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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 durga chew-bose (46)

Monday
Nov252013

In Which We Hear His Voice In Our Waking Dreams

101 Ways to Describe Casey Affleck's Voice

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

1. near-caterwaul

2. a kid whose lunch is being tossed back and forth between bullies

3. a screech

4. half-grieving, half-reveling

5. like it’s quarreling with itself

6. a voice that’s still trying to find its sweet spot

7. velcro

8. sinuous

9. very earnest

10. a straw scraping the bottom of an empty can of Coke

11. distended

12. dehydrated

13. scraggly

14. weepy

15. a cursive lower-cased L drawn with one’s nails on a chalkboard

16. Macy Gray-ish

17. what the guys in Archie Comics must sound like, especially Jughead

18. a scared Boy Scout

19. corkscrewed

20. teeming

21. curvilinear

22. someone whose joke doesn’t land and is quickly trying explain the punch line

23. a yowl followed by a yip

24. a flutter

25. oxidized

26. the leftover voice after a long sob

27. itchy

28. frenzied

29. rippling

30. meandering yet determined, both

31. sweet but shrill

32. frustrated

33. like there’s spit forever in the corners of his lips

34. a hungry cartoon mouse

35. a cartoon squirrel

36. a cartoon whose catchphrase is “Ack!”

37. the guy in the horror movie who’s watched all the horror movies and knows all the plot twists

38. the voice of someone who perpetually smells like lozenges

39. like a boy from The Sandlot

40. a squall

41. a brooding squall

42. nasally

43. the voice of someone with unusually long limbs

44. cracked

45. a canoe when it scrapes over shallow rocks

46. frail

47. betwixt and between

48. mewling

49. a gradual screech

50. reedy

51. a bicycle with uneven training wheels that make the sound of loose-screws when the wheels turn

52. an old stool that doesn’t quite swivel like it’s meant to

53. a sidekick’s voice

54. a kid who’s just eaten all his Halloween candy and is simultaneously hyper and puke-y, and drowsy

55. a banjo of a voice

56. fretful

57. the voice of an adult who wears Airwalks

58. a far-off sound someone from the city might hear when camping in the woods for the first time

59. flu-ish

60. an underdog

61. an unlikely hero

62. a swing in a park on a windy autumn night

63. Ben Affleck with a cold

64. the sort of person who loses his voice on the happiest day of his life

65. off-key

66. weather-beaten

67. a character from The Brave Little Toaster

68. the friend who always loses the bet

69. the friend who, regardless, always says, “wanna bet?”

70. acute

71. sprightly

72. like someone with a clothespin on his nose

73. thin and spindly

74. a kid flexing his muscles in the mirror before the first day of school

75. someone who is especially physically demonstrative when exasperated

76. uppity

77. a video store clerk

78. someone who is always pulling up his pants

79. squiggly

80. heartsick

81. acrid

82. quaking

83. post concert-voice

84. a confident class clown

85. someone who’s been walking in the desert for days

86. someone who says, “I’m feeling lousy”

87. a low-mumbling marble-like Marlon Brando (only in some roles!)

88. trembling

89. the voice of a paranoid conspiracy theorist

90. gravel falling on a pane of glass

91. iffy

92. a bit blotchy

93. someone who is suddenly truly thrilled because he just remembered he had a chocolate bar in his backpack

94. metal-y

95. a violin with rosin residue

96. husky

97. perplexing

98. high timbre

99. creaking attic floorboards

100. skittish

101. a teenager who just got his braces tightened

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She twitters here and tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about the kittens.

"In the Name of Revenge" - Beautiful Small Machines (mp3)

"The Wretched Sounds of City Cars" - Beautiful Small Machines (mp3)

The new album from Beautiful Small Machines is entitled The DJ Stayed Home and it was released on November 10th.

Thursday
Jul252013

In Which There Is A Filmy Glow That Trails Her

Recently

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Three years ago today, Anthology Film Archives screened Andy Warhol’s Empire – an eight-hour shot of the Empire State Building filmed from the 41st floor of the Time-Life building in 1964. I didn’t go to the screening, nor could I imagine anyone who might, but that Saturday afternoon I remember wondering if the experience, much like a runner’s high (though entirely in opposition to the threshold of endorphin release), produced some kind of floating, near-delirious state in its audience. I considered loitering outside the theater around the time the film let out if only to see the faces of those who had lived through it. While oxymoronic, there is something distinctly “summer” about spending a third of a day in the dark, zoning out, watching time pass. Like something very teenaged. In no other season can a person devote the majority of daylight inside and still emerge expecting to see the evening sun. 

