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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 Would Ask You Kindly To Not Explain

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.


The newest Mac operating system is out, and my boyfriend Ed immediately upgraded his computer. Then he upgraded mine. Then he upgraded my phone and his phone and gave me advice about what to do to make it run faster. On some level this kind of advice and dedication to whatever is helpful, but on the other hand it is tremendously annoying that Ed thinks he knows better. His tone borders on condescending when he tells me about it, but never gets too bad. However I am sick of all this mansplaining. Am I wrong?

Janice R.

Dear Janice,

Men feel helpless in the modern era. Since Apple products are easy to use, they quickly become experts at their finer points: they have nothing better to do with their time. If your car breaks down your boyfriend will be like, "It's probably something with the engine." Good one, Ed. The words "It's probably" prefacing any kind of declarative statement are most useless to people who require functional solutions.

It's probably that Ed is the kind of man, or as I call them, wan, who was raised to be the authoritative source of all information. And if you happen to break up, he will know all your passwords and could possibly even lock you out of your own computer.

To prevent this from happening, explain to Ed that while you would love his help, it's probably a security issue at work or school, and it's something you are not prepared to talk about right now, but perhaps when things get more serious.

Then make an observation of a public person — say Barack Obama — and accuse him of mansplaining something to America. Make Ed see that is not OK for a wan to ever fully reveal what he knows. People have to make their own mistakes. And tell him to take off that stupid hat.



This November will be my first holiday with my girlfriend Freda. We met in yoga class and things have been great. She has been talking about going to a lot of trouble preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for us, and I can't help but feel that preparations have gone off the rails a bit. Is there a nice way of asking her to scale back?

Cynthia B.


The only way to get out of a six course meal is with a lie, or in this case inventing a memory. Due to the prevalence of psychoanalysis in our society, the one hangup that is universally understood among human being is a desire not to relive the site and feeling of past negative experiences. Simply inform Freda of an extensive bad memory where you were all forced to eat food that was past its expiration date, or simply a meal that wasn't very tasty.

Isn't the holiday about more than food? you will scream as you denigrate the foundation of American excess. You can even push this to its logical endpoint: you simply cannot allow yourself to celebrate Thanksgiving until the American Indian is restored what was taken from him. I think Ohio?

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Average Person (demo)" - Paul McCartney (mp3)



In Which We Have Heard Enough About Your Border War

Take Me Back to Phoenix


dir. Denis Villeneuve
121 minutes

In his previous film Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve proved capable of making an entire film without a single joke in it. Prisoners could make a convincing argument for being the most humorless movie ever made, and in Sicario the director nearly accomplishes this feat again. Sicario is a numb, boring mess, the kind of effort only interesting to people who never go to the movies or watch television, where the "thrills" of the U.S./Mexico border war have been uncovered in more empathic and gripping fashion by dramas that actually have something to say.

Benicio Del Toro plays Alejandro as a poor man's Javier Bardem, attempting a portrayal of masterful subtlety that never comes together in the least. Alejandro is a corrupt government operative who plans to eliminate one cartel and put another in its place. His master plan is about as complicated as eggs on toast. Usually Del Toro is at least fun to watch, but here he seems like a parody of himself, too familiar to us from his previous roles and self-consciously hogging the camera at every opportunity. His performance is far short of a disaster, but it mainly sits there like a lump.

Most of Sicario is Emily Blunt whining to Josh Brolin about how she is upset about where he is taking her. He says they are going to El Paso to look for information about a mass grave in a booby-trapped house, but they are actually on the way to Juarez where they plan to shake down a guy for reasons. Blunt has improved her craft immensely in recent years, but she does not really have the charisma to carry the underwritten role of a flustered and naive cop. Brolin looks like her dumpy father rather than a peer.

In between extremely dull sequences of violence, Villeneuve places extensive aerial shots of crowded border crossing. It is a sight familiar to everyone familiar with this turgid topic. Blunt just wants to do the right thing, but it soon becomes apparent she has no actual idea what that is. "You're doing nothing in Phoenix," Brolin says. "Do you want to find the guys who did this?" She nods furiously.

When she is not complaining about the hidden motives of her superiors, Blunt meets a local officer (Jon Bernthal) in a bar and rides him at length. During their liasion, she spots a telltale band that the cartel uses to wrap drug money. She immediately goes for her gun. He renders her helpless, to be saved by the unlikely intervention of Del Toro. It was kind of difficult to hear what Del Toro said after that because he was muttering, but I doubt it was that important.

