzle even the wisest soothsayer. You won't be sorry you got him this one.

Poker books. I've read and masticated myself to the tune of damn near all of them. If your Dad is actually good at poker and wants a strategy guide of sorts, be sure and pick him up a copy of Gus Hansen's Every Hand Revealed. Gus is one hilarious chimichanga and he takes you through his amazing thought process at every level of a million dollar tournament that he dominated. Fascinating one of a kind stuff. If your dad is more of a casual gambler, charity God and legendary cash game player Barry Greenstein's autobiography-cum-poker guide Ace on the River is good for succeeding in business or at most anything. Priceless advice, incredibly beautiful book, hilarious as well.

Horror: it has never gotten any better than Richard Matheson's Now You See It... I'm not sure that it could get any better. Magic and murder! If someone would get on the ball and cast David Blaine in a stage adaptation of this, they would be able to wipe their ass with money. A brilliantly twisty and scary journey with another quadriplegic. This book is everything that's right about the genre. 

A man, even one such as your father, wants a book that makes him feel weak instead of strong (esp. in light of how The Hangover made him feel like he was six years old). Worry no longer. When it comes to well-meaning self-helpery, second best to Ayn Rand are the inspirational words of Jesus Christ, and best after that is the immortal autobiography of the Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico. Witty and wise, de Chirico's real life story has a worthy fictional counterpart in Kurt Vonnegut's best novel, Bluebeard. Warning: sampling both back-to-back could kill you with paint fumes.

As we get older, we become crotchety. This is the inevitable result of time's onward march. No one has put this perspective to better use than Thomas Sowell, and dude has reason to be pissed. Born in Harlem, Sowell was an iconoclast before the term was invented. The pioneering economist had a tough life, and the lessons he learned in war and peace, government and academia, are highly amusing. You can't go wrong with this autobiography, which the longtime columnist titled A Personal Odyssey.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording, and most likely knows your father better than you do. He tumbls here.

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"Capturing Moods" - Rilo Kiley (mp3)

"The Good That Won't Come Out" - Rilo Kiley (mp3)

"Paint's Peeling" - Rilo Kiley (mp3)


In Which He Grew Larger Over Time As Do Us All



He didn't like school that year. It was more difficult than it should have been, and his new clothes chafed at him. When he came home his parents had an expectant look on their faces. He went to his room, closed the door. It was the ending of a John Updike story, but it was still going on.

He was not the first boy of this sort, whose imagination grew too large for the confines of his little life. His father had played with him as a child, but work grew more time-consuming, and he never saw joy in his father's cheekbones. His mother cut her hair.

Snow came heavy and sogging, getting in his clothes and things. The warmth of fall evaporated. The trees lost their leaves. In the back of his closet, digging for a textbook he'd misplaced the year before, he saw an old-stuffed animal, dirty with the smell of sand and a vacation he found he didn't remember with any clarity. He took it out, never put it back.

A creek a quarter mile from his backyard had frozen over. Despite explicit instructions from his parents and classmate neighbor, he trod on the ice, feeling a growing excitement at the thought of being something larger than himself. After an hour, he went back to his room to look for the stuffed tiger. Not finding it, he searched every room, each nook, each spot worriedly. There, finally, sitting by the curb, was Hobbes.

While he danced on the ice, waiting to fall through and possibly die, Hobbes spun on his vibration, watching him. A dance wasn't silly if someone watched you, a joke was funnier, more perceptive.

Later: he and Hobbes spinning like a galaxy.

He became more and more distracted at school, less interested in what was going on around him. He spent his life in a near constant daydream, imagining the vagaries of entertainment where none could readily be found. Snow was a continuous reminder of the distance between him and everything, in his shoes and bartered clothes, his mother's hand on his neck, writing something at a hard desk, walking with his head down.

The world was tight with a fervor he could not explain, a method that was madness.

He was convinced, finally, that he would remain a little boy forever. When he looked in the mirror, nothing changed, at least nothing he could track. He grew no stronger; he ate, but did not get fat like some adults did. When he and Hobbes went into nature, even their visions were enigmatic, sinister.

Slowly, he learned to ride on the little joys: a burst of fleeting violin, a strike of lightning, a salty manner, a playful and clever trick. He found pleasure in mayhem caused to his neighbor, his parents. Tearing events apart with your fingertips was fulfilling, watching it burn from the inside begat a twisted sense of joy. He could make the world -- others could make the world -- but he could also make the world.

The mind is a bitter friend, he learned, but it was the only one he had. If he could ring in the day this way, if he could craft himself in his own image, drift off in the tiger? Who knows what gleeful horror might unfold.

The world is a cynical, needless place. We have nothing to do to pass the days here but mere amusement. There is no future; there is only the present, hanging by a thread. To see ourselves in others is a great joy, but it is a simple one. Nothing complex survives very long in space.

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

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"I'll Take The Long Road" - Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens (mp3)

"Trouble In My Way" - Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens (mp3) highly recommended

"He Knows My Heart" - Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens (mp3)