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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

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Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in eleanor morrow (44)

Tuesday
Apr012014

In Which We Have Fond Memories Of Almost Nothing

Amplification of the Senses

by ELEANOR MORROW

Growing Up Fisher
creator DJ Nash

Is the idea of a blind person doing something with difficulty that other people do with ease somehow amusing to you? If so, you are in for a treat. At one time, it seemed like the only reliable source of blind jokes was the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but Monica has moved on, I have moved on, most blind people presumably have moved on. The one exception is the creators of the situation comedy Growing Up Fisher, who seem to derive great joy from watching Mel Fisher (a way too goofy J.K. Simmons) do such sighted people tasks as standing on a roof in the middle of the night, cutting down a tree, or walking without assistance.

Based on a true story crows the opening chyron of this NBC multi-camera affair. The least plausible part of the entire show is the sex-crazed 11 year old son (Eli Baker) of the blind man constantly asking his dad how he can best get intimate with a woman. The entire arrangement is a bit unorthodox, but perhaps not as orthodox as the fact that Jenna Elfman's face has not aged in any way over the past twenty years.

Joyce Fisher (Elfman) is a lovely woman who the show takes great pains to point out what a pathetic mess she is. Even though she's a charming blonde with a questionable interest in the works of L. Ron Hubbard the only date she can get is with a grocery store clerk. Meanwhile, her blind and ancient husband has his pick of the local women.

He never let the fact that he couldn't see prevent him from doing anything. These words are uttered almost a million times in Growing Up Fisher. Mel's wacky shenanigans seems enough to merit a separation on their own - once, he actually drives a car with his daughter as a passenger but the reason Joyce really ended the relationship was to "find herself." You will not be surprised to learn that the most entertaining/offensive part of the show is young Henry Fisher's Asian best friend, who is named Runyen and is strangely a preteen homosexual caricature. I guess kill two birds with one stone?

The success of certain family oriented comedies like Modern Family and The Middle has increased the demand for the portrayal of children. The breeding kennels on which such child actors are produced have become regrettably depleted. Fred Savage had a certain ethnic flair that is lacking from these roundly nondenominational homes. Since representing any specific background with its own idiosyncrasies would be theoretically alienating to some viewers, everyone is just a WASP.

Growing Up Fisher lapses into a Jason Bateman voiceover at every opportunity, which is exactly what no one ever asked for. Moreover, there is not even any nostalgia being recalled the show basically takes place in the present, which means the disembodied Bateman voice is from the future. Instead of telling us what the world has become decades from hence and what happened to North West, he has to continually inform us about how zany his dad is all the time.

Writing for children is very difficult, and although it is somewhat plausible that an 11 year old could be obsessed with the older girls in his apartment building, it is very unlikely he would know what to do with them should they consent to his plans. Even less realistic is the idea that he would rely on his father for advice every step of the way.

Growing Up Fisher was originally conceived with Parker Posey playing Jenna Elfman's role, and publicity photos were even shot with the two as a couple:

Somehow, this throws everything into further doubt. The same boy's mother could be a striking, tall blonde woman who loves terrible science fiction, or she could be the original Party Girl and nothing else in the world would be any different. It is indeed something of a mystery how a bald lawyer and a blonde woman could father two semitic looking children. I believe that anything that comes out of Parker Posey is wonderful.

Looking back, I sometimes tongue a scone and think of what The Wonder Years was actually about. Like Growing Up Fisher, the voice-over really sucked, the lessons and moralities were incredibly blase and obvious, and the setting was nondescript and Midwestern. What actually made The Wonder Years interesting was that despite the central dullness of American life, events of great tragedy and depth surrounded the mundane: Winnie's brother was KIA in Vietnam, fathers got in financial trouble, couples broke up unexpectedly and the repercussions were completely real.

In comparison, these vapid family sitcoms deal with nothing in the real world that might alienate their audience; Growing Up Fisher feels like sketch comedy in comparison. Now Winnie has a Maxim spread, Dan Laurila was arrested after beating up Dan Hedaya for stealing his look, and Fred Savage straight up murdered that guy.

