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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
Jul212017

In Which We Illustrate The Strength Of Our Connection

Honey-Machine

by MELISSA HUTTON

In the fourth grade, my class went on a school trip to the Buehler Challenger and Science Center in Paramus, New Jersey. If I hadn’t googled the building today I would have told you it was a dome with silver panes, widescreens and shiny floors. Buehler is an extension of Bergen Community College, nondescript and supported by aging and discolored concrete columns. We followed adults, brushing our hands against the wall or each other, buzzing and wondering what our “mission” would be. In a room with a dark screen we were given blue vests and assigned roles. My name was called. My pulse jumped. My teacher said, “Control.”

Sylvia Plath wrote her five-poem bee sequence in October 1962. The first poem, “The Bee Meeting” opens with the speaker feeling as nude as a chicken neck, wondering if anyone loves her. There is a man dressed like an astronaut but called a surgeon in a green helmet, / Shining gloves and white suit. The villagers are anonymous. The bees are hysterical. If I stand very still, the speaker continues, they will think I am cow parsley. Being seen is dangerous and sometimes the best thing I can be is absent.

Control, before a sweaty palm grasping an iPhone meant both a desire for and relinquishing of it, meant that I sat on a high chair next to Nicole. She had thick bangs and the highest ponytail. I could swivel a camera around scanning the other half of my class in the artificial aircraft. I could type commands into the computer in front of me. I could speak into a microphone.

Luce Irigaray describes in her essay “A Natal Lacuna,” how in Unica Zürn’s work, the visible appears in a frame like a back-to-front-window, through which an interior universe is transmitted, vomited, or expelled through the real or fantasmic orifices of the body. Scientific inquiry involves boxes, jars, educational space centers and putting things in them. This makes subjects visible and observation possible, much like an essay. In Thinking with Irigaray, Elaine Miller writes, The order of the visible often paradoxically obscures, rather than manifests, life. Jars and windows make subjects visible but the environment unnatural. The visible is wonderful, but limited. Invisibility is not absence but excess. According to Irigaray, it is possible to recognize overabundance all at once in the register of beauty. Sylvia Plath wrote the bee poems on a draft of The Bell Jar, back-to-front.

We didn’t notice that the material about NASA was dated but it didn’t matter anyway. Space was cool, as was having a keyboard and a mission. This was a few years before any of us would hide Myspace from our parents and toggle with our top friends and their hearts. It was many years before I’d read Sylvia Plath’s bee poems. It was a self-contained experiment, technology without overload.

The feeling of overload—is often lived as if it were a totally new phenomenon and as if it were dictated by the new technology, not the people using it. I’m always repeating myself, but productive repetition compels us to do the work of breaking what seem like involuntary habits and re-directing our patterns of thought.

After the first half of us sat in mission control, we switched with our classmates in the artificial spaceship. Me and Nicole hurried to our seats inside the spaceship to find out that the kids now in our mission control seats were doing something we didn’t realize we could with the camera. We felt like we’d missed out. We could’ve done more.

The widely-used metaphor, Knowing is seeing, has certain connotations. R.B. Zajonc’s study on mere-repeated-exposure shows us that repetition itself, with the absence of negative stimuli, can enhance positive effect. It is a function of classical conditioning. We do not need to be aware of stimuli around us to develop an inclination towards it. Exposure accounts for our tastes. My body accounts for my preference. Productive repetition compels us to do the work of breaking what seem like involuntary habits and re-directing our patterns of thought.

After Buehler, I’d repeat myself many times and communicate in clippings to form stringy and prismatic hexagonal connections, always ending in excess and knowing I’d very likely never fill the spaces in between…

1. Honey bees detect gravity with magnetic material in the bands across their abdomens. Their bodies are magnetic all over but higher concentrations are in the abdomen and the antennae. How instructive is this! says the speaker in “The Swarm,” The dumb, banded bodies.

