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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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In Which We Went To Sleep For Fifteen Years

Hurt Those Creatures


Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
dir. David Yates
133 minutes

There is an ongoing trend, in the age of climate concern, to attribute human qualities to everything that surrounds us. This attitude extends to every creature in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling's not-so-humorous and not-so-exciting jaunt through the world that would eventually give birth to Harry Potter. There are oversized rhinoceroses desperate to mate, duck-billed platypuses who love nothing more than to steal, and mastodon-type creatures who only crave the touch of others. Would that any of the actual characters in this story had such manifestly human motivation!

It is almost shocking to see a Rowling film in which the actors are actually decent performers. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them manages a marvelous cast in comparison to the shit show that was the last gasp of Harry's quest to kill a man without a nose, that fellow who did something completely heinous: left him alive. In those last movies, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint looked completely checked out, not that they were really suited for their roles in the first place.

We desire a real love story, but instead of providing it, none of the characters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ever give over to animal instincts. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is the actor's usual sexless fop; despite being exposed to several beautiful women who invite him into their home, he can't escape quickly enough. His platonic friend Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) lives with her sister (Alison Sudol) and has no man in her life. "What makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you?" someone asks Newt halfway through the film, but we never get the pleasure of finding out.

Despite being named after the most magnetic iteration of 20th century masculinity, the Muggle at the heart of these events, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), is a baker/veteran nearing 30 who works in a canning factory and has never had intercourse. During a particularly revealing interchange with Newt, Kowalski asks him whether he likes canned food. Newt just shakes his head.

Well, there is nothing wrong with canned food. Usually it tastes just fine, and it keeps forever. It's pretty good for the environment, but you have to understand that these are the types of people who only care about such things to the extent that they do not actually affect their lifestyle. Newt keeps all the endangered species he collects in his suitcase. In his head he is a progressive, but in actuality he is nothing more than a fancy zookeeper.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them inserts Newt in New York just after the war. In America, Muggles are colorfully referred to as non-Mags. You can tell that Rowling's trips to this country were relatively sheltered, because it is remarkable how completely whitewashed this New York is. Percival Shaw (Colin Farrell) is a magical official trying to track down a devastating cloud of smoke. If that idea excites you, you may suffer a coronary when the time travel yarn Harry Potter and the Cursed Child makes it to the screen.

The best way to do a prequel series would have been to create certain circumstances under which we could finally appreciate why the death of Mr. Potter was necessary – for example, it may have prevented Now You See Me 2 from ever being shown to audiences. If you have read the spoilers for Rowling's return to the character, you know that he has been basically put out to pasture in favor of his son, a spoiled brat with a famous father. There are no more orphans, just beneficiaries from Rowling's tremendous financial success.

I am probably too hard on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rowling at least does a nice job unraveling the basic mystery here, and Yates' command of the various special effects required by the series has come a long way. The art direction of the animals themselves is immensely pleasing, and Redmayne's use of animals to save the life of a Jewish woman he barely knows is a lot more enterprising than a mere spell. There is one moment where Newt emerges in the Arizona wild where we actually feel the beginnings of a great adventure. A few minutes later, Newt's platypus is robbing a jewelry store, and all we want is to go back.

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


In Which We Always Thought Of Ourselves As A Good Judge Of Character

At the Finish


The text he sent me, telling me he misses me and wants to be my friend. I respond I would like that too, but I don’t know how. We sigh, as far as that’s possible to do over text, and then do nothing.

That I’m old now, meaning I know you don’t get to be friends, not right away like this. The god of break-ups owns this time, and the deity will make you sit in the waiting room flicking through the thoughts in your head, working through every little tedious thread in the tangle. 

That I know why we broke up but I don’t think he does because he keeps asking me: “Did you leave because I’m so broke right now? Did you end it because I take drugs sometimes? Was it because of that guy you met, the one you keep meeting up with?” I feel the anger swell in my chest when he asks this, because it’s none of these things and yet all of these things, and so much more. But most of all it’s how he doesn’t hear me when I try and tell him. I spent the best part of a season trying to salvage things, trying to explain what the problem was, desperately sifting through all the words in my arsenal to find the ones that would show him how I felt. More than anything I wanted him to understand.

