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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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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)

Sunday
May312009

In Which We Decipher The Consequences of Lady Detecting

Lady Detectives of the 2009 Period

by ALEX CARNEVALE

There has never really been a series like The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and I doubt there will be in the ensuing years. Perhaps the show will be of such interest to Africa that it will be profitable, but it seems unlikely that such a Western take on life there would work artistically. Really, the show is for the English speaking world, and no matter where it is actually filmed or written, it is a show about how the West views Africa.

That's not a bad thing. It is better we address our perceptions of other races and people directly; it is a hell of a lot better than excluding them or relegating them to sidekick, ancillary roles.

Africa is a terrific setting to disabuse people of such notions, because it explodes our American perceptions of what 'black' is, and shows us a range of characters, some good, some bad. Sure, the stereotypes still flow, but their effect is deadened among such variety.

Botswana was the setting of Alexander McCall Smith's mediocre series of books upon which the movie-length pilot, directed by the deceased legend Anthony Minghella, and the ensuing series is based. But as bleh as the books were, there was always the opportunity for more. The characters and setting offer a multitude of possible stories, whose ultimate resolutions could offer real surprise in their outcomes.

Unfortunately the series isn't as devoted in tweaking our perceptions of the mystery genre as it might be, but that's OK. The real draw are the deep characters and relationships that are unique both to Africa and the West.

Start with the show's protagonist Precious, portrayed by Jill Scott.

The erstwhile R&B singer has never looked better. She's one of the hottest women on television, and since her character Precious is single, the romantic interplay on the show is one of its most exciting elements. Camryn Manheim and Christina Hendricks just get raped on office floors for their trouble, but the fearless Precious should be able to have a much more exciting (and safe) sex life through the course of this show.

The premise is very simple, since the show's creators obviously felt the Botswana setting was enough to get the show's viewers acclimated to. Precious' inspiration, her dear old Daddy, passes away and gives her a substantial number of cows that she sells to move to the city and open a private detective agency.

Her backstory prominently features being raped by her ex-husband and losing her child, so she doesn't exactly escape the curse of the Big Boned, but she's strong as hell.

Precious' morals are a little differently constructed than the majority of TV protagonists. She sometimes lets bad people off the hook and squashes others like bugs without much difference in  their respective moral culpability. It is what substitutes for a different way of thinking in a strange place.

The difficult climate and openness to invaders has turned the beginnings of human civilization into a hard place with a unknown future.You can't help feeling that this is how the West views Africa - constantly unable to decide whether it is best closely monitored or left alone.

Bush gave more money to Africa than Clinton, and we can suspect that our current president, having ancestry in the region, may cause still more money to be spent. Whether this is good or bad is hard to know, but the memories of our inaction in the Sudan still make all people of conscience tremble. Leading intellectuals on both sides of the aisle had trouble calling for action in the dual genocidal cleansing grounds of Kosovo and the Sudan, and while you can respect their lack of appetite to send American troops into places they don't fully understand, it was our moral obligation and duty to prevent the slaughter of innocents.

jill scott & anthony minghellaAlthough this choice is now behind us, it's unlikely that we will not be forced to face it again. It is interesting to watch this show, slanted as it is, and think of what might have been worth saving, and what a more powerful interventionist agenda could have accomplished. The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency is a rough allegory for the potential success of such policy-making.

The Botswana of The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency is in some ways modern and prosperous, but in other ways it lacks a rule of law we take for granted here in the States. Coming from a decrepit small village to the busier metropolis, Precious sticks out like a round thumb. She finds herself hiring the number one graduate of the local secretarial school, puts off the sloppy advances of a local mechanic, and generally makes her way in the world.

The world is Botswana, a Democratic republic with a strong government whose behavior with respect to the local diamond industry has been a model for other nations with similar resources. Still, for the Western observer, Botswana is a stark place, more brush and dirt, landlocked and dry to the touch. They call everyone by sweet familiars, and they bake in the heat. It is no wonder that life here was harder for its residents, warm as it is.

The cars, the dress, and the landscape is more familiar than foreign. It is Africa remade as the United States of the 1960s, in fact: a hilarious gay friend, an old, rattling car, a floral printed shirt. It is difficult to fashion a mystery in the post-information age, but information in the Botswana (of this show at least) is harder to come by.

Parts of the show are conventional, even boringly so, but other parts offer a freshness of vision. There is a simple delight in watching a mechanic's mischievous employees dance around before singing him Happy Birthday, or the agency's youngest employee, Wellington, scampering around to hand out fliers. It is a part of the message: that it is about living together, or dying alone.

Botswana is a nice model, and a safer place than most in the third world. The challenges that less fortunate peoples face in Africa are numerous, and the problems of disease and malnutrition in the people, and disease and corruption in the government loom large. Ultimately, this is a place in the world where we can make a difference by helping citizens rather than government. And that is sort of the point of any well-meaning detective agency, isn't it?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbles it all here.

"Atlantis to Interzone (Black Sessions version)" - Klaxons (mp3)

"The Bouncer (Black Sessions version)" - Klaxons (mp3)

"Two Receivers (Black Sessions version)" - Klaxons (mp3)

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Monday
May252009

In Which It Was A Week of Biblical Proportions

The Week in Review

A crowded train is the center of empathy for a lost world. Mere years ago the New York-Boston Amtrak corridor was the nation's greatest singles bar. Even if you were married, it was a meeting ground for freaks and pushers, Catholics and castradas. You never had to worry about buying drugs for travel; they had them in the cafe car.


