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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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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In Which We Possess Carte Blanche Of An Unmistakable Variety

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.


I have been dating my new boyfriend, who I will call Sauron, for about six months give or take a week. Recently I received a message from an ex-girlfriend of Sauron's that was rather spiteful in nature. I showed it to my boyfriend and he became very upset, at first, mainly at the idea that someone from his past was trying to sabotage his current relationship. He hasn't brought it up since, but I have to admit the idea of being discarded by someone not interested in a relationship brings up some of my trust issues and I have found myself holding back more. It's hard not to ask about the full story but I don't want to make it seem like I'm jealous or petty. Is there a way of getting over this without screwing up or making a wrong move?

Emily H.


I send out spiteful messages all the time, often to people who I never even dated. Here are some examples:

Hi, I miss you and I love you. Do you know where you put my slippers?

Hey, what's up. Did you see that video where the guy drank the entire cup of hot coffee? Classic.

Hi, is this Tim? Where is Tim? I miss you.

These kinds of strange messages are sure to contribute to an underlying instability at the center of the world. You seem to think that because you received a message from the past, it needs to affect your future. No one wants to see someone they care about moving on with anyone new. A facebook message is about the most mediocre expression of rage that exists, so consider yourself lucky that you were not run over by this woman's car. If things are going well, just forget it ever happened.


I recently met a woman through some mutual friends. Dee is a social worker who is very devoted to the people she helps get on their feet. She is great at her job. 

Frequently, our dates or hangouts are postponed because things come up unexpectedly. Dee doesn't have a lot of faith in the people with which she works, so she feels like she has to handle these things herself. I try to accept that I am not always going to be her number one priority, but I am starting to worry it might be this way forever. She is apologetic and feels really guilty when she cancels the plans, and I try not to make things worse. I don't feel comfortable bringing it up to her since we have only been dating for four months. Should I give up now, or is it possible things will change in the future?

Henry P.

Dear Henry,

Dee probably is balancing a lot of things on her plate at one time, and since she deals with people who are used to letting her down and feeling bad about it, she is reflexively adopting their behavior. A good psychologist could probably fix her in a month or two.

We don't have that kind of time. It seems like she likes you because you are the one person she can disappoint, which means you may be very special to Dee. The irony seems to be lost on you.

Your instinct to wait until further in the relationship to make this an issue seems sound. By six months she will have bonded to you further, and you can influence her decision-making without her openly wondering where you got the nerve to tell her what to do. Four months in, you're just another aspect of the patriarchy holding her back.


In September I am planning on marrying my boyfriend of four years, Darren. Recently the wedding preparations have begun in earnest and while I don't have any hesitation about my decision to get married (I hate the expression tie the knot, it is gross), I am a bit worried about how many people seem to be involved in the ceremony. Both of our parents are contributing financially to the event, and understandably they both expect to be a part of the process.

The wedding already seems like it will have to be much larger than I ever imagined it - over 100 people! - and the amount of money and time that is going into one day is starting to bother me. Should I just suck up my feelings or should I try to do something about it?

Jamie P.

Dear Jamie,

Many weddings and genocides share a common trait - they both involve over 100 people. I have attended many weddings in my time, and the only one I really truly enjoyed the bride got incredibly drunk and slept through most of the reception. Basically, as a bride, you are allowed several common expressions that will curtail a lot of this chicanery without coming off as a party pooper:

- "I always imagined a small wedding."

- someone suggests inviting Aunt Helen. "Didn't Aunt Helen once say ADHD was caused by grapefruit juice? She is not welcome on my special day."

- "Whose wedding is this?"

- "Darren and I need to talk that over."

- "Whose special day is this?"

- "Aunt Helen once thought my Armenian friend was a terrorist."

- "They had that at the Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise nups. Remind me how that special day worked out."

- "You're not my mother."

- "You might be my mother, but this is not your special day."

- "I need to talk that over with Aunt Helen."

Above all, lie, prevaricate and postpone any decision you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with. No one ever looks back on a bride's behavior before a wedding and says, "She was just so indecisive, Shelia!" It's just par for the course.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.


"Legend of the Keeper" - Magic Sword (mp3)




In Which Colin Howell Wished Only To Be Caught

No Service in the Club


The Secret
creators Stuart Urban and Jonathan Curling

The secret in The Secret is as follows: a God-fearing Christian man named Colin Howell grows tired of his wife and takes up with another man's beloved, a woman named Hazel Elkin. At a public pool in Northern Ireland he strokes her legs and thighs underwater. She has been desired, but not recently, and not in so open a fashion. Many women do not wish for worship, but those who do find it relatively intoxicating.

But this is not a secret for long. They are too open about their adultery — isn't it awful how people who commit indecent acts on some level wish to be caught? The shame is twice as uneasy as the act itself. This is not something religion instills in us, we bring it with us to our faith, or lack thereof.

In any case, they are spotted and Colin's priest comes to him with an accusation. (This is all a true story, or at least as much of it as we can stand.) Colin denies the allegation, but altogether not fervently enough. When Hazel is approached by the priest, she confesses immediately.

So at some point Colin gets in his head that if his ungrateful wife Leslie and his girlfriend's meek husband Trevor are still standing in the way of their love, instead of fading away as seems appropriate, it might be time to murder them. The real Colin Howell, it emerged recently, watches The Secret from his prison cell in Co Antrim. He can probably be proud of the performance James Nesbitt gives in his stead.

At first it seems like The Secret is just having a laugh at the expense of persnickety zealots. This is untrue, and potentially damaging to Colin's current reputation in prison. You see, Colin did hide his murder of his wife and his girlfriend's husband, but he never lost sight of what God wanted for him. (Police amazingly believed it was a double suicide.) And which is more important, really?

