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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
May262017

In Which We Direct All Attention Upwards

Necessity

by LINDA EDDINGS

Since attention is inclined to direct itself upwards and remain fixed, special provisions are necessary to ensure the effective compatibility of equality and hierarchy.

– Simone Weil

At the top there is a lancing. Of the spring's ghastly storehouse of agendas, all my feelings about what I tell you float down to the bottom of the glass. I am empty with this. 

Q: Give an example of a time when you sacrificed your needs for his. 

A: It would be easier to say the times I did not. 

Christmas, 2014. He is the brother of my friend's boyfriend Tom. He wears these incredibly soft sweaters, and draws his curly hair straight back. Of his little brother, Tom says, "Imagine a bird with something in its mouth. You can see what it has captured in flight, but the bird can only taste it."

The week before Christmas I threw out all the bad evidence of my last love affair, Chris. He moved to Barcelona. You should see the woman he is with now; she might have come out of a pinata. She is so surprising she comforts you in how much she rubs against him. I miss Chris, but it was time to remove the pictures of us together. I burned it all. That's the kind of gesture I don't generally find therapeutic, but seemed required for me to move on. 

I vaporize my diary too, but not with fire. I drown the ideas in it. 

Q: You say he is brilliant. That is a value judgment. 

A: It is wonderful to be with someone truly intelligent, I think, better and more satisfying on every level than treating with the kind. 

What should I call Tom's brother? This is not the only account of him – there might be one on Vox – but even though I have little faith in my descriptive abilities, I am already sure it is the finest account of him. 

Tom tells us that his brother was engaged to a woman from Kentucky. He had bought a ring for the girl, even, but her family did not approve of the speed of the romance and forced her an end to it. "Did you meet her?" I asked Tom. He said no, but he showed me a picture of her with no pants on. 

Tom breaks up with the woman, Ellen, he has been seeing that precluded my meeting Tom's brother. I ask what happened, realizing that Tom is probably more of my friend than Ellen ever was. Ellen looked in the mirror too much, Tom says. He can't stand that; it makes him want to claw his eyes out. "There was nothing different," he squeaks, "to be staring at yourself again and again!"

Q: Did you feel some sort of attraction for Tom?

A: I think I feel some sort of attraction for most people. 

February 2014. Tom's brother and I stay on an isolated island on a great lake. His best friend lived there since he was a kid. The man is a garbageman now, with angry eyes. Tom's brother tells me not to worry about him, or anything. When I go to the grocery store locals are fascinated by me the entire time. It is freezing, which is fine, since we are forced to warm each other. 

It is a smell surrounding me for years. Fresh soap, and a natural musk which feels like it is radiating inside, precipating the act. Shell game. Tulips touching the glass, bending the function of the abbatoir. What I gave to Tom's brother was in its own way never ending, slightly spiteful. At times I sense that if I ever received exactly what I wanted that I would die of shock. 

Q: What kind of man are you typically attracted to?

A: The kind that uses the expression "riddle me this," before an explanation. A lot of men do that, even ones you think won't. 

Tom's brother convinces me, one night when my resistance to his animal intensity is at its very lowest, not to use a condom. If you are reading this you maybe cringed, or you want to know if I got pregnant. I didn't, but I was scared as hell along the way. 

Chris e-mails pictures of a boxer pup he has adopted. In one of the snaps a woman's hand rests on a pillow. Chris' fat paw offers a bone. Tom says, "He sends you that shit because he knows it makes you scream. The question is, do you like the sound?" Tom is always kind enough to pretend he doesn't know me or my type, but I fear that he probably does. 

Q: What is your type? Not your type of guy, but what kind of person do you classify yourself as?

A: INTJ

Tom's brother actually wrote a personality test, for one of his degrees. It featured a variety of ethical decisions, all centered around the concept of altruism. He believes that when we do something for other people, a part of ourselves remains. It is another way of instructing servants to choose their masters. In order to believe in such transference, you must put your faith entirely in the idea that enslavement is only possible with permission. 

Tom's brother left academia, but he still talks about it a whole lot. I did not mind listening to his stories about it – isn't it so revealing what people tell you no matter the subject? "I wanted to work with my hands," Tom's brother often says, with his mouth. Use the tools you are given, I guess.  