2. Reiteration itself is the point. Reiteration of metaphor and of ideas through language is necessary for further exploration. Repetition of ideas unexamined is potentially restrictive but it is during repetition and replication that ideas are mutable—bound to evolve and change. Scrolling is a means of repetition and further exploration. It is also a reminder of our inability to know everything, which can slip quickly into feeling like an inability to know anything.

3. Of Sylvia Plath’s bee poems, Jessica Lewis Luck writes, If she chooses life, then she must acknowledge that life is built on biological structures and processes beyond her control. Without a director, there is no rational center and there is a certain lack of control of the outcome of the self. Here is my honey-machine the speaker in “Stings” offers, It will work without thinking. Like the bees and the hive Plath describes, there is no authority. But the body is the self. No matter how far you go into the mind you will always find the body. The hidden and immaterial is not within us but between us. Our relations with others and the world are not visible. But we desire control over that which is reflected back to us.

4. Virtual proximity is this term coined by Janine Solberg, meaning the potential to find or encounter a source through the use of finding aids, search technologies, metadata, and similar mechanisms. It is about the potential to make the right sources visible; the voices and experiences that are routinely pushed to the side. It is about how the work of reevaluating your sources and your position in relation to a source never ends. It is about the company you keep. Because lives and connections seem to take shape and become visible online, virtual proximity requires acknowledgment if not an acceptance of continuous human interference and processes beyond individual control or awareness. It requires at the same time that we take responsibility for them.

5. Honey bees leave the hive for flowers. Honey bees return and dance in the colony’s language: Electrically charged figure eights. A honey bee born without a magnetic abdomen is a honey bee born without gravity. A honey bee born without gravity is a honey bee born without language; she can’t dance or she is left to find other means.

6. Biology is a site of play and indecision is the most accurate model. Real time updates are ripples that televise, restate and upset the status quo. Disequilibrium is a catalyst for making social change the new balance. Reiteration itself is the point. Beauty is realized in overabundance and invisibility is light. Organizational structures of the brain, and by that I mean metaphors, illustrate connection strengths, vicinities, and relationship patterns. Productive repetition compels us to do the work of breaking what seem like involuntary habits and re-directing our patterns of thought. (An indecisive body works the hardest.)

That day in Paramus, I had my photo taken in a baggy sky blue space suit. My eyes were huge and my body looked small. For years, it was my favorite.

Melissa Hutton is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York.


Thursday
Jul202017

In Which We Stare Down Alison Brie In The Past

Perils of Adam

by ELEANOR MORROW

The Little Hours
dir. Jeff Baena
90 minutes

You can tell how much writer-director Jeff Baena loves his girlfriend Aubrey Plaza in the opening moments of The Little Hours. Fernanda is a young witch posing as a nun in 15th century, and as she drags a donkey across a landscape that looks suspiciously un-European, the camera can barely hold its attention off of her. Baena writes his life partner into the most objectionable role, but this is a subtle message also esteemed in the source material of The Decameron: the unlikeliest things are also the holiest.

Plaza looks a lot like Alison Brie since for the most part all we see are their full-lipped, pouting faces and icy eyes. Even with her body obscured, there is something indecent about Alison, and no matter how prim she looks, we realize she will be disrobing at some point in every narrative. In The Little Hours, that comes in the garden of a convent, where she pounces on the mute gardener, Massetto (Dave Franco).

Even thought The Little Hours does not focus at all on the beauty of its female leads, it would be a hard thing to obscure it. Baena not only seems devoted to Brie and Plaza, but this is also the best Molly Shannon, also playing a nun, and John C. Reilly, as the local priest, have looked in years. Baena gives all of his actresses and actors a quiet dignity, except for one. 

Dave Franco was maybe not the best actor to begin with, but he is supposed to be the straight man here and in this role he fails miserably. Attempting not to draw undue attention to Franco's physical form, Baena makes a show of his considerable deficiences. First of all, the man's gargantuan adam's apple slides up and down his throat perilously for the entire film. I don't know what everyone involved might have been able to do about this, but preventing Franco from repeatedly swallowing during his scenes would have been a welcome start.