The first indication Leslie had that something was wrong was the money she found in the pockets of her husband's athletic gear. He used it on a payphone to call Hazel during his runs. In order to prevent their late night phone conversations from being recorded on the telephone bill, each lecherous conversation between Colin and Hazel was kept to a period of nine minutes, the perfect length for anything.

After Colin was caught out the first time, he insisted that he had never consummated the relationship. The spouses and their church believed them — what else could they do? Leslie Howell considered suicide and took a trifling overdose without success. She spent money on new clothes, dieting to become more appealing to her husband. After her father died, the inheritance was enough to pursue a new life. After she died, her killer took that money, some quarter of a million pounds.

The night of the murders, Hazel mixed a strong sedative into her husband's food. Colin blocked his children's doors with a hockey stick so they wouldn't walk in on things. He planned to gas Leslie quietly as their children slept, but she woke in her last moments, and he had to smother her with a quilt to finish off the murder, as she cried out for her son. For this murder, he will serve nothing close to life in prison: just twenty-one easy years.

Instead of turning Colin into an uncaring sociopath — he isn't a mass murderer after all — Nesbitt plays him as a twitchy cautionary tale. His singing and guitar playing in church is solid if unspectacular. As a father he is kind to children who had to live without their mother, and even had six more kids with his second wife Kyle. As a doctor he committed more crimes, touching female patients when it suited him. This is a person who maybe only has a few things wrong with him, but they are the worst possible things.

Maybe the wildest part of Colin Howell's story is that he was free and clear of murder charges but that he felt guilty enough to confess decades later. The Secret itself, despite being a retelling of a well-known true crime story, is still sensitive enough a subject to inspire secrecy.

"We have been left trembling in the wake of it," said one of Howell's daughters about the television production. "The insensitivity of this intrusion is in direct proportion to the trauma that it causes." The fact of a failed marriage is the real secret, the disastrous life that led to the killings. These Christians believed as a corollary to their faith that unhappiness must be concealed, hidden. This misery should have been abandoned by any of the participants, but since they knew no other reality, they kept on living their nightmares.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.

"Dear Brother" - Nadia Nair (mp3)


In Which We Research All Of Your Lore Questions

Sit Back & Thrones Me


Bran Stark is 400 years old now. He has lived so long quietly enjoying the past in that wizened tree shed that he now looks like Zayn Malik crossed with a peasant boy. Maybe instead of going back to his father's time he can warg up a prequel series about everything that happened in Robert's Rebellion, since the world of Westeros is coming to an end and all he can think to do is curl up in the snow.

Not only is Bran now a full-blooded adult male looking to score with that intriguing young woman from the salt marshes, but he has become ethnic, which is a twist almost none of us could see coming. The people of the salt marsh are akin to the Israelites, and if that's the case, then the wargs could be like Christians, bringing a new faith to Westeros in the guise of their suddenly Jesus looking paraplegic.

Even without the use of his legs, he is the hero we deserve. Everyone else is mediocre in comparison to New Bran. I hated Old Bran because of the whining and whinging, I love the new Bran because he is our Lord and rightful king of the north.

I take copious lore notes during every episode of Game of Thrones. Over time I have collated most of the pertinent details surrounding the life of Aerys Targaryen. He was the Mad King, and it has now clearly been verified by a reliable gossip in the shit quarter of King's Landing that penis envy was the main cause of the Rebellion.

It must be weird to have been married to someone and never think or talk about them, as Cersei Lannister does. Her former husband Robert Baratheon was an impotent alcoholic, and I understand that his death was necessary in a lot of ways. He wasn't really much of a character, but no one ever discusses him. None of these Stark children even talk about their parents, either, especially their mother, who died in a retcon.

The dead fade so quickly from memory in a world where perishing is a constant part of the experience. Roose Bolton and Balon Greyjoy were some of the most underwritten characters imaginable, and the similarity between the sudden turn in their fates lessened the impact of both. (I'm really starting to hate the North.) I wish George had never committed to finishing these books. I realize they are a major cash cow and he sold the rights too cheaply, but there is really no reason this show needs to stop. The books are clearly less than at this point, and as a former television producer, George should know that.

Catelyn Stark came back to life in the books for no reason, but it was deemed that this would steal too much of Kit Harington's thunder. As that old woman was bringing him back to eXistenZ in the least surprising development since it turned out that Kristen Stewart is gay, I was screaming at the television and calling these people various names. I was also making lore notes at the same time, but the screaming was my dominant motif.

I will never forget what the bastards that wanted Jon Snow back did. Just because the illiterate servant of a demented king thought Jon would be a cute replacement for the vacancy in his idol worship does not mean that this had to happen. Not even Kit Harington's mother thinks he can act.

What's wonderful about politics is that when someone truly is defeated, they can't suddenly change it up and be the winner. After more people vote for a meglomaniacal businessman than a woman lawyer, there will be no take-backsies. It will just be the end of the line. Jon Snow was at the end of the line, and this joy was taken from me. The ensuing annoyances of, "My lord Snow! You're alive!" and "Jon! I thought you were finally off this series!" forthcoming in the next episodes will be no salve to my wounds, k?

At least that scene made sense. It was a fair amount of time ago that the frozen former wildings were marching on Westeros. I realize they are just going to be murdered by Dragon 1 and Dragon 2 (official GRRM lore), but what did they do, hit up a Gregory's Coffee just north of the wall and wait for their cue? I was sort of hoping that the little kid who stabbed Jon Snow in the midsection would have been eaten by dogs, but no such luck. David Benioff will tell us when we are allowed to be heartened by the death of a child.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Off the Water" - Plants and Animals (mp3)