Q: Picture me. 1994. I was having the same problem with a boy. You break out of it. You lose the recipe. 

A: Which of them are you talking about?

A friend of mine has a lavish country home outside the city. There is always work to do on it, improvements to make. Small things, like a lamppost or a division of a larger garden. These projects never become all-consuming for them. I was never much for hobbies. 

May 2014. Chris is in Vienna, then at a conference in Leipzig. They sent the dog to stay with Chris' mother until they get back to the U.S. I picture it flying all alone, at the whim of its owner. He tells me the dog cost 550€. "I thought he was a rescue," I write back. It is the first thing I have said to him since we broke up. You can erase something from your mind, but that is all you did. Don't ask me where it lives now. 

European cities are ancient compared to us now, but when you have lost your sense of history, does it matter just how much has vanished? "The Egyptians had working plumbing centuries before it was rediscovered. A great civilization." I don't admire the people of the past, I told him. I don't admire anyone who cannot receive my admiration. 

It is wonderful that these people take such a gainful pleasure in visiting the places of the world. I don't deny them their accomplishments, I only wish that the opposite of wanderlust was given a similar affectation. "That is all my brother is," Tom's brother tries to convince me. "A series of affectations."

Q: I say this with no pleasure, but you need to talk things over before you destroy them. Not everything is so final. 

A: I know.

Chris catches an eye infection and stays in a German hospital. Eventually they fly him back like his dog. He only has partial vision in the eye now. When he views it in the mirror it does not look lazy, but it never focuses. His new girlfriend is on writer's retreat in California for the next six months. He is miserable. 

Back on the island, I had someone to be around, which was itself a relief. It is all right to use people, Tom says, if you use them for the right reasons. He has gone for coffee.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Paintings by Peter Sculthorpe.


Thursday
May252017

In Which She Was There For More Than A Few Years

Oh, Say. Can You See?

by ETHAN PETERSON

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg
FX

Keri Russell, 41, and Matthew Rhys, 42, changed everything through their love. At the beginning of The Americans, they fought a lot and never seemed to penetrate each othe's emotional defenses at key times. Their real-life marriage altered the deal. Now in the middle of this fifth, penultimate season, one addresses questions posed for the other. Their daughter Paige asks if they feel like their names actually are Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings. "Yes," Rhys answers for both of them. "But I miss my old name." He does not say it, or tell it to his daughter. But we know it well.

Finally these married spies are thinking about going home to Russia. A part of us knows that they will never make it there, or survive in that unforgiving place. For the first time in the show's history, this season has attempted to give us a taste of what life was like before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Before, during, and after the Cold War most Americans did not know what life was actually like in the Soviet Union. The Americans depicts Moscow as a sinister, unforgiving limbo. The mere idea of leaving Washington D.C. and its environs for this place fills us all with a deep and abject horror.

Life in D.C. has become sufficiently ridiculous for the only son of these two spies, a growing boy named Henry (Keidrich Sellati). Henry is at the age when he has no real use for his parents, and he has devised a plan to separate himself from them permanently. He has met a lovely young woman named Chris with whom he plans to abscond to a New Hampshire boarding school. "Senators went there!" he shakily announces to his parents, who are gobsmacked. I don't actually believe any parents would stifle their boy's dreams in this fashion.

Paralyzed by the fear of what their retirement might mean, every murder or act of sabotage takes on additional heft. So they hold Russia up, as their last impossible dream, and the American writers who shape their lives tear it down. In order to show us what would await them, The Americans has given us Oleg (the marvelous, pleasantly scrutable Australian actor Costa Ronin) was moved from his duties in the U.S. home to be near his family. He occupies a small room in his family's apartment. All the women he loved are dead or gone. His mother and father are even more devoted to him than ever, since his brother has perished in Afghanistan.

Oleg learns that his mother served more than a few years in a camp as penance for some non-crime. It was beyond his father's capabilities to help her then, and she explains that in return for fucking the camp doctor, she was given perks such as a blanket and extra food. His knowledge of what happened to his mother in the society he props up through his work in the KGB makes him deeply jaded. In one powerful scene he stares out at Moscow; the wish in his eyes is to burn it all down.

