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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 ellen copperfield (35)

Thursday
Jun202013

In Which We Commence A Lifetime Of Threats And Insults

Water, The Dam

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

When it came time to collaborate on their first film, Luis Buñuel and Dali had a script within a week. "Our only rule was simple," wrote Buñuel. "No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted."

So began "a lifetime of threats and insults." In the near term, however, Buñuel felt he could not ask his mother for any more money, so put his aspirations in the cinema on hold. To get the funding for his next project, Buñuel took a meeting with a potential backer, Charles de Noailles. At the de Noailles mansion, Buñuel heard Charles say, "Our proposal is that you make a twenty-minute film. You'll have complete freedom to do whatever you want. There is only one condition. We have an agreement with Stravinsky to write the music for it."

"Sorry," Buñuel replied, "but can you imagine me collaborating with someone who's always falling to his knees and beating his breast?"

swimming at the Chaplin home

Shortly thereafter Buñuel was hired by MGM. He loved America; the first thing he did in Los Angeles was buy a car, a gun and a camera. Every weekend he went to Charlie Chaplin's house to swim or play tennis. He did have a fantasy of going to the Polynesian islands, but thoughts of further travel in the world were far off. It made no difference where he was.

"One of the more unpleasant situations in life," writes Buñuel, several times but in this specific instance, saying, "is to be pursued by someone you don't like. It's happened to me more than once, and it's very uncomfortable; I've always preferred loving to being loved." Buñuel was expert at detecting when someone was falling for him, and according to his memoir My Last Sigh, written in his old age, this happened quite often.

Then there was also the sense that the love Buñuel was able to detect in his admirers wasn't quite as passionate as some others. He became captivated by all kinds of love, fixating on couples who committed suicide even when there was no familial obstacle to their union. It is like looking at a car accident and being envious you could not fly that fast.

Buñuel was a devout atheist. He felt that a hypothetical God wasn't very interested in a single human being: "Since I reject the idea of a divine watchmaker, then I must consent to live in a kind of shadowy confusion that leaves my moral freedom intact." For this reason and others, Picasso never appealed to Buñuel, who spoke of wanting to blow Guernica up.

When he was young he had been interested in intimacy with both boys and girls, but a chaste kind of knowing that pushed sex to the background as an impossibility. Once consummated, the object of Buñuel's affection no longer held the same sway. He learned this early.

In My Last Sigh he writes,

When we were young, love seemed powerful enough to transform our lives. Sexual desire went hand in hand with feelings of intimacy, of conquest, and of sharing, which raised us above mundane concerns and made us feel capable of great thing. Today, if I can believe what people say, love is like faith. It's acquired a certain tendency to disappear, at least in some circles. Many people seem to consider it a historical phenomenon, a kind of cultural illusion. It's studied and analyzed and, wherever possible, cured.

Buñuel was given the job of screening Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will in America. He was overwhelmed by the technical acumen he witnessed. When he showed it to Chaplin, Charlie fell off his chair laughing.

It seemed like everyone was in New York: his old friend Dali, Saint-Exupéry, Levi-Strauss, Leonora Carrington. Some he fell out with, others became closer in his new home. Dali was a phony and a fraud, yet Buñuel retained a certain sympathy for his lost friend. He did not write back to his old collaborator for the next 35 years. When Dali suggested a sequel to Un Chien Andalou, Bunuel cabled back a spanish proverb, Agua pasada no rueda molino, or, Once the water's gone over the dam, the mill won't run anymore.

This is the thing to say to someone who is lost to you.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about Dorothea Lange. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

The Best of Ellen Copperfield on This Recording

Dorothea Lange's Failed Marriage

Sex Life Of Marlon Brando

The Onset Of The Western Canon

Entitled To Madonna's Opinion

Barbra Streisand Grows Up In Flatbush

A Sneaking Suspicion of Literature

Anjelica Huston Falls Off The Horse

Prefer To Be Simone de Beauvoir

The Marriage of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra

Elongated Childhood of Jorge Luis Borges

Jokes At The Expense Of Tom Hanks

Which One Is The Gay?

"Once" - Tunng (mp3)

"The Village" - Tunng (mp3)

The fifth album from Tunng is entitled Turbines, and it was released on June 18th from Full Time Hobby.

