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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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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 shelby shaw (6)


In Which We Provide A Masculine Contemporary

Major Fall, Minor Lift


Prince Avalanche
dir. David Gordon Green
94 minutes

Forget all the roles you think of when you think of Paul Rudd, including his memorable role as Josh in 1995’s Clueless. Now Rudd is moving on from his current oeuvre of Apatow-ridden comedies and familiar funny-guy castings in David Gordon Green’s new film, Prince Avalanche.

Alvin (Paul Rudd) works in constructing the streets of a quiet area of Texas, evident from the state’s embroidery on his work clothes. With him for the labor is Lance (Emile Hirsch). Lance is out of high school, but he has the vernacular and tendencies of a thirteen year old. He is also the younger brother of Alvin’s significant other, Madison. Madison is not around in Prince Avalanche; she is home with daughter Olive, but letters are written back and forth over this summer of 1988.

Just as Frances Ha is a film about the transgression of female friendships, Prince Avalanche can be said to be a masculine contemporary, one that is slow and steady. If watched on mute about 80 percent of the film would be mistaken for a documentary episode on the Discovery Channel.

Alvin tries to learn German in anticipation for a trip with Madison, reads mail-in magazines, builds campsites, and takes charge. There’s often a feeling of Alvin shaking his head in wonder at how Lance’s seemingly-eternal youth is channeled into dance moves and trying to score with ladies instead of how to catch a fish, set up camp, and make a general effort to become A Man. There are a lot of long takes and overall less happens than one might have hoped for, but more comes through than one may have expected.

After falling asleep in a hammock he sets up by himself - alone for the weekend while Lance tries to “squeeze the little man” in the city - Alvin's elaborate dreams go on so long that it isn’t clear whether or not he’s dreaming at all.

There is something of a music video in the attention paid to all the slow zooms and pans of Texan wildlife that more strongly resemble New England than Texas: bright flaming oranges and deep lush greens amid the tall, dark, wet stripes of endless barren trees. But it’s all left behind when Alvin’s dreamscapes delve into a deeply surprising surrealism.

The mystery of the reappearing aviator, the relationship budding between Alvin and Lance, the solitude of the nature – it all slips away as a phone conversation between Alvin and Madison plays out in clear voices over light uplifting music set to a rapid discourse through the woods. It feels like hearing a cold reading and watching something else, like being handed too much of the truth of their failed relationship, spelled out when all this time things were anything but spelled-out clearly. Prince Avalanche yields a strange and affecting climax in the most anti-climactic sense.

At the end of this sequence Alvin comes walking through the trees, blue paint dashing through the forest until, the camera tracking downwards, there is a straight blue line on which the phrase “i love you so much” is written in blue. It’s as if someone made a Tumblr gif of a film and it somehow got put into the real thing.

Prince Avalanche is not so much about becoming an adult as it is about two different men learning how to take the reins of their lives with the help of one another. There are a number of things never explained, like Alvin’s medications, or the mysterious woman who appears only to the two of them, or the truck driver who is always lugging pop and booze to them on the road.

Even Madison’s true relation to Alvin is not fully disclosed until long after Prince Avalanche has picked up. But it is this kind of floating of the story that has Green entrusting it to his audience – backing out at the first sign of discomfort or surprise makes Prince Avalanche the “weird Paul Rudd movie.” Don’t back out. Alvin may realize he’s impossible, but it doesn’t make him any less capable. Even Lance proves that.

Shelby Shaw is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about The To Do List.

"All Things At Once" - Tired Pony (mp3)

"The Ghost of the Mountain" - Tired Pony (mp3)


In Which They Began Spawning In Their Teens

Bluest Velvet


The White Queen 
series writer Emma Frost

With a startlingly-familiar Lifetime soundtrack and overall contemporary feel to the characters’ airs, Lady Elizabeth Woodville Grey (Rebecca Ferguson) is a more realistic Kate Moss. Lady Elizabeth rolls her eyes, walks briskly in what looks like a white California beach cover-up, and lodges with a woman I first assumed is an older sister or cousin; it's her mother (Janet McTeer). Remember women began spawning in their teens in 1464 Northamptonshire, England.

