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Mia Nguyen
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Ethan Peterson

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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Wednesday
Apr262017

In Which We Consummate True Love On The Moon

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.

Hi,

I have been in a long term relationship with my partner, Basil, for over eighteen months. Basil comes from a very tough upbringing and also he is not an American. He explained early on in the relationship that he often feels like he has trouble expressing himself, and he is usually able to better articulate his emotions through his music. He has done a great job stretching the boundaries of what makes him comfortable in a relationship, and I'm very grateful for his efforts.

As a part of his trauma or independent of it, he struggles to give others praise. (It is not just me who has noticed this.) I am very complimentary of him, but trying to exchange the merest positive words seems a struggle. At the same time, it is obviously genuine when I receive praise from Basil. I am a person who thrives on positive encouragement, which I have articulated to Basil, but he responds that it's just not who he is and that I should feel more confident in his love. Is there any way to improve this aspect of our relationship?

Elaine C.

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Dear Elaine,

A great human being once said, and I later repeated in this advice column, that the problem with flattery is that it comes with an unspoken request to be returned in kind. As you alluded to, it is very difficult to trust people who are so free with their praise. Sure, we like to hear great things about ourselves, and on some level the source does not really concern us.

This is the type of praise to which you have probably become addicted. It is a reassurance that has very little to do with what is actually being said or related. It is more just an aspect of love for you. If you can find other ways that Basil shows you how much he cares about you and the life you share, these mere bon mots will stop being so crucial to your understanding of yourself.

Hi,

Is it stupid to get involved with someone who has a substance abuse problem?

Dan G.

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Dear Dan,

Generally we only answer questions that are about the one aspect of a relationship that requires a band-aid so that the LW can be happy for the rest of his or her life, but I guess in some sense this could be that type of question.

There is always some red flag you will encounter upon getting to know someone new. For example, someone I was seeing once saw me eat an entire bagel that I barely chewed. Jesus was that hard to explain.

Some people never go back to alcohol or drugs, although the problems that led them to these solutions in the first place may still persist. Are you the type of person who enjoys taking care of others? You had probably better be, so if this kind of lifestyle is not in your wheelhouse, then I would not begin such a relationship, no.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Tuesday
Apr252017

In Which Emma Goldman Made Fools Of Us All

This is the first in a two-part series.

Anarchical Love

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

We have similar systems, of course. Yours, though, appear to be keyed to your sexual identity. Internal questionings accumulate. Only by reaffirming your sexual self, by uniting with an opposite member, can you resolve and discharge these signifier problems — tensions, I suppose you would call them. Curiously, this can occur only with a small sample of the available candidates, often merely one candidate. — Gregory Benford

The first love of Emma Goldman's life was in prison for nearly killing a well-known businessman, and severe menstrual cramps made it even worse. Just 25, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an inverted uterus. Without a procedure, she would never enjoy certain types of penetration without pain or be able to conceive.

By the summer of 1893, three million Americans were unemployed, representing nearly triple the amount of the previous year. Emma Goldman's speech in Union Square at the end of summer encouraged her listeners to forgo organization and political work. Riots were the only rational plan: "Go forth into the streets where the rich dwell, before the palaces of your dominators... and make them tremble." Emma was indicted with a charge of "inciting to riot" on September 5th in New York City.

Her trial commenced the following month. Former mayor of New York A. Oakey Hall, fresh off a nervous breakdown, did the pro bono work on her case. In one week the jury sentenced her to a year in prison. Blackwell's Island Penitentiary was located a small land mass on the East River between Manhattan and Queens. It was easy for her friends to visit her, and she was the only woman in the sewing room who refused to go to church. She spent most of her stay in the prison hospital, first as a patient and then as an orderly.

Upon her release she sought further education in nursing, which took her to Vienna. The fact that she was proficient in both German and English immediately placed her ahead of her peers. In that city she listened to Freud and read Nietzsche, finding the latter substantially more convincing. Her return to the United States precipitated a speaking tour which would take her to California for the first time in her life. Two Ohio businessman that she met endeavored to fund her to return to Europe for medical school. She quickly gave that up and lectured for the first time in London. She did not care for England at all, preferring to spend her time in the city's slums before happily abandoning the place for Paris.