Thursday
May232013

In Which She Set Her Own Price

Their Own Lives

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

They called it the slipper club. All of the photographer Dorothea Lange's friends were Jews; exiled for a second time from the mostly gentile areas of Nob, Russian, and Telegraph Hills in San Francisco to Pacific Heights. Lange was not herself among the chosen people, but all her friends were. They were as far from the immigrant Jews in the Fillmore as they were from the gentiles in the wealthier neighborhoods. The slipper club, so named because Dorothea gave all her closest ones footwear as a gift, met outside the circles of power due to the vagaries of a parlor anti-Semitism. They talked of gardening, the arts, their relationships.... It was through these people that Dorothea met the artist who would become her first husband, Maynard Dixon.

Dorothea Lange, 26, featured a high pitched voice and walked with a limp. She made her living from portrait photography. She set a price and never haggled over it; no one quibbled with the results. For example:

from 1932

Maynard Dixon, 45, worked a pot-smoking illustrator whose sketches were featured in magazines with great frequency. His typical day involved waking up in the afternoon, getting high, and sampling the best of San Francisco's world cuisine. After the earthquake of 1906, he and his friends perserved in their lifestyle, almost amongst the rubble. Their neighborhood was called the Monkey Block, and it was razed in 1959 to build the TransAmerica Pyramid. Nobody was in a position to complain by then.

Maynard showed Dorothea the "real" California. He loved wide open spaces, and his representations of Arizona and New Mexico during the period remain quite captivating. She was immediately attracted to his cowboy good looks, his way around children. Her own concept of style always accentuated her natural beauty and minimized her defects. Despite her infirmity, brought on by a childhood bout of polio, she could hike and picnic, dragging her right leg on the ground when she was tired. The only thing she could not do was run.

the happy couple

They were married in her studio in March of 1920. He wore a cape, a black Stetson and wielded a carved swordcane with a stiletto. Their marriage invigorated his artistic career; he completed 140 paintings during the first five years of matrimony, and his reputation as a talented muralist at first grew and grew. The fact that he was nearing 50 as she approached 30, initially a source of Dorothea's apprehension, did not seem to matter a whit.

While others viewed Dorothea as a strong-willed entrepreneur, she did not mind how Maynard saw her — as a gorgeous young flower, a precious thing that could not be corrupted, but one had to try. This did not stop him from cheating on her with other women, often on long trips to the California wilderness he loved. Yet part of the reason the relationship sustained despite Maynard's imperfections was the fact the two kept their own lives.

Maynard Dixon

Near the end of her life she said of him, "Maynard was a restaurant man, a raconteur, a striking personality, graceful, had style, wit and originality. Much of the wit was defensive. Women loved him." Despite his considerable flaws, she viewed her new husband as an incandescent flame, and was most taken aback when his 12 year old daughter Consie Dixon came to live with them.

As a young child, Consie had been mistreated by her mother. At her stepdaughter's age, Dorothea stood out as helpful, kind and resourceful. In contrast Consie resisted her every directive, and found Dorothea's obsessiveness over her home frightening. (In later years, Dorothea would drop her sons in foster care while she travelled with Maynard and her second husband, Paul Taylor.) Maynard simply expected his new wife to care for the girl, who else would do it? To fill the hours with Consie, Dorothea began taking her picture. It looked like this:

consie dixon circa 1920

In light of the fact a child already lived in their home, Maynard and Dorothea used birth control with alacrity. By the age of 29, she decided it was time to have a child of her own, and she gave Maynard two sons. Tensions with Consie temporarily abated when the girl got a job as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner days after she turned 19. It was the onset of the Depression that would ultimately lose Consie that job and destroy her father's marriage.

Maynard's latent anti-Semitism had driven away most of his patrons, and when the art market in San Francisco collapsed, he could no longer sell his murals to anyone. After losing her job, Consie moved to Taos, New Mexico, and encouraged her parents to follow. Trouble quickly emerged in their new landing spot — neither Maynard or Dorothea had any idea how to drive a car. Maynard broke his jaw flipping over the family's first vehicle.