When Mom takes her two young sons to greet Edward (Max Irons) the new king who has slain her husband, she seems eager and flirts openly. He looks like a college football player while Lord Warwick (James Frain) sounds American. Mother reminds Elizabeth of their magical bloodline and they consummate various forbidden witchcraft to predict the future. The White Queen is both drama and historical fiction.

Edward wins Elizabeth over by playing the whole I’m-going-to-battle-and-this-could-be-my-last-request card that must have been such a successful line in the day. Within 48 hours they make it seem like they’re lost childhood lovers. Her brothers disapprove of this puppy love, as Edward has already bed all the wives in England, they sneer. It was when I noticed Elizabeth wearing the same dress/hairstyle every day that I realized I can relate to her.

Because she meets up with King Edward, he assumes she wants sex and attempts to rape her, but not before she pulls out his dagger and begins to cut her own throat in warning not to come near. He makes a lot of I’m-King and you-wanted-it excuses before promising never to return. She’s clearly smarter and more mature than she comes off, causing me to wonder what her ultimate plan truly is (maybe magic). But in the next scene, no sign of the cut of her neck, she admits to Mother that if Edward dies in the coming battle, she’ll regret not letting him have her, she already regrets it. Because she loves him, or because he’s a celebrity?

While the men are the fighters, ultimate decision-makers, and heads-of-house, the women of The White Queen, based on the books of Philippa Gregory, are clearly represented as strongholds. Mother not only “scares” Elizabeth’s father (Robert Pugh), as he admits, but Elizabeth’s own magic begets her a simple sign: a crown ring. When she sees off Edward to battle, they coyly admit to being in love now because they’re insomniacs with no appetite. If she won’t be his mistress then will she marry him? She accepts happily and he says they’ll keep it a secret for awhile. This is a short jump into a very serious relationship.

Elizabeth marries in blue velvet (seems obviously witchy, could just be New Age materialism) but Edward forgets the rings and asks Mother if he can “borrow” one. Elizabeth produces (from matching blue velvet purse) her magic crown ring. He asks his new mother-in-law where to take Elizabeth and she gives him a key to a lakeside lodge prepped for consummation, like a parent handing over the keys to their Jersey Shore house for unmentionable pleasures.

The ensuing sex scene is brief and tame. Afterwards Edward must wash; at dinner he replaces sexual innuendo for conversation. He hastily leaves for battle and casually tells Elizabeth to never reveal their marriage. She immediately reveals it to her always-somewhat-perversely-spying brother Anthony (Ben Lamb) who in turn reveals how Edward has done this before and already has a bastard son.

When called upon to marry a French Princess for a peace treaty, King Edward ignores Lord Warwick’s request and announces his marriage to Elizabeth. It’s royally social suicide, but love is blind. Elizabeth and Mother meet Edward’s mother, Duchess Cicely (Caroline Goodall), an elegantly austere royal hag, and it’s perhaps the juiciest scene, fifteenth-century Mean Girls, with tongues so surprisingly sharp I expect them to behead one another. But what would an ending be without Elizabeth having a Seeing of her own murder?

By episode two, Elizabeth is quite pregnant in white (how ironic) before coronation, births a girl, and begins her duties as Queen, which mostly involve social appearances to banquets and weddings arranged between royal children.

Unfolding with enough secrets to make you wonder how it really happened, the stories continue in endless real-time, seemingly candid (for the fifteenth century) so that it never quite drags on. Everyone has their “conniving” look perfected, families tend to be more concerned with society than kinship, and women are factually scheming objects, living chess pieces men can choose to play. In The White Queen, politics are the never-ending gossip even of young girls – compatible royal matches are the heartthrobs of the century, and they’d all kill to have one as a husband, love second.

Three years later, Isabel (Eleanor Tomlinson), Warwick’s older daughter, finally gets a marriage to Edward’s brother George (David Oakes). War breaks out, made the riskier for because of controversy over Edward’s legitimacy and because Elizabeth has not borne him an heir. Meanwhile her father and a brother are beheaded at Warwick’s order.

Magic appears in the royal blood again through Lady Margaret’s (Amanda Hale) vision of her young 5-year-old, Henry (Reece Pockney), to be King Henry Tudor of England. The witches keep appearing as Mother gives a detailed spell and Elizabeth ominously carries out the curse after crying, “I tried to make them all my friends but now I want them dead.” This is the War of Roses.