After her money ran out, she returned to New York. Her European travel allowed her to formulate her first real broadside against socialism. In her 1909 essay "Minorities versus Majorities" she writes, "That the mass bleeds, that it is being robbed and exploited, I know as well as our vote-baiters. But I insist that not the handful of parasites but the mass itself is responsible for this horrible state of affairs." Her ideas, if not entirely non-violent, had enough ammunition to disrupt her surroundings on their own. She kept a book nearby in case she was thrown for a night in jail in any given city.

Emma Goldman was getting comfortable in this new life, even going so far as to take a vacation, when one of her self-proclaimed adherents shot President William McKinley. Anarchist meetings were now target No. 1 of the federal government, and Goldman's mentors and friends had their homes destroyed; some were jailed. In order to preserve her freedom long enough to give an interview to a Chicago reporter, Emma dressed as a maid. She was arrested there and then, saying, "Am I accountable because some crack-brained person put a wrong construction on my words?"

She was in jail only a month this time before the authorities admitted they had no evidence to try her for conspiracy. She still sympathized with the assassin and wrote to defend him, even as most other observers viewed him as mentally ill. Her glorification of the act left her completely alone among other members of her sect. But she would never leave the movement, only think of ways to reformulate it anew.

Ben Reitman

She met Ben Reitman, the doctor who would become the second love of her life, in Chicago. In her autobiography Living My Life she writes, "He arrived in the afternoon, an exotic, picturesque figure with a large black cowboy hat, flowing silk tie, and huge cane. 'So this is the little lady, Emma Goldman,' he greeted me, 'I have always wanted to know you.' His voice was deep, soft, and ingratiating."

Emma was ten years Reitman's elder when they met. She often signed her letters to him Mommy, and they were usually explicit in nature, for Ben aroused a sexuality in Emma Goldman she had never tapped into with anyone else. The fact that he offered to go on tour with her meant everything to Emma, and their pairing raised Goldman's already high profile to that of a major celebrity. Policemen filled Emma's lecture hall in San Francisco before a speech to intimidate her, an act that allowed Reitman to see exactly how powerful his girlfriend's work was.

Ben Reitman

Ben became Emma's opening act, warming up the crowd with jokes before her performances. Beginning in 1908, they spent half the year on the road, and then their summers apart in Chicago and New York, visiting each other frequently. She was particularly obsessed with Ben's penis, which she refers to as W in her letters. Her oral fixation with putting the organ in her mouth was a source of considerable stimulation for Mr. Reitman. She also greatly admired his passion for cunnilingus. "My mountains scream in delight and my brain is on fire," she wrote in August of 1911. "I want to fuck you." The mother-son dynamic came up a lot as well, although it seems to be mostly a metaphorical erotic accompaniment to their love affair.

In Emma's previous relationship, she had always felt some key power over her boyfriends. With Ben she felt so completely vulnerable. "I do not want you to know how much I love you," she wrote before he left for Europe on her dime, "how much I need you, how much I long for you." Her neediness was truly its own organism, and when she and Ben were apart for periods, she despaired: but wasn't it good to have something important in your life to despair for?

During the moments they were together, she was quite critical of Reitman. As Alice Wexler notes in her biography of Goldman, "she continually reminded him of how boyish and petulant he was, and what tremendous burdens he placed on her shoulders. She never tired of cataloguing his faults, lecturing, scolding, preaching, beseeching, pleading..." He treated her basically in kind, coming onto other women and men at his leisure, in addition to the fact that he was a frequent liar. His main fault in Emma's eyes, however, was his infidelity. It is somewhat difficult for an anarchist to articulate why she believes in monogamy, a contradiction which placed Goldman in a tough situation.

Yet Goldman never did any of the things that would have ensured Reitman would feel responsible to what they had together. He begged her for a child and a marriage, and she rejected both of these entreaties.

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.


Monday
Apr242017

In Which Absolutely No One Likes Them Soft

No Blood Stain

by INNAS TSUROIYA

Mustang
dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
97 minutes

"If the stuffing is too soft, they're no good," Grandma (Nihal Koldas) says, teaching the girls how to fill the cooked fig leaves. "Nobody likes them soft."

I like it soft, literally, I see the embodiment of softness onscreen — white gown matching with white drapery, gently blown by the breeze, parallel to the carefree long hair of the girls who run around so gracefully, like a scattered bouquet. I see soft daylight from a crack that seem to keep so many secrets, I see soft touch between the skin of the characters that signal reliance in each other. I see grape trees as a tender warning to the violent sound of gunfire, the celebration of happiness during a double wedding. I see running montage of the city at early morning. The end feels soft and dreamy.