Taos, New Mexico

Even after that, Maynard tolerated the wide-open spaces of Taos far better than his wife. Dorothea had lost her clientele, her footwear association and the city she loved. The husband noticed none of his wife's unhappiness, and even after agreeing to a move back to San Francisco, the marriage would only last three more years. Dorothea observed in a profile of the family published in the San Francisco News that "an artist's wife accepts the fact that she has to contend with many things that other wives do not." She had her friends again.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about Marlon Brando. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Desolation Waltz" - Hospital Ships (mp3)

"Servants" - Hospital Ships (mp3)

The new album from Hospital Ships, Destruction in Yr Soul, will be released on June 18th.

Thursday
Apr042013

In Which All Good Reading Is Best Done Cautiously

The Way They Were Meant To Be Read

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Coming across a person who is completely jaded about something you enjoy is either amusing or frustrating. In the case of my boss - let's call her Ms. J - it's a little of both. She's clearly "well-read" even though that expression is itself so overused as to become meaningless, but she also seems to have elaborate gaps in her education. We all have blind spots, but none are so educational as Ms. J's appraisal of modern literature. Here are some of her comments on books I asked if she read.

The Scarlet Letter

"She should have been thankful all they did was put on a letter on her: they could have also tweeted about it."

Journey to the End of Night

"If I wanted to read a book by a man with a woman's name, I'd read Justinians."

On Beauty

"It would be nice if nobody ever used liberal arts colleges as settings for novels ever again, but I'm not that naive."

The Cider House Rules

"Fun fact: there has never been a condom in any book that sexist ponce ever wrote."

The Last of the Mohicans

"You just know James Fenimore Cooper would have been, like, a writer for The Atlantic Monthly."

The Secret History

"They got high and killed someone? Big deal. Didn't that also happen in E.T.?"

The Brothers Karamazov

"One of the brothers was way out of line, can't remember which one. The one that looked like Rutger Hauer."

Middlemarch

"Could we lose the last million pages?"

The Tin Drum

"Was that where he kept his Jewish friends? Don't tell me, I'm going to read it after I finish Motherless Brooklyn, e.g. never."

Hunger

"My college roommate ate a lot of ramen noodles. Was that not an option in Scandinavia?"

Henry and June

"Studies show that 90% of young female bloggers owe their existence to Nin's success as a writer. I'm not sure which party should be more insulted."

Trainspotting

"Wow, drugs are so crazy, aren't they? Let me know when that guy starts writing in English. When people can actually read his work, they might notice he's a hack."

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

"This guy ruined irony for at least the next decade, but who doesn't love a man with curly hair?"

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

"I can't read a book that doesn't have a woman over the age of thirty in it unless it's by Wayne Koestenbaum."

Mansfield Park

"Everyone is always holding back a slight smile. Perhaps there was a lot of food on other people's faces in Austen's time."

Lolita

"She was a lot more mature than Gwyneth Paltrow."

Things Fall Apart

"The expectation that things would come together in turn-of-the-century Nigeria was perhaps premature."

The Things They Carried

"Vietnam was full of happy memories, wasn't it? No."

To Kill A Mockingbird

"Wow, what white people can accomplish when they put their mind to it. Scout later grew up and became the star on the The Real Housewives of Maycomb."

The Adventures of Augie March

"I can't read anything by anyone who I know is an asshole, unless it's about how much Dale Peck sucks."

Chilly Scenes of Winter

"It should have had an unhappy ending." 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

"More like extremely manipulative and incredibly overrated."

Time and Again

"If you suddenly find yourself in 1882, and you're a man, for christ's sake stay there and never come back."

The Recognitions

"Whenever I see an emdash before someone talks, a part of me dies inside. Actually whenever I see an emdash anywhere, I get a little twinge in my rectum."

The Hour of the Star

"The only thing more confusing than this book is realizing you emerged into the world from Ayelet Waldman's uterus."

The End of the Affair

"The first and last time anyone had sex with a civil servant and did not regret it."

Gravity's Rainbow

"This was responsible for over 90 percent of Fredric Jameson's orgasms in the 1970s."

The Catcher in the Rye

"No subtler novel about a homosexual was ever written. Still, it should have been called A Bottom In the Bottom."

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about the childhood of Jorge Luis Borges. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Gently Down the Stream" - Hem (mp3)

"Things Are Not Perfect In Our Yard" - Hem (mp3)