Shelby Shaw is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer and artist living in New York. You can find her website here. She twitters here and tumbls here. She last wrote in this pages about her return to New York.

"Beginners" - Matthew Fowler (mp3)

"Come Be With Me" - Matthew Fowler (mp3)

The new album from Matthew Fowler is entitled Beginning, and you can find his website here.


In Which Our Body Knows What Our Brain Does Not

Focus on Landing


I stopped seeing my therapist because I couldn’t fit her into my schedule. Usually she would call until I managed to call her back, apologize, and try to squeeze an hour into some day of the never-ending week. But after seeing her a couple times upon returning to Chicago at the start of this year, and sticking to it, we fell off-track not because of me, but because her son’s school had been cancelled from a snow storm here in Chicago. She had to follow suit and cancel our appointment. I never made a new one, and she never called to see if I would. I still tell myself she gave up on me long ago. 


As I dressed to leave my packing and head out of my apartment tonight, I discovered that my last pair of pants, the third in six months, had torn in the crotch. One pair, simply from being worn every single day for two years; another pair had shrunk terribly in the wash, and this pair looked as though I had made a clean swipe with a razor. I only found the hole when I was relieving myself of the tea I'd been downing to keep myself awake in order to pack, which had not proved a perfect method. Staring down at my jeans slung between my knees, the clean slit was on the left of the central inseam, and to the right I found a second surprise mirroring the first: a darkly red stain about the size of a quarter. This Rorschach test froze me, my eyes reading the crotch of my pants like tea leaves, a clear omen of loss spelled out. One shape was the presence of absence, the other a reminder.


I pulled from under my bed a box I addressed from my previous Chicago apartment to my permanent New York address. It had never gone through the postal service, but instead served as a holding place for everything that had come from someone I once knew but whose face was now left in my memory as a slab of nondescript clay. After all the time that has passed between us, which had swollen from the miles that passed us early on, I could fit everything into one large Priority Mail flat rate box and still had plenty of room leftover. Duct tape and packing tape both ran the edges, folds, and corners of the box; I couldn't remember the last time I even looked at it. Probably when I last moved apartments, probably a year ago, probably whenever it was that I felt it was still relevant. I sat it on my bed, grey dust dragging onto my red blanket, and I left it there like a cake to eat in a gluttonous binge, all for me, because everything is for me.

I did not open the box for a long time as I kept getting distracted by the garden of U-Haul boxes blooming at a rapid pace in my living room, taped open for filling. I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to suddenly become a Pandora to my own life when I finally opened the box on my bed. I brought in a pair of scissors and stared inside without seeing anything before taking out every souvenir, one by one, with a guilty conscience.  

This was when I learned of his death in my life.


When it first seemed that my friend was dissolving from the very realm I wake in every day, I relapsed into my high school eating disorder. Upon reflection it makes perfect sense, a vain means to kill myself by without even thinking about it, thinking only of the body, thinking only of myself and my persona captured in others’ perceptions. Don’t they say it’s a form of control? I guess I wanted to write off my own story and not let Death decide it for me at some point down the road. Maybe I was smarter than I thought at the time and had already known my friend had become a ghost; I just wanted to be a ghost too. Or I just wanted to time-travel to the days of my youth when I struggled to figure out what that meant. But you can’t cheat on Death without looking foolish or like a vampire, so I now make a big breakfast for myself and try to curb the caffeine for my heart’s sake.

Maybe this is just life after art school and not life after death. I have a BFA, not a degree in thanatology.


I’ve realized recently that someone very close to me has died. It's not that I realized this only now because this person has actually passed away, nor because I wanted this person to disappear forever, but because whenever I've thought of this person I've actually been mourning every facial muscle's movement that had been and never would be. At this point his face is just that slab of wet clay thrown into a void when I try to remember it.

Nothing is set, nothing is solid, nothing is right; abstract or representational, but not real. I can only recall fragments of broken scenes: the angle of his head looking down at his hands, the angle of his head looking down at me, the angle of his head looking away from wherever I laid or sat or stood. I can see the back of his head, but not even that is sharp. His voice exists in uncertain earnest, as if I were lowering my own. The time that has passed between us is almost as long as the miles that keep on stretching it and I cannot let myself forget that.


