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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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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 Grant All The Wishes In The World

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.


Is there any way of asking someone to be quiet during sex that won't immediately end the sexual encounter?

My partner, who I will call Travis, is extremely loud at the point of orgasm and I find this incredibly distracting. He also enjoys talking at length during sex, mostly about his own adeptness and unusual abilities in that arena. I really like Travis, but I will be forced to break up with him if this continues.

Janice E.

Dear Janice,

For centuries men and women have silenced their sexual partners by insisting that while they love the vociferous reaction to their genitals, people might overhear and it is best to keep things at a reasonable volume. This is quite realistic in city living, but if you are miles away from your closest neighbor, this excuse may ring a bit hollow. One option would be to get a pet and insist the loud volume of the wintercourse is violating the pet's well-being. The pet has to participate in the lie, however, and if I have learned one thing from my pet parakeet Kevin LaSame, it is that he is an asshole.

It is better to be honest about the situation. Be sure to not frame this as a criticism. Explain "I was about to have the most wonderful orgasm of my life, and then you screamed and I started laughing..." Travis will think to himself, "Wow, look at all the pleasure I gave her. I pretty much ruined it with my volume, better keep that in check from now on! What's on TV, the new X-Files, I bet Chris Carter's writing has not aged all that well!!!" Men are such simpletons.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. 


My fiancee and I are expecting a child together. It was unexpected but we planned to have a family anyway so we're both exciting for everything that is to come. There is one problem we keep coming back to, which is the name of the baby. We have chosen not to learn the sex of the child, but no matter if it's a boy or a girl, my fiancee wants to name the child Morgan.

If the child is a boy, I am worried this name is going to cause problems. If the child is a girl, the name is a lot better, but I really don't like it and it lends itself to no reasonable abbreviations or nicknames. My fiancee also wants to give the baby a middle name — which is a family name — I am not crazy about this either, but I could stand it a lot better if my child was not going to be named Morgan.

I have tried to talk with my fiancee about this but she seems rather fixed in her views. I don't know what I can do to change her mind.

Michael S.

Dear Michael,

Getting pregnant and married in the same calendar year or even in the same period of time can be a stressful process. Your fiancee is exerting control perhaps in the only way she can, since you are presumably monitoring what she eats, reads, and shits.

It is probably going to be very easy to change her mind about this. All you need to do is establish a negative connotation between the name and some other thing in her life. Consider getting her interested in the Showtime series Dexter, which features an incestuous family with the surname of Morgan. Just don't watch the last season, as it could impede childbirth and general happiness.

Maybe she is too fixated on this name to let that bother her. One good thing to do is to show her the clunkiness of her chosen name in context. Like pretend to be calling out to your child, or alternately, striking your child. "Morgan, no, stop! Bad!" etc. This will quickly encourage her to alter her choice to something more acceptable to both of you, like Marissa or Dandelion.


Do you think that dreams hold any significance? I know it is boring to hear someone recounting their dream, but a few times a month I have the variation of the same dream. 

I am in a foreign city, and I know that my flight will be leaving the next morning. I have to find a gift for my little sister, so I proceed apace into the city center. I don't find the store I am looking for, and eventually I reach the coast where I can see the ocean. Night falls. I make my way back to my hotel. In the morning I have woken up too late and I haven't packed for my trip at all. I realize I am trying to take too many things with me on the return trip, so I must leave some behind. A few I hide in the hotel room, hoping I can return for them someday. 

I keep getting turned back on my way to the airport, but I finally make it there, and the dream ends. Can you discern any meaning from the fact that I keep dreaming the same thing?

Gabriela D.

Dear Gabriela,

I first being researching the nature of dreams after I had a sex fantasy about Eleanor Clift at the age of fifteen. My work  in this field eventually drew me to the Jungian insights of Arnold Mindell, who describes two simultaneous processes that occur. In the primary process, we are filtering in aspects of our experience we can identify with; in the secondary process we encounter things that are hard to identify with and we struggle to make them part of our worldview. 

