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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)

Friday
Jul302010

In Which We Pass On Some Do It Yourself Makeover Tips

The Edge of Seventeen

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE 

Seventeen was treated like a nonrival good. Passed around from sleepovers to backpacks to bio class to cafeteria huddles, the magazine was rarely read alone and circulated with the same urgent mien of teenage insecurity. Questions about Like vs. Lust vs. Love, prom, parents, back to school layering, and ratifying horoscopes, were asked and then answered in one sweeping quiz, personal essay, or celebrity interview.

Especially iconic were the covers: a close-up of Jennifer Love-Hewitt cozied in her white turtleneck, Claire Danes crouching in a pink trench with Mod Squad 'tude, Reese Witherspoon sprawled on a chaise lounge, a Drew Barrymore cut-out from Ever After, Jordana Brewster! Brad Renfro! They just don't make 'em like they used to. Luckily, I dug up some old covers and added a few extra trimmings for good measure.

"The New Me!"

Contemplating buying a pair of "Brilliant Blue" colored contacts

Determined to find the pink Gwyneth Oscar gown for prom

From here on out, no more smiling in pictures. Just pout.

Entrepreneurship vs. Environmentalism? Hmm...

Often seen twirling car keys

"The Cat Woman"

Self publishing comic zine based on Queen Cordelia

Family friends often remark, "You're looking more and more like your mother!"

Secretly already have an outfit planned for Accepted Students Day

Bored by girls who are only now obsessing over Christiane F.

“The Twister”

Parents are upstairs

Apparently there’s a boy who’s coming who might spike the punch

The girls know all the words to "The Boy is Mine"

Count four pairs of dELiA*s platform Mary Janes

Later, Donna Martin Popcorn Ice Cream in bed while reading Little Girl Lost

“Doing Homework On the Bed”

Middle part, no eyeliner, no mascara, just ChapStick

Uses Rhodia notebooks

Surprises everyone and auditions for the lead in the school play

Reads her mother’s copy of To Kill A Mockingbird instead of the one handed out in class

Likes resting face on cold surfaces like marble countertops

"The Pre-Haircut"

Summer before college road trip with Mom to The Mount

Rosy cheeked after one glass of red wine

Recites The Gettysburg Address as nerve pacifying technique before tests or first dates

Romanticizes growing up in a suburb subdivision

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She last wrote in these pages about list-keeping. She twitters here and tumbls here.

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"Edge of Seventeen" - Lindsay Lohan (mp3)

"Edge of Seventeen (White Label mix)" - Stevie Nicks (mp3)

"Edge of Seventeen" - Stevie Nicks (mp3)

Tuesday
Jul132010

In Which We Neaten Each Crease

Those Marble Composition Books

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

On that first date we fell asleep watching Bottle Rocket. The poem ended one line after as I described his tissue paper thin t-shirt that I borrowed for the night.

I was twenty-two and high the first and only time I have ever written a love poem. With perceived eloquence I sat on my bed and remembered a first date from years ago, detailing each bit chronologically on a piece of paper I have now lost. Using the kind of scrutiny one might assume when proving a point, I produced a poem that offered little attention to feelings or the fumbling beginnings of closeness: shaky eye contact, commonalities, taut and clumsy flirtation, cool smiles, heartbeat. Instead, I rattled off a joyless inventory of the night; a tally of what I had ordered, what he had worn, which album we had argued about, and on what street we shared a kiss. My bias for pragmatic writing outdid my hope for something more sentimental (!) and meaningful. This was a list disguised as a poem, and worst of all, I took pleasure in its accuracy, persuaded that precise recollection might yield more tenderness than dopey hearts and shooting teenage inclinations.

My habit for list keeping could be isolated to a single memory, like connecting someone’s command and sway to that first group exercise in the fourth grade in which there was a time keeper, a secretary, and a leader, and where we were taught the verb to delegate, or, like tracing versatility to resourceful, creative parents who despite moving the family numerous times in earlier years, were quick to design the notion of home around a single and consistent possession or tradition; the giant Dieffenbachia plant, banana fritters after school, or sandalwood soap in all of the bathrooms. In my case, I’m sure there was an adult—a friend’s mother, a piano teacher, most likely a woman who could French braid and who kept curative distractions and snacks in her purse, and that I ruefully wished was my own mother—this same woman, hoping to quiet whatever anxiety was overpowering me at the time, handed me a pad and pencil and said, Here, Durga. Make a list.

