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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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Thursday
Aug172017

In Which Dinner Is Always An Important And Special Time

Swing Set

by ETHAN PETERSON

Fun Mom Dinner
dir. Althea Jones
93 minutes

Kate (Toni Collette) and Emily (Katie Aselton) are the best of friends. Both actresses are substantially different looking than their usual cinematic representation in Fun Mom Dinner, the brilliantly morose comedy from first-time screenwriter Julie Rudd.

Here, Collette shows off her considerable glamour. So often made up as a kooky aunt, she has always been expert at obscuring her natural beauty, and it is a shocking thrill when she lets her hair down. At first we are led to believe Kate is the sort of mother who is openly contemptuous of others because she fears her own identity as a woman and mother may not be up to the task. This proves true, but even this simple psychological profile obscures an actual person. Trained screenwriters lazily cast stereotypes onto the page; Rudd has made actual women here.

But why does it matter what these women look like? We are so used to seeing them slip on one costume or another in their previous roles, that Fun Mom Dinner's presentation of Bridget Everett, Molly Shannon, Katie Aselton and Toni Collette as complete persons without any apology necessary includes aethestic considerations. An actor also, after all, must be nice to look at.

Director Althea Jones does marvelous things with light, and she does a capable job of making all these actors look like they are in a real, natural environment. Aselton is particular has mastered a charming sort of darkness, and Jones accentuates this by placing her in hidden positions that reflect her own insecurities. "Want to watch John Oliver?" her husband asks her before bed, in what feels like the worst nightmare imaginable.

As a rival mother who invites Kate and Emily to a lovely dinner, Molly Shannon makes for a realistic divorcee. Rudd writes all her characters with intense sensitivity, but Shannon's single woman is such a nuanced character you almost can't believe she is in a movie, let alone one that for the most part went straight-to-cable. Shannon's character is close with Melanie (Bridget Everett). You can tell that Ms. Everett is still finding her sea legs as an actress after so many years of stand-up, but she has magnificent presence here, surprising us in scene after scene with her devotion to being herself.

Aselton plays off these other, mainly comic actors brilliantly. She had the good fortune of coming into her own as a performer at the same time her physical beauty, always intense, reached another level through the innate character provided by middle age. As I alluded, her husband Tom (Adam Scott) is a very serious piece of shit. Yet there is something about him possibly redeemable, which makes his desperately awful treatment of his wife so much worse.

It is probably smart to couch this serious, imaginative film in the language of a comedy along the lines of the almost unwatchable Rough Night to order to bring more eyes to it, but eventually I concluded the film's title did something of a disservice to what it was offering to us as viewers. Still, there is nothing wrong with the silly and outlandish moments the film offers, and they usually come about in a real and earned way.  

On some level, the concession to motherhood itself. Yes, women who are mothers have this overriding fact as a key aspect of their lives. Fun Mom Dinner does much to explode the idea that there is nothing else for people who value their families. The more I thought about that, it seemed like a worthwhile and somewhat rare message.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


 

Wednesday
Aug162017

In Which It Is A Torrid Kind Of Perserverance

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.

Hey,

I recently got out of a nine month relationship that was really intense and satisfying. Unfortunately she had to move to Seattle for work, and my own job and my family are keeping me here in Boston. We decided we don't want to ruin what we have by trying to make it work at such a long distance. 

A month or two has passed since my ex moved, and she has now been contacting me (we said we wouldn't do this). She is having some trouble making friends in her new city so she frequently calls or texts if she finds herself alone. I don't know how to deal with this: I do still have feelings for her, but I was a bit upset she would want to stop seeing me in the first place - she had a good job here and I wouldn't have done the same thing. 

She is locked into her contract until mid-2018, and I don't know if I really want to go through this until then. There was a reason we decided long distance wouldn't work, right? How should I handle her apparent change of heart?    

Joe P.

Dear Joe,

We all make mistakes, although some people are more prone to making them than others. The fact that she put her career before you is no big whoop, since it's not like you sound particularly committed to this woman. If you were, believe me you would be ecstatic, not disappointed to hear from her. 

On the other hand, it sounds like you were hurt in this process and you should take some time to get over that pain before arriving at a firm decision about how you should react to your ex's current behavior. But how to create the space you desperately need to evaluate things dispassionately? Just tell her you lost your phone. 