This two part system is easily applied to your nighttime journey. You are conscientious, wanting to purchase a gift for your sister and make it to your plane on time. You are probably anxious about both these subjects, and disappointing those you love. There is a secondary meaning, which is that there are things holding you back from doing so: and they are all your things. 

But what of your trip to the beach? The beach is a great place for meeting other people, especially if they are playing loud music through headphones or out of a boombox, which makes it simple to approximate whether this is the kind of music you will enjoy throughout the time you are dating. 

Never get too close to anyone, though. Even if you like the same things, you will probably just end up missing everybody.


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-2017, 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.


In Which J.J. Abrams Tries To Murder Other Peripheral Franchises



Star Trek Beyond
dir. Justin Lim
122 minutes

What kind of interest do you have in hearing Idris Elba perform a distinctly racist version of his own voice as a pseudo-alien named Krall as Zoe Saldana, looking like the mom of everyone involved, screams, "You already got what you wanted! Let her go!" I hope the answer is none.

At the beginning of the interminable Star Trek Beyond, Saldana's character Lieutenant Uhura politely informs her boyfriend Spock (Zachary Quinto) that she no longer feels attracted to him and she would like to part ways. She offers back a necklace he gave to her, but he allows her to keep it because it tracks her location. He will always know where she is.

This is the most entertaining scene in the entire movie.

Shortly thereafter screenwriters Doug Jung and Simon Pegg entertain us with the worst fucking cliche in all of Star Trek: the destruction of the Enterprise. Director Justin Lim has Idris Elba's ships swarm and destroy the larger the vessel, and what feels like it should take only moments lasts a good half hour. Pretty much everyone survives, and the artifact Elba pursues is luckily safe. It easily might have been destroyed, rendering his tactics somewhat questionable at best and jawdroppingly nonsensical at worst.

But I mean you won't want to be focusing on the plot here, since there really isn't any. The entire crew is marooned on an alien planet, which would be exciting except there is literally nothing to distinguish this world from any other random place the original Star Trek cast set down upon.

The original Star Trek was always shit and the only reason that these movies even exist for J.J. Abrams to torture us with was the tremendous critical and commercial success of the follow-up television serial, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart singlehandedly carried the entire cast, but the writing was also very good at times and LeVar Burton wasn't terrible either. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation realizes a key lesson about the vast boredom of space intoned by Kirk at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond: if you don't have someone to ejaculate inside of, it can get super lonely out there. Kirk is so completely done with space that he applies to become the vice admiral of an orbital installation named Yorktown. I guess if Chris Pine's career gets bad enough, they can spin that off to series.

Pine's enthusiasm is usually his strongest selling point, along with his comedic timing. In Star Trek Beyond you can tell that he was ill during some of the shooting, because many of his line readings are completely off and he sounds like he has a frog in his throat. The end result is the most unprofessional final cut of an actor I have seen in awhile.

In order to compensate, most of the attention is thrown to the Enterprise's engineer, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). Pegg makes himself basically the star of this movie the exact same way he did in the last horrid Mission: Impossible jaunt. In that movie he at least had lots of great lines and a decent foil in the playful wiles of tiny Tom Cruise, but here his partner in crime is a bit more serious: an alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

The thing Star Trek Beyond misses the most is any sense of wonder at all. Even encountering this strange woman on an alien planet who lives in the desiccated shell of a Starfleet ship should be a moment of astonishing vitality and novelty. Instead two seconds later Montgomery Scott is being called a cute nickname by the alien and they are bickering like old friends. In every conceivable way it can, Star Trek Beyond skips the B that comes between A and C.

The rest of the cast is given very little. The supposedly southern accent of Bones (Karl Urban) waves completely from scene-to-scene, and he is paired with Spock for most of the film for in-depth conversations about serious and important topics like fear of death and their respective futures in Starfleet. Elba's Krall is not particularly calculating or fearsome villain, and the reveal of his true identity later on both repeats notes from the previous film and makes you wonder why they waited that long.