Upon returning to Chicago in January, I was watching Winter’s Bone on my laptop and paused it to get up and microwave a mug of tea when suddenly I came down with a bout of the scissors. I found myself bringing a pair back with me from the kitchen. I walked straight into the bathroom, snipped off one ringlet close to my left-brain, and thought, “That’s nothing.” I continued to cut until I had a satisfying lump of my notoriously long locks, dead as they were, curling up in the drain of my mint-green sink. It has always been a color I’ve referred to more as hospital-green, but since the whole bathroom is in this palette I’ve grown fond of its aesthetic.

I’ve heard that people who get one tattoo suddenly become mildly addicted and begin to snowball into a lifelong pursuit of ink. Over the course of the days that followed my new hair I compared myself to what that addiction must feel like as I tried hard not to think about my scissors continuing to chop tresses and plaits. Friends who had always known me with my long hair were eager to see what it looked like now as I posted a provocative Instagram photo of a few locks in the green sink. The truth is that it wasn’t that drastic an alteration, but no one knew the details except for me.


“Just promise me you won’t go crazy.”
“I promise you I won’t go crazy.”


Tonight I went to see a movie by myself, a habit out of ease and convenience, and emerged feeling as though I had walked out of my own life. Perhaps it was from wearing my glasses for two hours, my distance glasses which were bumped up this winter from being just a "fine" prescription to suddenly needing a stronger prescription and, from what I can tell, will need to be upgraded again soon. For now, I manage through a disorienting headache if I wear them at the wrong time or for too long. Leaving the theater, my speed naturally set to a brisk New Yorker pace, I walked alongside a bus in the rain, its wipers the only sound I could concentrate on in the midnight emptiness of an otherwise-busy Chicago street. The wipers sounded as if they were skinning an adult deer. Over and over again, an audio loop of animals ripped apart like a teen girl shredding a t-shirt in manual angst.

I crossed the street, through the mist picking up quicker than the lightning was getting closer. I found myself touching the curb as the countdown hit zero, a secret goal I try to always make, convinced it was born of anxiety and a foreboding of society. This time I hadn't even seen the countdown, I just happened to cross at the point of null: you have zero more seconds to walk, you have zero more seconds to play in the street before you get yourself killed. Last week I found myself stepping back from the curb without thinking, as if my body knew something my brain had never processed, a ghost limb acting for me. I feel as though each train ride in the front car will be my last and whenever the el stops in a tunnel underground I remain calm as my eyebrows wilt involuntarily, my chest tightens, and I tell myself, "This is it." I always choose which car to sit in based on which passengers seem most likely to help me in the event of a dramatic emergency.


I had eagerly painted my left thumbnail with a color called "Strobe Light" (#200) on Saturday because it was on sale and because I was in Walgreens with my friend who does appearance as a personal skill set. It's a pale translucent pink with small pink glitter and bigger opalescent sprinkles. On only one nail, it caught my eye from time to time in the few days I had been wearing it and more often forgetting it.

This morning I decided to take a break from my packing and had several long phone conversations, during which I decided it would be a great idea to finish painting my nails. Coated heavily to really pump up the strobe effect, my plan to go glam backfired. It was as if I had undergone an Extreme Makeover and couldn't access my previous and analogue comparison of a self. Unable to escape the glitter haze on my hands, red and pink from packing and meticulously cleaning up the nail polish, I felt like a cheap party that dragged on for too long. 

It'll be a great look for the potluck rage I'm hosting on Wednesday night, a "rage" because I am trying to figure out the best term to market social gatherings as. I used the word "booze" because I thought if I left it at "drinks" people would think I meant soda and juice, and no one wants to be mistaken for middle school. 


Growing up we were taught the emergency weather drill in which we would huddle into the farthest corner of a room or leave it altogether to seek shelter in the spaces with no windows. I can recall an elementary school teacher, perhaps Mrs. Armstrong from second grade, giving a warning about how, during severe weather, we ought to avoid windows at all costs in our homes. I remember, during the next storm that came through where we lived in an exoburb of Manhattan, how I stood in the living room and watched the lightning through the three large windows that faced due South, how I waited to see if the lightning would reach inside and tag me.

