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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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Friday
Aug262016

In Which Frida Kahlo Is Divorced From The Moment

 

Spine and Back

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

When Frida Kahlo was three, the Mexican Revolution arrived in full force. Her father was a European Jew, a photographer who fled his home country after his father married a reprehensible woman. Young Guillermo Kahlo suffered from frequent seizures in his new home of Mexico City.

Her mother, Matilde Calderon, was Guillermo Kahlo's second wife; his first had died in childbirth. Matilde did not love her husband, but she was already 24 and suitors were not exactly at the door. For the first few years of their marriage Guillermo was a taciturn, unhappy man. He never wanted to be in Mexico.

The girl's real given name was Magdalena. She went by Frida from the very first, spelling her name in the German fashion, Fride, until the Nazis came to power. Her older sisters were her primary caregivers. 

In the revolution the Kahlos supported the Zapatas, feeding guerrillas when they could, but in the new government, her father's photographic commissions disappeared.

The family's new poverty was handled exclusively by Frida's mother, who was a devout Catholic. "She did not know how to read or write," Frida remembered later. "She only knew how to count money."

At the age of six she contracted polio. "It all began with a terrible pain in my right leg from the muscle downard," she said. "They washed my little leg in a small tub with walnut water and hot towels."

When she recovered, the prescription of physical exercise inculcated her father's interest in her. He had no son, and encouraged her to play soccer, wrestle and swim. She shucked off her illness, but as a tomboy she was made into a social outcast.

The closeness between the two extended to Frida's growing knowledge about art. It was a form of taking control. Her father also painted, and his canvases were painstakingly realistic scenes.

In 1922 she entered the National Prepatory School, the most prestigious institution of its kind in Mexico. Girls had only recently been admitted to these environs, and Frida was one of 35 individuals in a school of 2000. Unlike other students, she always wore a backpack.

with her own students

She was also estranged from the other girls. They gathered on a second floor patio, she never gathered anywhere, just appearing unexpectedly like hepatitis. She found this new place fascinating and her photographic memory ensured she did not have to work very hard to pass her classes.

Diego Rivera had the run of the school. He was massively fat then, and she soaped stairs so he fell as a prank. She had some close boyfriends and wrote them letters as her primary means of communication. When she graduated, her job prospects were slim. Frida stayed busy, keeping accounts at a lumber yard to make ends meet.

Then, in an event that would alter every day thereafter, she was riding a wooden bus crumpled by a trolley, and she was subdued under the wreckage. It was a slow, bracing kind of accident, born of fundamental stupidity. Her "first responders" removed a handrail that had gone so deeply into Frida that it emerged from her vagina. She survived after a few days where her life hung in the balance, but her spine and pelvis were broken.

She recovered in a derelict Red Cross hospital, with a ratio of one nurse for every twenty-five patients. She briefly regained the use of her legs in 1925 until some undiagnosed spinal fractures put her back in a full body cast. To entertain herself she drew her accident, but only in pencil.

Frida married Diego Rivera, twenty years her elder, twice. He slept with other woman as a matter of routine, but seemed to view his wife in a somewhat different light. Her mother called Frida's new husband a "fat farmer." While she dealt with her first miscarriage, Diego enjoyed an affair with one of his assistants.

Expelled from the Communist Party, Diego and Frida took refuge in America. She found San Francisco an unfriendly place and struggled with her English. While Diego seduced the subjects of his portraits, she found consolation in the arms of women.

with Diego Rivera

Back in Mexico, Diego planned two houses in San Ángel, one for Frida and one for himself., that would be situated next to each other for maximum privacy and maximum closeness. (This dream was realized later.) The two came to New York in the fall of 1931 when Frida's husband received a commission from the Museum of Modern Art. Detroit, in contrast, was a "shabby little village" where Diego planned to paint the assembly line as some kind of Marxist exemplar.

She miscarried again at Henry Ford's hospital. Her series of lithographs about this, titled Frida and the Miscarriage, showed her at all her most vulnerable moments. Her mother died of cancer.

 

Diego wanted badly to stay in America, but Frida preferred to return to Mexico. Finally out of money they returned to their native country in 1933. Diego took Frida's sister Cristina as the primary model for his nude paintings, and eventually his mistress. When his wife found out, she cut off her hair, had her appendix removed, and then underwent an abortion.

Her drinking became increasingly obliviating. She made peace with her husband and her sister after thinking it over carefully. To retaliate she took up with other male painters. She even seduced Leon Trotsky by speaking in a language his dowdy wife did not know: English.

Their flirtation faded until he was murdered with an ice pick. Frida and her sister were interrogated for fourteen hours.

She divorced Diego and her work became the center of her life. Her shows in New York were helped by an admiring Julien Levy; in Paris she learned to hate Andre Breton with a passion unknown to her. She disliked being his pet.

Viewing her paintings now, they seem utterly divorced from the surrealist moment. They are not fantastical creations - they are instead perfectly reasonable realizations of her own life. She resided in all of these places, and when she herself could not be in them, there was another woman, resembling her in almost every fashion, who could be made to take her place.

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

Thursday
Aug252016

In Which We Turn Into A Rabbit Or A Bear

Rhinoceros

by ELEANOR MORROW

The Lobster
dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
118 minutes

The theatrical and literary movement known as absurdism was a reaction to fascism. Like any reactionary movement, it was doomed to die on the disappearing strength of the philosophy to which it was opposed. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) finds a more reliable oppression to wage his absurd drama The Lobster against: the bourgeosie society which demands that a person by themselves feels in some way inadequate.