I am kidding, this is the rare time you will ever hear me advising anyone to tell the truth, which is usually painful and nuncupatory. You will have to expose your true feelings and it is best to request a discrete period of time before reporting your findings. 

In the end, you will probably find that this angry decision is what is best: you can't hang around and be the outlet for your ex's predictable sadsies for the next year. If you want, visit her at some point, have sex, and see if you want to flee back to Boston on the next train. If you don't, maybe it is worth the occasional drunk dial to keep this person in your life.

NB: The intercourse during your reunion should be tender yet opaque. Afterwards, light incense that smells of rosemary and penitent coquettishness.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Hi,

What is the right time to introduce sexting?

I don't ask this question because it particularly turns me on. The women I've gone on dates with recently seem to expect a great deal of texting before we actually meet. On one hand, I understand this is a decent if potentially misleading way to get to know someone. On the other hand, I feel like sometimes the conversation peters out or loses a spark because of a lack of physical presence. It's also tiring to keep up with some of these women, and I'm not sure how often to communicate with them.

I feel like if I introduce how attracted I am to them early on it will prevent me from getting friendzoned, so when is the best time to make that move?

Mike C.

Mike,

In my experience, there are three types of texters we need concern ourselves with to properly answer your question:

Women who don't seem particularly texty. Some women just don't love to text guys they haven't met yet too much, since they view it as a waste of time if they don't like you in person. Others are probably furiously texting other people and the fact that they don't have time to text you indicates you are not exactly a priority. You can still make yourself a priority from there, but it is tough.

The best thing to do if you are getting mediocre responses to your texts is change lanes. Just call her and see where it goes. If she doesn't call you back, she's not interested anyway. If she does, you can accomplish everything that texting does in a fifth of the time and spend the remaining hours watching Workaholics.

Women who will text you a lot. If a woman is texting you a lot, she probably is looking for a relationship with a guy who will answer her texts. If you don't answer her texts, you are not the type of person she wants to reproduce with. The positive side of this arrangement is that it gives you a lot of possibilties to flirt or as you call it, "sext." You should only do this with a woman you don't know in real life if you are (1) solid in terms of a connection or (2) you don't give a fuck. Otherwise just stay flirty but keep it light. Otherwise she's probably just interested in the attention you give her.

Women who will text you a little. The story of Goldilocks and the three bears is a homophobic metaphor for almost everything in our lives. Did you know that Goldilocks was originally a disgusting old woman? The point of the story in Goldilocks is that we can never truly know who is in our bed, and afterwards, who has been there. She may have eaten the porridge also, she may not have, but we have no way of knowing. The truth is, the food is gone.

Many women fall in love quickly and heavily like Myrcella Lannister, but others are not so apt to be entranced by the text you send that contains the words "how r u?"

It's important to know your strengths. If you're not clicking with this person over text, I doubt that will suddenly change when you start telling her how much you loved Gifted. Text communication is important, but it doesn't represent how much you might enjoy spending time together, or even how she would text you once she gets to know who was in her bed.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Tuesday
Aug152017

In Which Kathy Acker Eliminates Our Need For Other Sustenance

Saint Kathy

by LINDA EDDINGS

Bangled and sewn up, it's just hair. 

Oakland, 1999. I meet Kathy for the first time. She tells everyone else she is a novelist, but she tells me another word for it. She is gone but still around someplace. 

When she used to live in San Diego, she knew a bald man with different colored eyes. It took me a long time to realize her descriptions of this man matched her almost completely.

Before we are about to die, Kathy says, we see ourselves completely different from how we were before. Worse. "Cancer is big business," she wrote. There is a lot that she put down that I do not believe. 

I read Kathy to keep my spirits up. I don't have access to her most depressing texts. In her novel about high school, Kathy writes of a woman having sex with a man, but it is a man having sex with a woman more so. The accompanying pictures of penises illustrate the point. 

"Language begins with desire," she has Colette explain. OK. 

Kathy wakes up. It is 1984. Her mornings always take place at Gold's Gym. Is it possible she is there now? She was a woman who desired men sexually, and then wrote of them as they were. What is so wrong with that?

There is this old story about when Saul Bellow went to interview for a job with Time. I'll tell you later. 

When she was a stripper, she found that tattoos suited her lithe, semi-nude form. Take any behavior in private and make it public. Then sell it, trade on it. I know why people do not like pornography - it is not the same as hard drugs, or the murder of animals. It is something they themselves have to address when they robe and disrobe, and they are ashamed. 