This house which I grew up in was situated at the top of a hill surrounded closely by dense forest and tall arboreal spires which were dewy and lush in the summer because green is the color of Westchester. In this house my room was at the end of the upstairs hallway, in the farthest corner from the common entrance, looking out at the nearby trees from two windows, under one of which was placed my bed.

The fear of a tree falling on the house, devastating the property and crushing my closet, my stuffed animals, and each of my bones, was a very real fear for me as a child. I knew it could easily become true and end up fatal. Whenever there has been lightning I have tried to will a bolt into my soles, but one just weak enough to let me live. I thought it would give me a superhuman homeostasis. My mother once claimed to have seen lightning inside our house, in the sunroom, which of course is made entirely of glass.


I read once about how men are more attracted to women during certain times of their menstrual cycle, and how during these same times women are more attracted to certain kinds of men. I tend to find myself more attracted to death around the time of my birthday, but the irony is too real to be hip. Birthdays are the most depressing time of the year because you never get what you want and you never give anyone what they want, but everyone still expects you to lead them in pleasing you and for you to be pleased by their efforts; when you aren’t happy on your birthday, everyone else feels inadequate. I’ve always wanted to spend my birthday in an airport boarding a plane for a long journey to a new airport far away, constantly in transit and unattainable.


I plan out my week and call myself spontaneous, but I wonder what the point is in doing either. “Maybe” is the safe answer to everything, I have learned; it’s also dumb to use as an answer. What I do know is that when I leave Chicago this week, I will be satisfied in knowing I have far succeeded who I was three years ago, that I have succeeded beyond a number of those around me. I have tomorrow and I have everyone else’s tomorrows and I do not keep them in a box.


After landing in New York, which happened after 48 hours of being awake, staying out with friends for one last night in Chicago, desperately packing until I ran out of tape (before I ran out of boxes), giving away 25 percent of the remainders of what I owned, and crying at the United Airlines check-in, I immediately fell into delirium. I couldn’t tell if I had ever been in Chicago and I didn’t know how long I had been in New York. Along these lines of confusion I could not quite discern still being awake or not.

I saw a close friend, Al, for the first time in a long time before she would drive back to Baltimore only hours after I arrived at her house. Al’s room was a vintage Wunderkammer of hand-picked family mementos and culture from children’s toys to high-brow intellect, from old high school yearbooks to souvenirs from her time living in Florence recently. I laid out on my stomach on Al’s comfortable twin bed, Dan laying beside me so we could both watch Al throw clothing into black garbage bags: solid colors in muted tones hidden away to sit in the backseat of her car because a past is always a mystery but your present is always on watch. “You’re like a living relic of a past I never knew,” I told Al. “What do you mean?” she asked. I tried to voice how, in that moment, I felt I was being someone I had always wanted to be in a previous era of our lives. I didn’t want to leave Al’s room with all of its history and secret treasures. Within ten minutes both Dan and I were gone in separate cars.

The next day I found myself being swathed up and down my back, across my shoulders, up against my neck, by two heavy hands. “John” wasn’t his given name and we would likely never tell each other any truth. He had a pressure and a heat to his hands that made me feel as though I had to keep my eyes closed; when I did, I was floating in a void I thought could be the upstream river of an afterlife, my only way to watch Earth being through my sense of touch. John had hands quite like lava and I thought of the ancient Egyptians embalming their corpses, beautiful Cleopatra and Nefertiti. I wondered if this was what it felt like to be dead and caressed. The skin of my feet was so thin it was like looking at blue marble.


Now I can begin the grieving process, if I want to be selfish, or I can accept that I’ve gone through this process for a long time now and I must move on for good. I’m ready to meet the ghosts of my life, only not without warning, not at night, and not when I’m busy. But what I really need to do is figure out how to get a ghost to stop haunting me when he isn’t even dead, or in other words, how I can admit to being the one who is a ghost here.

Shelby Shaw is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer and artist living in New York. You can find her website here. She twitters here and tumbls here.

Images by Andy Denzler.

"Drive Me Home" - Northcote (mp3)

"When You Cry" - Northcote (mp3)

Northcote is the solo moniker of Matt Goud. His self-titled album was released on May 7, and you can purchase it here.