Why did Sicario receive such glowing reviews when it is basically the equivalent of dumping a cliched bag of shit onto a movie screen? I'm not really sure. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy made a hilarious, insightful trainwreck of a film on the same subject in 2013 called The Counselor and everyone hated it. I would say it comes down to Blunt herself, whose angular, ghostly face is expert in taking on an identity nothing like her own.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Are Done With Being Left Behind

Waking Up


The Leftovers
creators Tom Perrotta & Damon Lindelof

Damon Lindelof could not well make another season of The Leftovers like the last one. As he sobbed and cried in the office of HBO executive Michael Lombardo, he begged for a second chance. "I need a miracle," he whined while wearing his highest end Lost t-shirt and gently stroking his pet yorkipoo Desmondpenny. "I promise it will be different. Using Justin Theroux so prominently was a mistake. It just made it more obvious he was cheating on Jennifer Aniston. Also, he's like 5'2"."

Subsequently, The Leftovers begins with a primitive woman giving birth standing up in the middle of the night. She posts her new baby on insta and then dies of a snakebite. The baby is saved by divine intervention. In discussing this tour-de-force bravado open that would entice a new generation of fans to watch their horrendous program, Lindelof explained, "I love A Serious Man because the beginning didn't make sense."

"We'll show a woman giving birth! Most people have never seen or experienced anything like it!" 

Smartly, The Leftovers discards most of the mediocre cast of season one, although it seems intent on bringing Amy Brenneman back for no reason I can discern. The new stars are an African-American family living in Texas. What a novel premise you will likely crow to yourself as you make the traditional Sunday evening pre-Ballers nachos! A show finally tackles the throny struggles people of color experience in our southern lands!

What family doesn't have test tubes on their dinner table? 

No. John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) is actually the captain of the fire department. He and his white employees set the home of a local black man telling fortunes on fire. No suggestion is made of the racial implications of such a crime. Damon Lindelof has never actually been to Texas, but he has flown over it. The graduate of Teaneck High School makes sure he mentions his black and Asian friends in nearly every interview he does, as if that entitles him to some part of their experience. 

Regina King is like, "I passed on the role of Cookie's younger sister on Empire for this? Save me Lee Daniels!"

Then again, Lost wasn't exactly a bastion of progressive thinking either. A new series from the Sundance Channel starring James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams titled Hap and Leonard will attempt to actually explain how racist some parts of America still are. It is based on Joe R. Lansdale's series of novels about the emotionally resonant friendship between a straight white man and a homosexual black man; Christina Hendricks plays the white man's ex. 

The original novels are dense with the experience of races mixing together: how racism operates out in the open, and behind the scenes. The idea that we can simply move past this without even giving it the barest acknowlegement is the province of the man who cast Harold Perrineau as a deadbeat father in Lost.

With names like "Michael" and "John" you know they are just regular guys.

On The Leftovers, we do see this African-American family going to church, having a barbecue. "We have no friends," John jokes to his new neighbor Kevin (Theroux-Aniston), who has come from Mapletown, NY to find a new home for his family in the blessed town of Miracle, where no one disappeared during the sudden departure that took 2 percent of the world's population to heaven or something.

Why this situation should be intriguing is beyond me. Perrotta and Lindelof have already made it clear that they have no intention of explaining anything that happens in the show. (The new, light opening theme song of The Leftovers is "Let The Mystery Be," for Rumsfeld's sake.) At the end of last night's premiere, John's daughter Evie (Jasmine Savoy Brown) is sucked down into a local watering hole with her friends. Minutes earlier, Lindelof shows the teenagers running through a glade in the nude, with a fearsome expression on their faces.

When even Christopher Eccleston looks like a bloated tube of toothpaste, you know you're missing some serious sex appeal on this show.  Such moments tease the expectation of horror without ever delivering outright. At times, vaguely tension provoking music is cast over the dull veneer. Watched individually, episodes of The Leftovers tend to carry you forth on their own momentum. Added up, they are never anything more than the sum of their parts. 

Including an African-American family is a nice change from the nearly all-white cast that populated season one. In most ways, it would not matter what exactly the race of the protagonists was here, but since John has an extremely sinister aspect and the religious ministrations of his son Michael (Jovan Adepo) seem to have a robust sexuality beneath them, so many real possibilities for drama are ignored. The Leftovers tells the story of black Christians, whose lives Lindelof and Perrotta know nothing about.

Throw on something a little sharper than a vest. It's like he's not even trying.

But then, The Leftovers will probably just end with Justin Theroux murdering a black man for some reason or other, so that Damon Lindelof can give a gushing interview where he whines about what a tough choice this was. Then he will think about what Matthew Fox-based t-shirt he can wear when he asks, at length, for a season three. 

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Various Storms & Saints" - Florence and the Machine (mp3)

"How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (demo)" - Florence and the Machine (mp3)