What would Kathy be now I wonder? She wrote the movement, was the movement, transcended any movement. It still would have been difficult to be her. Her mother was an awful woman, you understand, and when she fled this country for Germany, it was partly to rid herself of nasty associations. 

It is painful to read any more about Kathy. I want to ride the motorcycle of someone I respect. I don't give two shits about their influences. 

1918: Mankind emerges from the shadows. Womankind follows afterwards, a picture of resentment. There is a general conclusion that before now, nothing really counted. In a quarter-century, Kathy will be born to confirm this view.  

She never knew her father, and I have met people like that. They think about what might have been a lot, and I don't blame them, only I wish they wouldn't. 

Try writing like Kathy instead. Try working into every conversation that you have emerged from a literary fatalism. It is intellectual fear-mongering, primarily. I don't know what to think about what to think. 

There is this old story about when Saul Bellow went to interview for a job with Time. I'll tell you later. 

Kathy wakes up, goes to the gym. Now it is time to write, so instead of formulating a plan, she is astride a chair the way a bat looms on some fucking stalagmite. I'm so empty in the morning. 

I love you. 

I know a friend who puts together her syllabus, and she thinks of what her students will hate the most, and she makes it 40 percent of their grade. When the papers come in, she shudders, because she hates it too. 

Kathy wouldn't understand that. She did not need to manufacture this feeling of displacement. It was like, in your computer, sometimes you have a separate graphics card, and other times there are just integrated graphics which use a portion of the existing memory. For Kathy, there was no separate angst. She was the angst; the feeling was integrated. 

Kathy leaves Brandeis for San Diego. She takes a plane or she drives. She has to get far away. 

I love you so much that I can't think of anything else besides your lipstick on my towels, Kathy Acker

Render the future meaningless, like the past always was. There is no memory of the dead, just the imposition of the present on everything, drowning the rest out. A principle of natural selection. 

Portland, 2003. Every single person on the street is writing their own memoir. The titles of the memoirs are as follows: The Restitution, Tits and Grits, My Banana Pancakes, Bats in Stalactites, Kathy's Braided Hairstyles, Way of the Nomad Prince. The dedications are to the same person: she is not the son of God. I mean he might have had a daughter, but not mentioned her out of respect. 

Kathy writes: "I used to ask, 'Do you love me?' Well, I asked him once and learned better. He replied, good old journalist that he was, what I feel about you is my business and what you feel about me is your business. Pay attention to your own business. I learned a lot from that one. If you want to get fucked up the ass, go do it. (I’m sure you do.) It’s not your problem, is it? Me, straight queer gay whatever and where do nut cakes like me fit in who like getting fistfucked whacked and told what to do?—the only things that appall me are babies."

So Saul Bellow goes to interview with Whittaker Chambers. They wanted someone on book reviews at Time magazine. (Is there still a Time magazine?) And Whittaker, Kathy bless him, well he asks this stolid Jewish man-in-training what he thinks of Wordsworth. And Saul says, "I always thought he was a romantic poet." And Chambers just shakes his head like this is a dogshit answer and the man is not fit to breathe the same air as him. 

When someone dies there is this profoundly unappealing saga of remembrance. "Everyone dies of something," a doctor once explained to Kathy, which she could only fathom in one way: she had been given a sentence, only not the kind she usually wished for. She had, weeks previously, begun to feel small dense packets of tissues in her charming breasts. 

The year 2043 is paved with good intentions. 

When I die tell someone else you miss me. Don't tell me that because I already know. Don't tell my mother. 

2019, I am still reading My Mother: A Demonology. She could not let go of the woman. "My parents were horrible," she writes, by which I intuit they used a lot of homonyms, smoked clove cigarettes, and read the nautical novels of Patrick O' Brian. In some cases — and I believe this is one of them — you heartily desire to put the past behind you but you are smart enough to know you never will. 

Saul Bellow was right, about this and so many other things. (What Whittaker wanted to hear, though, was that Wordsworth was a former revolutionary turned monarchist.) Do you feel divorced from literature? Do you feel like the only thing it has to say anymore is its age?

I miss Kathy, but I still have her books. I miss you. I miss you a lot but I don't have any of your things, maybe a few cards you sent me and the gifts I bought for you but never delivered. I would give them to Goodwill but I can't stand seeing all the clothing grouped by the same color. Some part of me knows that's wrong. 

I wake up and I go to the gym.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing here.