The Little Hours initially focuses on Alison Brie's desire to leave the convent against the wishes of her father Ilario (Paul Reiser) in order to select a husband, but it is quickly distracted by her embroidery. Reiser never appears in the movie again and Brie never does manage to find a husband. Instead of any plot per se, we receive a series of jokes involving the aggressive nature of Ms. Plaza. Some are funny, like when she assaults the convent's handyman and calls him a Jew. Others are not really as enlivening, since they involve her brandishing a knife repeatedly and saying 'fuck' more times than is really entertaining.

Baena's last directorial effort, Joshy, was a clone of The Big Chill that was very serious and depressing. In contrast, The Little Hours is even less significant or thematically memorable than a Mel Brooks movie. It is at least a great deal funnier, which is not actually saying a lot. It is obvious that the film was made on a considerably tiny budget, and it shows. The Little Hours avoids displaying the local town at all – we just see actors going and returning from the place. Even the props and costumes on this production are third or fourth rate.

Late in the film, Fred Armisen shows up as a bishop. His presence adds a striking focus to the proceedings, as if what we really required to enjoy the bad behavior of these purported adherents to the word of the lord was an antagonist who doubted their sincerity. It is a missed opportunity that he only receives a few scenes, and that they are the most amusing in the entire film reminds us that The Little Hours is about as meaningful as a Portlandia sketch.

I don't know what turned Baena off from making serious cinema instead of something this frivolous. He might taken a page out of the comparative success of The Big Sick and made something that comes a little more directly from his heart. He could make a movie about why Aubrey Plaza is interested him. Does he have a large penis or cooking skills that would otherwise explain why she lives in the house?

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


Wednesday
Jul192017

In Which We Accept Almost Every Situation Imaginable

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.

Hey,

I have two older brothers who are very protective of me. I haven't been the most assertive person in the past — it is just part of my personality. So when they asked my boyfriends difficult questions or made them uncomfortable, I argued to myself that it was all in my best interest. I even recall telling someone I was very close to that they would have to accept the presence of my brothers in his life.

Now this seems stupid, since they are both married and I am not. Despite having families of their own, they are still deeply involved in judging whoever I am with at the time. Well, I have met someone new, and this time I plan to approach the situation differently. I sat them both down individually and asked them to back off, but I don't think I am getting through to either of them. I'm at my wits end. Do you have any ideas?

Thanks. You're the absolute best.

Chelsea M.

Dear Chelsea,

Often when people are determined to finally be honest about something, they do not take it far enough in one direction. Calmly and calculatingly asking these people to behave differently is humming when you require yodeling. 

Fortunately, it sounds like you have built up a lot of credit with these deplorables, so some cursory sobbing should be able to get through to them at a level honesty cannot. Since they have been oblivious to your desire so far, we cannot count on being able to react them in this fashion. If you still struggle to disabuse them of their sexist notions, then you must begin returning like for like and sabotaging their lives in a similar fashion. Soon they will realize what a disastrous fucking imposition they are.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. 

Hey,

I have a friend we should call Charlie. He recently broke up with his girlfriend of three years, Nora. He met someone else and really hit it off, so he told Nora that things were over.

I have always liked Nora and we get along great. Before she was with Charlie, she had admitted we were attracted to each other but I was going into the Peace Corps. I would like to at least try being with her now, but I sense that Charlie would be angry about this and she might be reluctant since Charlie and I are friends. I don't want to ruin my relationship with either of them.

What's the best way to clear the path?

Dan Y.

Dear Dan,

The best thing to do is have her make the first move. This solves several problems for you.

1. It puts the impetus on her to explain to Charlie that she is now with you and not him. If she does not tell him, all the better. The longer you can delay speaking to Charlie about this the better.

2. Her reluctance about getting with you is strongly diminished if she eliminates your potential questionable motivations for being with her from the field of play.

3. It's easier.

If Charlie confronts you about it, tell him you did not want to hurt him, but she is the love of your life. What is he going to say to that? No?