The moment when it started breaking. Of course I didn’t understand at the time but with hindsight I can see it: a freezing day with grey fog hanging low over the city, on a bus because the train wasn’t running. He told me something about what he believed in and how he wanted to live, some dream about communal living and sharing resources and a commitment to social activism. All things I can understand and even admire, but the opposite of everything I wanted for myself, as a fickle introvert with a bad case of wanderlust. And felt an ache swell in my chest, realising in a flash that I’d put my eggs in his basket without understanding who he really was, and how could I have let that happen? I got off the bus and went home alone, deflated. We recovered, but I slowly started to retrieve my eggs, one by one, keeping them safe in my own house again because I didn’t trust him with them anymore.

Some Humpty-Dumpty metaphor. 

That time he broke it off via text message while we were trying to work it out, sending me a missive while I was standing in a train station buying wine for a weekend away. I couldn’t even engage with what he was saying, blinded by the indignity of being dumped by text: “I am ending this because you no longer put our relationship first.” Or something like that; I’m not sure what it said exactly because I deleted it, too surreal a message to exist in the world.

What I remember is that I laughed, then shook, and then I raged at the absurdity, the humiliation of being dumped in the manner of my mobile operator informing me I’ve exceeded my monthly data allowance. When I got back there was a wall of ice between us, which melted as he came knocking on my door late at night. We spent three days in bed, in a time capsule, but it didn’t last.

The fact that I felt relief when it finally ended. Too many repetitions of the same arguments. I’d stare at him in disbelief, across the pub table or across the stream of text messages, wondering how it was possible to have been with someone for so long and have it end in such confusion. How black and white it felt, everything he said. How he refused to allow for the fact that things could change. How I was probably equally frustrating to talk to for him but I can’t see it, because when you are breaking up, you no longer are who you are.

That I’m realising you never quite finish with someone you used to love, not really. My ex and I still possess pieces of each other, even as he lives on the other side of the city where he calls another woman girlfriend and I have someone else who answers to boyfriend. See it didn’t take long; I told you the breakdown was a relief.

The worst thing about this is realising how wrong I was about him. How it took me so long to get to really know him, blind to reality at an age when I really should know better. How it makes me look at my new boyfriend with a twinge of skepticism, wondering what’s lurking under the surface, as I’ve always thought myself to be a good judge of character but maybe not. I don’t often wish things were different, but I’d give a lot not to feel this way as my new boyfriend deserves better.

That I regret nothing about my ex. Not getting into it in the first place, nor any of the things that caused it to end because when it was good, it was fantastic. And when it started to break down, it felt natural. I can never admit this to him though, because it’s cruel. But I know what it feels like to be so broken up about a relationship that you can hardly breathe, and this isn’t it. All I know is that I toss my phone across the table in frustration at yet another text message where he completely misses the point. But even as I do, I know it was all worth it.

Jessica Furseth is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find her website here and she tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by the author.


In Which We Do Not Really Know Your Life

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.


After nine months with my girlfriend Vanessa, she recently told me she is planning to transfer to her firm's London office. She doesn't know exactly how long she will be there, but it will be no longer than a year. She wants to stay together and Skype; also we could probably afford to visit each other twice during this period.

My worry is that I feel I will be very lonely without Vanessa in-country, and I will probably be inclined to see other women and not tell her about it. I really would like to stay with Vanessa — do you think she would be amenable to taking a break while she is in London and getting back together when she returns or is that dumb?

Bob N.


If you want to stay with your girlfriend, you should never announce a break for any reason. When women hear the word "break," something breaks deep inside of them. Even a small rejection is still a rejection on some level.

A year can be difficult, but at least there is a firm date when she will return. What will probably happen if you break up is that you will regret it and she will meet some British guy whose command of the language not only rivals your own, but exceeds it. He will be tangentially related to Winston Churchull and the two of them will snuggle together over long marathons of Poldark. If this is really what you want, break up with her now. 

It sounds instead like you are pouting because life isn't going your way. Either you're an active part of this relationship or you're not. Decide meow.


My boyfriend Sam has taken his exercising to the extreme. When he wakes up in the morning he immediately works out for three hours, including a long run and a swim afterwards. After getting home from work, he immediately begins lifting before dinner. The amount of time he spends on this is excessive, and I am worried he will injure himself. Recently, it has become clear that exercise is his number one priority in life above and beyond me.

Should I just throw down an ultimatum or what?

Ariana R.

Dear Ariana,

Addiction to exercise and the corresponding adrenaline rush is no different from any other drug addiction, albeit with somewhat less deletrious effects.

Have you ever seen Legends of the Fall? Those guys ran through fields a lot, and it was enough for them. Maybe show Sam that movie, and then afterwards break things down with a hard talk. Be aware that an addict will do anything to explain away his addiction, and say goodbye to those tight abs in any case.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.