Mustang is a very powerful watch, to say the least. It tells the story of five flourishing orphan sisters raised by conservative family in suburban Turkey, whose every movement can always be interpreted subversively regardless of its intention.

Sonay (İlayda Akdoğan), the eldest of them, bold and sexually alert; Selma (Tuğba Sunguroğlu), just as sexually woke but shyly discreet; Ece (Elit İşcan), the quietest of all of them but a surprise to many; Nur (Doğa Doğuşlu), reading every occasion but remaining unbothering; and Lale (Güneş Şensoy) looking up to her sisters. Despite being the youngest and smallest-looking, Lale is whom the film belongs to. As the narrating voice of Mustang, director Deniz Gamze Ergüven knew that Şensoy is fit to be the others' blindspot in her first feature film.

Being the elders’ blindspot is a major advantage when you're starring in a film about escaping the agony of patriarchy — catering to the system that is in no way beneficial to you is full of paradoxes and ridiculous contradictions. Soon after their grandma hits them one by one, their uncle takes the girls to the hospital for virginity test because they were caught playing in the Black Sea with a bunch of boys. As an aftermath of the "obscenity" they are obliged to dress in plain tunic ("shit-colored", to paraphrase Lale) to escape the male gaze, while at the same time being displayed to a neighborhood of potential suitors. They are discharged from school after the quote-unquote accident to get particular education on becoming a wife and mother.

Lale observes everyone else's eyes. Like how Sonay's are locked with her boyfriend's while slowing down her window-cleaning hand, blowing kisses from afar. Lale senses how uncomfortable Selma is, serving drinks to a bunch of strangers that will later ask for her hand in marriage. Or how Nur — arguably the closest to her of them all — angrily destroys a chair in response to grandma's accusation in the beginning of the film. All through Lale's eyes.

In Mustang, I'm moved back and forth between Lale simply providing innocent observance of the rules imposed (remember when she kissed the picture of a soccer player in a newspaper?) or thinking about strategic calculation to the rules imposed (remember when she kept noticing the plate on which her uncle placed the car key?), but it doesn't matter because she's brilliant either way. Brilliant in general, to conclude her brief driving lesson and find help via random phone numbers on used plastic bags. I'm reminded that as much as she was all that, Lale is still a kid possessed by the impulsive urge to run away to Istanbul on foot.

As much as everything is measured and/or exposed by sight, there were a few exceptions, or if I may, variations. The girls kept from the world’s sight by “imprisoning” them. Selma wants to be out of sight completely (“I wanted to disappear”). Grandma deceives herself, saying, “Children are happy, it seems." Ece blocks the view as she closes up the car window, leaving only assumptions. Nur and Lale create the world in their bedroom after the rest of their siblings part ways.

Every joke made by any of the sisters feels like an inside joke to any woman ever. Lale trys to stuff her chest — first with stolen apples, secondly with socks — to look like she had fuller breasts; "one tit bigger that the other"; childbirth role-playing; ripping off ugly dress; “access denied to male fans”; naive hand gestures; kamasutra book; or sunbathing in peace. Even the most harrowing scene in Mustang might be a dark, bitter inside joke according to how often it is to happen: marriage as a safe haven for women who have been touched by their own seemingly holier-than-thou relative. I cried when I learned everything forbidden through, again, Lale's innocuous eyes. Nothing could be more hurtful. (Sometimes I wonder if Orhan Pamuk also sobs watching this film.)

Mustang is often compared side-by-side in reference to other equally stunning films: The Virgin Suicides for the scene in which the camera shots all five sisters hugging while almost sobbing from under, or Melancholia for when Selma lay down with her wedding dress still on (“I fucked the entire world” sounds like a mantra as much as it is like a sigh out of desperation). It was very heartbreaking, especially to see the grandmother blamed for the systematic cruelty inflicted on the girls. Mustang's aesthetics transcend the grasp of time, aside from resonating youthfulness and freedom, for its Turkish specificity is what emphasizes its universality. Not only is softness conveyed onscreen, but also female pain.

Innas Tsuroiya is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Indonesia. You can find her twitter here and her tumblr here. This is her first appearance in these pages.