Once I met a childless Washington-based couple who felt like the church kids were theirs, too. They never could conceive. I gave them as much of myself as I was able. Jesus I was cute as a button in 2002, why didn't I realize it?

On a crowded train you can meet anyone, hear a sob story that would make Oprah ovulate with jealousy. The proliferation of cell phones opened up new spheres for the budding Pollyannas of this generation. Lives would be shared, no permission required.

Train travel is the partial inspiration for Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers, it's where they decide to execute each others' Kill Lists on Strangers On A Train. The subway, costing 2 exruciating dollars, offers little of this satisfaction. It is like picking through still black and white photographs: Amtrak's in technicolor. For what they charge, it should be.

A government-run mass transit system is the most inefficient business besides Newsweek Magazine. They never should have built these rails, which sit fallow and empty at prices few except the very rich can afford. No wonder the train's denizens are a self-satisfied bunch. For years I rode mostly at night, wherre the weeping throes of colege students filled each car, hormones flooding through the central air conditioning, businessmen drunk from the mere thrill of being douchebags.

The rails are now more sedate. 

"Infinity Guitars" - Sleigh Bells (mp3)

"At The Beach" - Sleigh Bells (mp3)

"Ring Ring" - Sleigh Bells (mp3)

Saturday
May232009

In Which They Are Taken From Us With Cause

Kill Lists, YouTubes, And Other Ways To Pass The Time

by ALEX CARNEVALE

It is always disturbing to find your own name on a kill list. In the case of this Washington mom, she found her daughter's name on a kill list. She immediately oriented herself towards the sky, spread her arms wide, and yelled like in Wolverine.

The first kill list was constituted in the early stone age, and the trouble wasn't in completing the stated intention, it was reading the handwriting of that period. From then on it was mostly girls in high school. No one ever said why they had to list the ways they would kill her. The whole point of a kill list is that the method is arbitrary. It is a distinction that maintains we still must do what we say, despite all evidence to the contrary.

A Pierce County mother says she's horrified by a cartoon video - posted online - that showed several ways to kill her sixth grade daughter. The cartoon was made off school grounds by some of her daughter's classmates, girls aged 11 and 12.

Titled "Top Six Ways to Kill Piper," it includes depictions of girls shooting her, making her commit suicide, poisoning her and even pushing her off a cliff. Beth Smith tells KING5-TV the cartoon was set to a Hannah Montana song called "True Friend" and posted on YouTube.


Her daughter Piper attends Elk Plain School of Choice in Spanaway, Wash., as do the girls who made the video. The little girl says it hurt her feelings.

A boy was recently expelled for an 18-name kill list. My reaction: He only wanted to kill 18 people? I feel for the little guy, because before the computer was around, it was totally status quo to make real world kill lists with pen and paper. I think we actually even might have carried some of them out. Let me check with Google.

"you're of different religions and colors. who would like to take a bath with me?"In Hawaiian Gardens, CA, of all places, a Latino gang was targeting black people outside of L.A.

Gang members take pride in their racism and often refer to the VHG Gang as the `Hate Gang,'" the main indictment said. "VHG gang members have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans."

the fact that gang members have facebook photos: good for both cops and bloggerThe indictment alleges a string of attacks on black residents, including a shooting into a home with eight people inside. The indictment does not say if anyone was hit.

Fortunately, according to the California hate crime law, only white people and black people can be arrested for hate crimes. Being Latino was ruled "a grey area."

another kind of kill listIn another instance, two gang members allegedly chased a black man, yelled a racist epithet at him and then beat him with a garden rake. The same man was later repeatedly stabbed by two gang members, according to the indictment, which charged them with his attempted murder.

For god's sake people, have you never seen John Leguizamo's one man show? Healing. It's about healing. And I think Jada Pinkett Smith is Latino, or the younger version of her that was on Star Trek. I'll have my research intern work on that one.

Killing people is totally wrong, but making a list of people to kill can be so right. In my time, that shit was different. This was before TLC dropped "Waterfalls." This was when Michael Jackson was black, when Jesus was a real person and had a phone number and stuff. This came first.

I just saw Terminator: Salvation and those guys really don't stick to their kill list. The people who made that movie have no idea how many contingencies a machine intelligence would plan for. Thus you have an enemy that is downright retarded and makes no sense. Guess what list of mine McG is on?

i know it sucks, but the poster was cool right?

Christian Bale is on a similar list, because he's a dick and can't act except by growling. The governor of the state in which this Latino hate-grudge grows was in the movie I watched. Mind-boggling stuff that even Marshall McLuhan didn't see when he took LSD.

marshall, you fucked us. what happened?Fortunately, the much-maligned Seth MacFarlane took care of Christian Bale so I didn't have to:

Before the machine — Cyberdyne, Apple, Jamba Juice, Rachel Maddow — comes to get us, let's see if we can't get off on the right foot this time. TLC had so much promise. I was really looking forward to the 2009 TLC album that would contain lyrics about a nude photoshoot that had been discovered in 2008. That's all I'm waiting for.

My friend Eleanor says we should all collectively agree to set the clock back to 1994. Date is arbitrary anyway. You know what they do in theater, right? Take it again from the top.

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

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"Creep" — TLC (mp3)

"Take Our Time" — TLC (mp3)

"Waterfalls" — TLC (mp3)