That's not all that is different today. Children aren't even really children they're just adults-in-training, and the training extends almost interminably, until the day they make television shows about how fucking precocious they were. You shouldn't have let your blind dad fix that satellite dish, buddy. For Christ's sake, Winnie's brother was only a child.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Stranger" - Skrillex (mp3)

"All Is Fair In Love And Brostep" - Skrillex (mp3)

Tuesday
Jul022013

In Which We Murder The Green Man

Day Ronovan

by ELEANOR MORROW

Ray Donovan
creator Ann Biderman

Showtime

Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) resides in Los Angeles with his wife, his son and his daughter. It took me roughly the entire pilot episode of the show to properly describe RD, but finally I found the right word: he is unhappy. It takes the entire sixty minutes to realize this, because Ray possesses many things other people desire: financial wealth, an active sex life with a narcoleptic woman a few years older than his daughter, the ability to impose his will on absolutely anyone.

One night after his wife tells him not to come home he ends up at his downtown apartment. He starts thinking about his past - later in the episode he tells his wife, "Whatever you can imagine, it was ten times worse." His sister killed herself by leaping from a great height. His brothers are an alcoholic and a overmedicated diabetic respectively; both are completely destroyed by whatever Ray through as well, coming out somewhat better for the wear.

Ray is a fixer of sorts. It's a lopsided match to run him up against the type of people he finds in the show's premiere - the garden variety L.A. asshole who populates the corners of their own pool tables. Stalkers, egomaniacal executives with three dogs they never pet, self-obsessed movie stars. These predictable antagonists simply do not provide a fair fight, and that Ray liberally uses violence to handle these frivolous people must on some level be his addiction, since the meagreness of the individuals themselves does not require it.

Ray Donovan tries to be a comedy in the same way The Sopranos was, but even when it lends a lightheartedness to the stories - a dead coke whore! a movie star who loves transvestites! - it never actually makes you laugh. Part of this is the script, a dreary and directionless affair by show creator Ann Biderman that contrasts Day Ronovan's life with the activities of his father (Jon Voight) who has recently been paroled from a Massachusetts prison.

The problem is also in Schreiber's face. While Gandolfini wrought so much out of a litany of facial expressions, tics and sighs, Schreiber must pretend to be relatively unaffected by the lightness of the world that surrounds him - otherwise he would be made inconsequential as well.

Schreiber breaks this veneer only once in the show's pilot, when he confesses to his Jewish mentor Ezra (Elliott Gould). (The irony of an Irish Catholic confessing to a Jew is a bit too on the nose as well.) "He's the reason we have all this," Ray tells his wife in a rare moment of honesty. It is the only thing that reminds us Ray could not really exist without others, and that he can barely live without the ones who are gone.

Jon Voight tries to play the role of Ray's father with great aplomb. He snorts cocaine with his alcoholic son and an African-American prostitute; he murders members of the clergy like it's something a man his age would have the energy to enjoy. I have to admit that Voight is in fantastic shape for age, most likely due to his preemptive vasectomy.

Assembled in one gym near the end of the episode, the family feigns having some kind of relationship with each other, but the all male coterie seems to flail without women. Voight is as poor a cinematic father as he is a real life one, appraising his sons like an alligator observes a swimming child. Ray grabs his and threatens him - for the fifth time in a single hour-long episode, he has told someone that he will kill them if they come near someone that he loves.

The real issue here is that there is no place for a moral tough guy in modern day Los Angeles. If Ray is an asshole - and the show works overtime to prevent you from realizing that he is a tremendous one - then why do we care if he suffers? If Ray is a criminal, then his internal machinations are useless. But if he is moral, if he does have some kind of inner compass he is working to realign, then his penchant for violence and adultery becomes even more unforgivable. He should move to Iceland.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about her friend Sheila.

"Hello" - Schuyler Fisk (mp3)

"Sunshine" - Schuyler Fisk (mp3)

Friday
Aug032012

In Which He Ate It Whenever He Could

Looking Glass

by ELEANOR MORROW

Just now, taking Coleman off the turntable, the cold sharpening my bones, I had a sudden intimation of my true character.

- Rosmarie Waldrop, A Form/of Taking/It All

Red-rimmed or opaque, Sheila manages a coil (hair-wise) with an aubergine staff. When she approaches, her stopping point is a lecturn. The right skirt ascends slightly above the waist, where it resembles a massive throat choked by a giantess.