Before I met the kittens, a sister and brother named Annie and Dean, Sarah described their toy-sized bodies to me by cupping her hands together. Half an avocado, a squash ball, maybe two, could fit in that space. I was reminded of my friend Kate who years ago before I knew her, smuggled a hedgehog from Korea back to New York. She named it Louise. When Kate tells the story of how she snuck Louise through customs, Kate cups her hands and smiles just like Sarah. It’s funny how holding something small makes us grin as though we are up to no good. As though anything miniature is not yet meant for the world, and yet, there they are, yawning, sleeping, narrowing their eyes.

I never met Louise because she died of depression, but I’ve imagined her in the space between Kate’s cupped hands, and I imagined her again, in the space between Sarah’s hands.

Sarah brought Annie and Dean home on a particularly hot day; the kind of day that if they were babies and not kittens, years from now she might recall the day they were born in a storied, exaggerated manner. Heat waves in retrospect become folklore.

+

After showering, the lotion on my inside elbows always dries last and stays cool longest, especially when air from my fan hits it.

At night, my fan brushes my hair over my face. It feels like spiders are crawling all over me.

+

In June I went home to Montreal for my father and stepmother’s wedding. I began to tear up during my speech as I described a moment from childhood where one afternoon at a café, my father drew on a napkin the algebraic formula for when two people’s eyes meet in a room. While we often spent weekend afternoons together, especially in the summer –at cafes or at bookstores talking about who knows what – this afternoon and that piece of napkin algebra has outlasted them all. It was my father’s way of playing pretend with his daughter. I must have been old enough or tall enough for my feet to touch the ground, but I listened intently, like only children whose feet don’t yet touch the ground listen.

A few days after the wedding my father and I went to a bookstore. He couldn’t come inside with me because now he has Willis, a puppy Welsh terrier. I went in and sat by the window reading from The Selected Letters of Willa Cather while my dad found a bench and a coffee.

Willa in my lap, Willis at his feet.

+

Until you see your friend riding her bicycle, it’s so hard to picture your friend riding her bicycle.

Until you see your friend wearing that shade of pink that half the table argues is coral and the other half argues is salmon, it’s so hard to picture your friend wearing that shade of pink.

+

A couple weeks ago I saw a pregnant woman take a picture of her shadow. She was amused by its roundness. A few blocks later I was still thinking about the woman and soon my thoughts wandered to her future child a few years from now. Instead of a boy or a girl, I pictured a shadow. Mother and child shadows at the beach, feet walking and waddling towards the water – the baby’s shadow arms shaped like mini Popeye muscles, puffed out with floaties.

+

Whenever I see a swimming pool I think about a friend of a friend named Greg who, a few summers ago got a job painting pools. Despite having brown hair, Greg had a red beard, and no matter what time of day or no matter how many showers Greg took, all summer, Greg had specks of blue paint in his red beard.

+

Immobile and in pajamas, Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window is a New York City heat wave personified. He’s stuck and sticky and upset and paranoid. But Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont is dynamic, lissome, as though her feet are attached to spinning records. She enters the small Greenwich Village apartment in airy Edith Head gowns, tossing on a chiffon shoulder-wrap, lounging in chartreuse. Even her nightgown appears unreal: a filmy glow that trails her.

But Lisa Fremont’s mobility, in all of her gossamer goodness, has a clear purpose. Near the end, she climbs a fire escape and slides through an open window as her boyfriend watches panicked from across the courtyard. She is spry, agile, nimble. And it comes as no surprise.

+

Neighbors keep their windows open. I hear the clatter of utensils being sorted. I hear someone practicing the trumpet, repeating The Godfather theme. I hear a dinner guest arrive with wine and inquire about an opener. I hear a phone ring; it sounds like a landline. I only hear landlines ring in homes with parents. Has a parent moved next door? But I mostly hear utensils being sorted, twice, sometimes three times a day.

One night I hear a couple argue outside my bedroom window. Upset, she doesn't follow as he walks away.

A few minutes later he comes back and says, "Baby." 

I can hear resistance because I can hear nothing at all, but then I hear two pairs of footsteps stumble and find that sweet spot home.  

+

Sarah and Jesse invited me over for dinner. There was more food than room on the table so Sarah moved the lamp to the floor. It sat at our feet like a pet might, an old family pet that no longer begs for scraps of food, that no longer cares to. I looked down at one point and saw Sarah’s sandals flopped beside the lamp, her legs folded under her bum. In fact, nobody’s legs were under the table. Everyone’s bodies were slightly turned and the floor beneath the table was just the lamp, the sandals, and an oval-shaped yellow yolk of light.

Later that night I went home and wrote Sarah an e-mail. I told her I thought that dreams, it’s likely, are lit with lamps that sit on floors.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about Sidney Lumet.