I am unclear if this likely compounded memory mushroomed into a character trait, though part of me believes that my impulse is largely intuitive and present in those who, from very early on are bound by some need to record and restore, and seek pattern, as if preoccupied with some expectation of defeat.

As a kid, I often spied on everyday happenings, assuming a Harriet Welsch compulsion to fabricate intrigue in nominal things: decoding neighbors' license plates, perceiving foreign accents, supposing ulterior purpose from things that unscrewed, appeared fancy, or were unmarked. I collected long lists of notes that shared zero relation but were somehow kindred because I had decided on that day to collect them in a blue spiral notebook on a page marked Thursday, June 5th, 1995.

I was nine and couldn't steady the length of our aluminum pool skimmer. I remember the feeling of cold water running down my arms as I tried to navigate the net before giving up and asking my brother for help. I sat and watched as he scooped and cleaned the leaves that had fallen from our neighbor’s Maple tree. The sound of the pole’s metal din as it scraped the sides of our pool was very specific and I haven’t heard it since. Years later as I scrambled to find a half-filled notebook and recycle it for a new class, I discovered the page on which I had seemingly indexed our entire backyard. I had accounted for everything: the chipped shed door that revealed an old coat of aquamarine, the fat azalea bush, the smell of chlorine, the feel of wet cement under my bare feet, and the sound of the skimmer as it shaved the side our pool. Matching that uniquely stark shift of entering a place where quiet is obliged — the library, a museum, a church — I read the list over.

Though I was happy to find this anecdote from my childhood, I was troubled by its judicious and ordinary range, but more so by its delusive expectation of custody...and loss? Still, these concerns pass just as easily as they present themselves. Our childhood, a maudlin alloy of lapse memory and possession: my cursive handwriting was once bulky, round and sweet; the bottom corner of the page still curls where I pressed hard on my palm and wrote in black ballpoint.

Sometimes hidden among my lists were a build-up of details that hinted at change — notes on a distracted family dinner, unusual pairing-offs of parent with child; splitting up to park the car, buy the tickets, save the seats — and by and by, clear signs of my mother and father’s eventual divorce.

Children list-keepers expect filigree from collected facts. They care deeply about their first family tree assignment in school, and though their T-shaped diagrams might pile awkwardly to one side of the page, lopsided with a wing of extended cousins or half-siblings, its carefulness and fidelity to specifics embodies the kind of exhaustive design that inhabits their everyday. Baited by Haeckel's lithographs, by grandparent stuff, and by cutaways in DK Eyewitness travel guides, children list-keepers are yanked by asides, labyrinths, and stories of missing kids and mysterious abductions. Envious of those with photographic memory, children list-keepers will anxiously store incidentals that might later guild together. Their minds: a cherry wood curio cabinet filled with doodads and trinkets, invaluable for future analogies, and called upon years later in college when a professor assigns the ratios and ornament amid expanse of Moby Dick.

It was in my literature classes that my hankering for cataloguing was put to use. I would copy a novel's first sentence only to hear its echo in Part IV or Part V. I would predict romantic pairings based on how a woman's dress was depicted — not its cloth nor its color — but how it moved at her feet or sat on her shoulders. I kept notes on recurring characters, peculiar posture, food pageantry, and individuals who never removed their gloves or their hats. I especially took to narratives where childhood was imparted with an overture-type clairvoyance. Those were my favorite.

Instead of flagging pages with post-its, I dutifully copied entire passages into notebooks that I would return to when writing a paper or when trying hopelessly to retrieve whatever it was in that particular sentence or pair of words that had originally wooed me. Sometimes my reason was far less calculated: a Dickens character that I imagined as a Tintin character, and that I'd share with my friend, Tait, via text message on my walk back to the dorm. Studying literature paired the utility with the coincidence of list keeping; something I had seldom enjoyed before. Because my first impulse has always been to write it down, whatever it is, immediate function has been a rarity and meaning has presented itself in belated, sometimes confused, bounty.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She last wrote in these pages about Daddy Longlegs. She twitters here and tumbls here.