This was before, but only moments before, each individuated object in the extramuros became the subject of a photo. A necessary preserve evolved, completely online, and the ensuing catalog became too extensive. If we did not have someone to reduce our number of choices, it would be easy to turn into Jonah Lehrer, or if not him, a fern.

Sheila was three years older than me but nowhere near as accustomed to the vagaries of urban living. She came from a troubled upbringing; her father was no longer living. She spent hours shifting things around in her immediate space. She was not shy of asking my opinion, and when I detailed my views, I found her absorbing them slowly, like a medication designed to release its contents at a nonspecific, later date.

The world outside a 12th century convent must have appeared impossibly fast to its citizens. Extrapolate: are we the ones beyond the high walls, or essentially contained in that cloister, in the original sense of the term? We elide in open air, what some call the sinful, extramuros world, where this could be referred to as a dog:

Sheila began to mirror her roommate in a number of ways I found alarming. One day she saw me wiping up the windowsill with a paper towel. Every morning thereafter she ran them clean with steel wool. When I asked her what she was doing she nearly screamed.

Sheila's vision was severely worse in one eye, and when she took out her contacts before bedtime she often got a headache. (Watching her touch an eye with the tip of a fingernail was an evening in itself.) Instead of resenting the pain, she felt she deserved it. Or maybe I just wanted to believe this because it made me feel better.

There were other things. She eliminated any visible mark. We had one marble countertop, far more "marble" than marble. She guarded this thing as if it was sunrise at Le Havre. It held something for her, like a repository. The countertop rewarded what she put into it, because I could hear her version of an orgasm through the wall, and there's an app that tells you whether it's real or not, for $2.99.

So I went out more. When I came to others as a stranger, I felt the first, most advantageous way of seeming. I myself marvel at how many people keep it together so well. They look prepared for this, cast in a certain light, turning to a partner or loved one in the vague, abstract background of my day-to-day life.

The most ubiquitous combination in the extramuros is mother-daughter. This is followed by

father/son
a senior citizen and another senior citizen
A chatterbox and someone who listens to it
five Hasidic men eating licorice
A woman, another woman, and an ugly man
Girlfriends

I never knew Sheila to drive a car, so I was mildly surprised when she brought one around. It was not a Cadillac. She mainly drove it on Saturdays to the laundromat, and I never knew where else she went. When I tried to follow her she always lost me without meaning to.

In restaurants, I'm usually into hearing other people's conversations. I like to know what they're talking about, but only in the broad outline. When it gets too serious I focus on my food.

Sheila got a boyfriend on New Year's Eve. He came up to her at a party and complimented her shoes. At first all I knew about him was that he loved Riesling. When he didn't fade after a few awkward, drunken dates, she appeared visibly relieved at this turn of events. Strange southern expressions started creeping into her day-to-day dialogue, so I made assumptions, but instead Timothy was a thirty five year old Korean obstetrician. One of his loves was origami, another was Sheila, a third and yet still essential desire was for fondue. He ate it whenever he could.

When I went home to see my parents, I was astonished at how much they'd changed. Perhaps they were a certain kind of individual, and combined, none of their specific qualities emerged from the collision. With enough distance from a mistake, the bad choice transforms into something completely unexpected.

I heard that Sheila had a baby and named it Chelsea, after nothing.

In the extramuros, a place represents something else besides itself. It is a natural inclination, I am told, to return to the sight of familiar shitholes and stuttering haunts. The abandoned meeting space of my old school reflected at night elicits anguish, but I also have to admit I feel relieved in the presence of familiar environs. I am glad to know that I am altered from what I was, for if not, everything would necessarily be the same. The lack of change would be a worse kind of horror.

In Sheila's photos (easily available online) she dresses differently now, but it is all the same notes. I have to wonder what the person she is parroting now is like, whether this particular woman salvages any of my verve or grace. There might well be a house somewhere where all its denizens are people she has iterated on. Parcel to post, a safer existence — not that I'm tarnishing hers — remains unacceptable.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about Shameless. She tumbls here.

Photographs by Kara VanderBijl.

"Swanlights (live)" - Antony and the Johnsons (mp3)

"Rapture (live)" - Antony and the Johnsons (mp3)