"Heart Talk" - The Polyphonic Spree (mp3)

"Popular By Design" - The Polyphonic Spree (mp3)

Friday
Jun142013

In Which We Inherit A Readiness To Conspire

Getting It

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Running on Empty
dir. Sidney Lumet
1988, 115 min

“Note-perfect,” was how my friend Akiva described Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty in a recent gchat. As it often happens, I intuit praise as vital tidings; as if being made aware of something, in effect, hikes up its value. I have since watched the movie four times, three times alone, and once with someone who I feared was not 'getting it' — who I split my attention between, hoping to note a slight smile warming on his face during some of those 'note-perfect' scenes.

Released in 1988, three decades after Lumet's debut feature, 12 Angry Men, Running on Empty tells the story of Annie and Arthur Pope (Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch), whose past involvement in a 1970s anti-war bombing of a napalm laboratory has forced them underground.

On the run with their two sons, Danny (River Phoenix) and Harry (Jonas Abry), the Popes adopt new identities every time they are forced to skip town. "Hey kid, you," Annie quizzes Danny as she opens a can of tuna in their newest home, "What's your name?" "Michael," he answers only to have Arthur drill him more aggressively. "What's my name? Spell it. What's your mother's name? And your brother?" Danny responds with mocking fidelity, out-daring the very authority his father had taught him to rival all of those years.

But moments like that last one are rare, and the conceit of a fugitive family pales in comparison to the story of a family and its day by day dynamic. Their readiness to conspire — not just as outlaws, but as a little brother who pulls pranks at the dinner table, or as a mother who whispers to her love-struck teenage son, 'I like her,' or as a father who playfully winces whenever his kids speak in surfer slang and misuse the word 'radicaaaal' — that spirit is portrayed with a fullness that tolerates bouts of adolescence in adulthood and prodigious wisdom among children. Like so many of his films, despite his characters' jeopardous lifestyles or expiring freedom, Lumet's capacity for creating an entire world feels triumphant.

In re-watching Running on Empty, I noted, as if pocketing mementos for later, some of my favorite parts. Written by Naomi Foner (Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal's mother) the script really finds its sweet spots when Danny and his music teacher's daughter, Lorna Phillips (Martha Plimpton), fall in love. Lorna, whose assuredness and nervy manner of speaking (and whose voice is deeper than Phoenix's) — "You are certifiable!" is one of the first things she tells him — and who stands with her arms crossed, grins, defends her anger as wit, and impassively talks about feelings, family, and the future, is offset by Plimpton's soft, doll-like hair, her sunken boyish features, and most of all, her protective love for Danny.

River Phoenix, whose contemplative manner is at once serious and rebellious, anchors the movie. Even the score, a bittersweet piano that is somehow suggestive and nostalgic, both, might very well be one of his pieces; Danny's virtuosic piano playing and Julliard audition marks the beginning of his doubts to remain with his family on the lam. Although he talks like a teenager, "I feel kind of lousy," and reacts self-consciously like one too—removing his wire-frame glasses when he answers a question in class — his withdrawal is burdened by a life changing choice. Like most teenagers in movies who live in city outskirts, Danny’s rare flashes of abandon are captured when he peddles standing up and turns a corner, or how he never locks his bike, or how effortlessly he jumps over railings and climbs in and out of windows.

Annie's birthday dinner plays much like a foreign film: party crowns, a modest yet joyful table, jokes about LSD trips, and a James Taylor "Fire and Rain" sing-along as they clear the table, dance, and do the dishes. Here the Pope family's outlook is at its truest without becoming too darling. They are a unit, accompanied this time by Lorna, who in her tomato-red crop top and rainbow skirt is happily unfettered, a welcome change from her father's chamber music concerts where she "dresses for a funeral" in lace that matches the Phillips’ sitting room curtains.

phoenix & lumet

Especially great about Running on Empty is its endless supply of tokens from that time: Christine Lahti's high-waisted jeans and white baggy turtleneck, Judd Hirsch’s quintessential ‘Dad’ jokes, or those varying shades of corduroy brown and navy blues, or how saying "they look uptight" is the most accurate way of describing 'otherness.' Insulting someone's IQ, that too was once relevant, or how a teacher, if he took a particular liking to you, might say "Get outta here" after class. Or how home economics involved partnering off, aprons, rows of ovens and Formica counters, buttercream mixing bowls, and instructions on how to make tuna-walnut-casserole.

It’s an unusual type of fondness to love a movie that is neither groundbreaking nor particularly dazzling, and that does not occupy a critical place in its director's canon. But like passages from books that I revisit or quotes from teachers I copied in college notebooks, Running on Empty too, has incredibly strong restorative powers.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She twitters here and tumbls here. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about her mother.