David (Colin Farrell) is dumped by his wife for a stronger, more active masculine individual. He is escorted to a hotel and informed that if he does not form a romantic partnership in 45 days, he will be changed into the animal of his choice.

Quietly, Farrell has turned himself into one of the most engaging cinematic performers. Masturbation is not permitted at this tony retreat, but a maid comes in and rubs her ass on David's dick for about five minutes. "Just a little longer," he pleads before she leaves. His face vacillates between annoyance and unavoidable pleasure during the act, and yet he allows his voice to convey most of the emotion, remaining placid throughout most of The Lobster.

This subtlety is the watchword. Even John C. Reilly is incredibly subdued during moments which might warrant a more comedic tint. Lanthimos asks everyone to play his concept completely straight, and the resulting tone is a bit humorless at times, since there is nothing very unreasonable about what is going on.

In order to extend their stay at the hotel before they become beasts, the guests are given tranquilizer guns to hunt loners who have Into the Wilded into the nearby forest. It does not take very much for David to become one of these loners. He meets a cruel woman who kicks his brother, who has become a dog, to death and abandons the entire prospect of meeting someone like him. His conclusion is that there is no one like him, and he immediately absconds into the woods upon this realization.

There he falls into a group led by a woman (Léa Seydoux). Seydoux has never been used quite correctly by Hollywood, and her muted beauty here is captivating beyond all else. Farrell meets another loner (Rachel Weisz) and falls in love with her, but in this society any romance is punished by mutilation.

Ionesco ruined absurdism for a long time, and maybe the concept of the theater in general. It was very hard to take other writers in this genre seriously because he had written the entire project of humanity into a corner. The Lobster suggests that any attempt at making sense out of human relationships will end in an abandonment of sense, and a return to an animal state.

In the film's prologue, a woman (the film's production designer Jacqueline Abrahams) shoots a donkey with a handgun. Like many moments in The Lobster, it is only humorous if you are completely devoid of human empathy. It is hard to account for some critics who found The Lobster dizzyingly funny — they must have a good laugh when they see Syrian refugees on television, or when they saw that man in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. Did you know they never even found out who that was?

Then again, this could be a problem inside of me. I never found Gulliver's Travels very amusing either. The concept that human beings should be in relationships with one another never seemed all that controversial to me. There are unhappy relationships, but I never heard of someone being completely satisfied without one. I'm open to the idea, but it is nowhere in The Lobster. Most of the participants in the hotel are quite complicit in the project. At the end of their stay, each couple must test their romance by sailing around the bay in a yacht.

"Will you give me a kiss?" David asks Rachel Weisz in one scene. She demurs and suggests a game. This is precisely what he is not interested in, but knows he must undertake. Anyone who has dated for any length of time knows how much of romantic relationships involves interchanges which resemble play. As the two negotiate their arrangement, we finally get the sense that this is the only kind of coming together which is possible. Any human connection formed by other means would never last.

The Lobster moves quickly enough to never be dull or allow you to overly consider the implications of its premise. This is wise, for the unlucky people who saw Ionesco's Rhinoceros were forced to consider its implications at length. Classical violin pushes every the most untoward moments of The Lobster away. There may be something terrible around the corner, but at least it will be over soon.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Wednesday
Aug242016

In Which We Make All Of This A Lot Easier On You

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

I have been seeing a girl named Shanda for a few months. I met her through a friend of a friend. Shanda is very focused on taking things slowly when it comes to the physical side of our relationship. It seems to be having the effect of making me want her all the more, but at some point the lack of sex does seem frustrating. I really like her, but this is starting to feel like a waste of time. Should I just bail?

Arlin B.

Arlin,

A few months is extreme unless she is a religious person and maybe just doesn't want to tell you that she has no plans to be with you.

If you are a man, it is best to have sex as quickly as possible. You will know if you are compatible, and feel more connected. If you are a woman, it is best to wait a bit. If a guy can't wait a few weeks to be with you, he is most probably human garbage. Any longer than that, and she most likely does not want to have sex with you in general.

I would take a hard pass, but make sure she knows exactly why you are ending things.

Hi,

I am running into a problem in my relationship with a guy I will call William. William has a group of friends from his college that he spends a lot of time with. This in itself is no problem; I also enjoy being with my girlfriends although our activities and outings aren't as focused on drugs and alcohol.

The issue is the astonishing amount of discussion between us about each other's lives. Did you see that episode of The Mindy Project when Peter Prentice pretended the plotlines of Grey's Anatomy were his real life at the hospital in order to make his wife think he was still working? Well, the incredible amount of storylines revolving around these people usually concerns the most mundane shit posturing as intense drama. There is no drama, but I am having to hear about it a lot more than I have ever wanted to hear about anything.

Any suggestions for bringing this annoying practice to an end?

Ally K.

Dear Ally,

Some people talk out of nervousness, or just to fill the pauses between the penetration. While on six or seven various types of drugs, Benicio Del Toro once talked for ten straight days without stopping. You can bet all of it was not super-interesting.

If your boyfriend is this much of a chatterbox, maybe you can emphasize to him that, "Isn't it great when you're close enough to someone not to talk all the time?" This is grade-A bullshit, but William doesn't sound very intelligent, so you can probably get away with it.

If this doesn't work, attempt to create an actual schism between William and his friends. Best practice is to claim one of them hit on you.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.