At the box office, early returns on Star Trek Beyond were that it was down fourteen percent from the previous film. That isn't so bad, but the previous movie really struggled with its tone as well and it had the benefit of a far better villain and story. At least with Star Wars, Abrams can just remake The Empire Strikes Back like he did A New Hope and at least the story itself won't be absolutely terrible. He seems to have no idea what to do with these characters; or maybe he has just realized they don't have very much potential anyway. 

The real answer is war. Star Trek was at its best when it turned space diplomacy into a canvas for the intersections of different ethics and views. A larger, powerful alien enemy is likely to be the focus of the next film, and there is a way to completely revamp this story into something compelling for a modern audience. First contact always has tremendous potential to make us reimagine our own ideas about what meeting other intelligent species in the universe would be like.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which Communication Is Good For This Line Of Work

I Won't Give Up On Us


Mr. Robot
creator Sam Esmail
USA Network

With its low camera angles and unnatural-natural cinematography, Mr. Robot has never been the easiest show on television to watch. Eliot (Rami Malek) has a voice which reverberates at such low tones it can be hard to understand without subtitles. The Egyptian-American actor has a moment in the second season of the show, airing now on USA, where he explodes into an effluvium of natural speech, explaining his reaction to Seinfeld in a bubbly excitement. It is very funny to see him break out of the darkness, but it doesn't last for long enough. 

This is by way of answering the question of why no one is watching Mr. Robot. The explanation from the show's fans after a promising first season have been enlightening, though perhaps more revealing of themselves than the show's flaws. The truth is that the dark and merciless world Eliot operates in remains wildly pessimistic and optimistic, but in both ways it echoes the worst tendencies of our own.

The news on television is already bad. Mr. Robot tells people that simply by going to work they are feeding into this vicious cycle. Maybe it was like reading the beginning of The Communist Manifesto, the fun part before fully realizing the gravity of what was implied — control, fear, violence and deprivation. The hacker group Eliot founded in the first season of the show, fsociety, seems more and more like a terrorist group. In the season's first episode, the group messes with the home security system of a corporate lawyer, who is forced to move out to her house in Greenwich for the evening.

One of the best parts of Mr. Robot was the story of Angela (Portia Doubleday), a security analyst for the evil bank that is the focus of fsociety's hacking efforts. Despite whatever they accomplished in season 1, the financial industry seems to be moving on roughly as usual. Angela's mother was killed by corporate malfeasance relating to a toxic gas leak, and yet we still find her working for this company directly under its CEO, Philip Price (Michael Cristofer), even after she has spearheaded a lawsuit against them. It doesn't make much sense.

The additions to the cast are generally welcome, but their exact place in the winding narrative that Esmail has created will only become clear after six or seven hours of television. It is a long time to wait to identify with someone. FBI agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) is the main addition to the cast, and she quickly becomes basically the main star of Mr. Robot as a masturbating loner insomniac who reads people as well as Eliot doesn't.

Craig Robinson and Joey Badass have come aboard as Eliot's new compadres. Both are excellent at playing off of Malek, but so much mystery surrounds them and every other aspect of the show that I understand why even informed fans of Mr. Robot might be confused. "Maybe truth don't even exist," Robinson bleats at one point in a park, stroking his dog.

The best part of last season was the rise and fall of Eliot's primary antagonist, Tyrone Wellick. He has yet to show up on this season in any meaningful way, and it has substantially hurt the show. Christian Slater's performance as the titular character is as awful as ever, and the machinations occurring within Eliot's disturbed mind are no longer the novelty they were. None of this directly answers the primary question of why no one is watching Mr. Robot. I guess it's because at the end of a long day, they probably don't want to feel like cogs in a corporate machine.

Esmail has been writing much of this second season himself, and directing it as well. He is immensely talented at both tasks. Watching Mr. Robot, you can feel his singular vision for this world. That is what makes the show so completely different from anything out there. Because it hasn't been focus-tested and revamped a million times, plenty of moments are rough around the edges, and performances and scenes play a lot more like theater than we are used to in this medium. Despite all its problems, you sense that Mr. Robot has something absolutely terrible to say. By the time it says it, we will all be watching Westworld or some shit.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.