Some societies – now that I think of it, every society – comes to this burning point, where they feed on their own inefficiencies and collapse if they do not have certain basic operating principles that allow healing on a macro scale. True democracies always have the opportunity to take this positive step. The Americans does not really explore the various foibles of their own country, except when it comes to the fetid, cliquish FBI, the only mirror of the enemy which does not come across as a resounding win for the United States. It is not moral scruples which prevents Agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) from eclipsing the fervor of his enemy. He just has better things to do.

The best scene in the entire season featured a double date, KGB and FBI. It was the first time Keri Russell's "character" had met Renee (Laurie Holden), a woman Stan had begun dating after the collapse of his marriage. Team KGB openly wonders whether she is a plant to spy on Stan and keep him in check, and regretfully decide they will probably never know the answer.

The concept of having another person's happiness in your hands comes up again and again in The Americans. It is akin to a weird sort of godhood in a country whose main figure of worship is Ronald Reagan.

It took far too many episodes to resolve the subplot of Paige Jennings (Holly Taylor), who finds her priest's diary entries about her. All in all, Paige took this information in good stride, and she seems to finally understand how much her parents must trust her to make her complicit in their work lives. Taylor is a phenomenal actress who ably communicates a sterling range of emotions lurking beneath the surface. The writers of The Americans, knowing how little is actually required to make her scenes interesting, probably have lingered on her too long as a crutch.

Every possible dilemma the spies have faced in their personal life has now been explored. A subtlety of purpose and horror has replaced conventional twists and turns. The Americans has always been fairly short on action, but in the eleven episodes remaining in the show's run, we get to build to the ultimate moment: when Stan Beeman is informed of what a total oblivious, hot dog-eating chump he really is. If Phillip's son Mischa never gets to meet his father, I will take it very personally.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


Wednesday
May242017

In Which We Refuse To Watch Her Break Up This Happy Home

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,

For a number of years, I have known a wonderful woman I will call Helen. Recently, she confided in me that she has been seeing a married man. He tells her that he wants to be with her, and that he will divorce his wife to do so.

Through some covert research I have learned this is rather unlikely. I find myself attracted to Helen and I think we would make a great couple, but this married guy keeps stringing her along. Other advice columnists have informed me there is nothing that I can do that won't make me look like a total asshole and end up reminding Helen of this for-shit period of her life.

You are my final hope.

Alan X.

 

Dear Alan,

These days people are more sensitive to not getting involved in the business of others. To recognize the achievements of shit disturbers of the past, we need only look to the cinema of yore. Joan Crawford starred in an amazing 1941 comedy about this very subject, which was humorously called When Ladies Meet. She played this stuck-up trash novelist who wouldn't give Jimmy the time of day. Instead, she planned to spend the rest of her life with her editor, whose first name was Rogers and who was a grade-A asshole with a wonderful wife named Clara (Greer Garson).

Joan Crawford was already getting hard to look at by this point. Nevertheless Jimmy was in love with her for some reason. Actually, I know the reason: she has this great fucking apartment that sort of looked out on Brooklyn and the view of the bridge was grand. It was implied that the rent on this place was a whole eight cents per month.

Jimmy (Robert Taylor) does not want to see his friend hurt, so he befriends Rogers' wife Clara and brings her up to this summer palace in Connecticut where Rogers and Joan Crawford would meet to "review" her "manuscript." He tells Joan that Clara is his cousin. The whole thing climaxes when the two women have a heart to heart. Clara explains that she really loves her husband, even though he's human shit. Joan informs her how deeply in love they are.

By this point Rogers has started to sour on Joan Crawford's character. He was never very fond of her novels to begin with, and through various dialogue we come to understand that the book in question is about a wonderful woman who breaks up a marriage. How topical. After the reveal, Rogers dumps Joan Crawford but his wife is disillusioned, so she dumps him. 

What does this mean for you? Several things, I'd imagine. First of all, do you really care for and respect this Helen of yours? Because she sounds like she has lax morals. I'd have a hard time trusting a person like that, and you should never date a writer anyway. They lie too much.

You are probably just attracted to Helen because of her self-destructive streak. Still, you would most likely be doing her a favor by busting up this most untenable situation. If you are going to ruin some lives, either commit to it or wait for it to happen on its own. Don't bother inching towards Hell. It's a part of the most fantastic binary ever constructed by Man or God.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.