"Our Composition Book" - Wild Nothing (mp3)

"My Angel Lonely" - Wild Nothing (mp3)

"Chinatown" - Wild Nothing (mp3)

Monday
May172010

In Which This Dad Doesn’t Make French Toast

Sending Your Kids For Groceries

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Daddy Longlegs

dir. Josh and Benny Safdie

97 minutes

In one photograph of my father's, he asked my brother and I to sit on a set of stairs in Soho as he focused his Minolta for a stranger. I was eight, it was July, and the stairs, embossed with round metal bumps, were hot. Irritated by his impulsive need to document, we complained as he handed his camera to the stranger, Just click, just click, and hurried to sit between us. In this picture, my arms are resting on my knees as I look directly at the camera; my face red and sun-tired, my lips dipping into a snarl. Both my brother and my father somehow missed the cue entirely and are looking away.

I remembered this moment last night as I stayed for the Q & A that followed Benny and Josh Safdie’s Daddy Longlegs. Joined by the whole cast, the two brothers — both writers and directors of the film — answered questions that refreshingly had nothing to do with budget or the idiosyncrasies of technique, but focused more on story and the relationship between memory and film. As was the case in my childhood, their father too, stood mostly behind the lens; hundreds of home videos he shared with them in later years, prompting the narrative for Daddy Longlegs. (The original title was Go Get Some Rosemary.)

Benny Safdie described the urgent and unexpected sensation of deeply relating to a film no matter how foreign the content, the family, the place, the generation. Like having a stranger identify your secrets, and instead of violation, feeling quiet vindication. Despite memory’s delusions — both corrupted and wistful — our inexplicable closeness to something we’ve read or seen can become the most pressing and perhaps most honest fabrication of our own recall.

Spilling over with a staccato mix of Cassavetes compassion and confusion, panicked love and rage, Lenny Sokol (Ronnie Bronstein) is given custody of his boys Sage and Frey for two weeks in the year. Lenny’s madcap parenting and incoherent choices are so easily condemned. He sends his kids out alone for groceries, he foul-mouths school principals, he deals with pharmaceutical mix-ups, a frenzied temper and a short fuse. Though Lenny's life seems eternally at odds between ecstasy and dejection, he still elicits empathy despite his failures to find resolve.

Shot on 16mm, Daddy Longlegs evokes the grainy agitation and melancholy of a New York City now forgotten. The film’s desperate mix of heartbreak and happiness is made authentic by Benny and Josh’s direction. They endow the city’s spiralling and often bullying temper with intuitive touches of intimacy: small apartments and makeshift beds, sugar highs, magic tricks and morning cereal.

In one scene Lenny is on a date with his girlfriend at a Chinese restaurant. He explains the tension and roving itches that live inside his head by alternating between sips of soda and water, back and forth, back forth, soda, water, soda, water. The film’s tone is equally erratic. One minute Lenny is arguing about shifts at work with another film projectionist, “I have no flexibility!” The next, he’s running wildly down the street, late to pick up Sage and Frey from school, and then back to the cinema, where the two boys find a photocopier and print one thousand copies of a comic they drew.

Later, as they leave the theatre, the boys’ bag whips open and the copies fly out; Lenny curses their drawings, “What is this? What is this?” while the boys giggle and enjoy the tornado of flying papers. This image, like so many in the film, captures the strained vitality of a father whose edge and unhinged gait is tested and sometimes complemented by his two sons. Despite or because of their embittered parents, they live gloriously in a world of anticipation.

But when hope dwindles — Frey’s drooping shoulders as he refuses to help his father unexpectedly move; Lenny’s unanswered phone calls and messages to his girlfriend — the story shifts into a reality so palpable and near that my own memories were stirred. I am suddenly reminded of the first time I witnessed the demoralized wilt of my father as he longed for something (or maybe someone) from his past, or the cheerless way my mother would hide behind a dinner party.

The Safdie brothers’ recognition of memory’s frame, sometimes strong, bold and lovely, and other times fragile and disjointed, is awake in this story in a way that while pulled from many influences (“The Holy Grail of father-son films,” as Josh described during the Q&A) is uniquely theirs. And still, as often as it happens, I am always thrown by the associative influence of someone else’s material, memory, and autobiography; so seamlessly it guilds with my own, inspiring a moment from my past like the metal stairs in Soho that warmed at my thighs as I watched my father focus his lens.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She tumbls here.

"Rules Don't Stop" - We Are Scientists (mp3)

"Pittsburgh" - We Are Scientists (mp3)

"Jack & Ginger" - We Are Scientists (mp3)