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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 Remain Miles Away From Our Closest Neighbor

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.


My friend Michael recently moved to New York. Naturally we have met up a few times, and I recently introduced him to my girlfriend Lenai. Michael is very good at making a first impression, and he surely did so on Lenai. She thinks he is great and wants to hang out with him often. Unfortunately I know that Michael was not quite as fond of my partner as I was, and he has made it clear that he would prefer we just interact on a one-on-one basis for the most part.

This makes thing awkward, since in other to see Michael I would have to explain to Lenai why she is not really wanted. And I have no answer to the question Lenai poses about why we are not seeing him more. I feel strongly that the truth js not really an option here, but I could also see any deception backfiring and I don't want to ruin what I have with Lenai. Please help.

Edwin K.

Dear Edwin,

You need to find a naturally combative situation that will pit Michael against Lenai ina. a circumstance that will lead Lenai to not want to interact with Michael again of her own volition. You presumably know her values better than I do, but issues of conflict are often the plausibility of anal, the sexism of Bernie Sander, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (I once was dumped by a woman for telling her that Ariel Sharon was a gr8 man.)

If Michael intrinsically dislikes Lenai, conflict will emerge sooner or later. Get him very drunk or high on whippets. Some people are just assholes on whippets. 

The real backfire you should be worried about is that Michael changes his mind, since you do not seem to be working all that hard to get these two to enjoy each other's company. Pushing people further apart sometimes brings them closer together.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. 


Things have been going decently well with this girl Paisley. On our third date something happened that has made me a bit worried. We were at the movies (seeing The Revenant) and we were holding hands. When the lights came up, I disolayed a visible erection that Paisley seemed to take notice of. She seemed a little out of sorts for the rest of the evening, but I'm not sure what her reaction really was.  

In the ensuing days nothing seemed all that different. When we went back to my place though she made an excuse and went home. I'm trying to figure out how to proceed, since I haven't had a connection this positive with someone in awhile.

Jeff P.

Dear Jeffrey,

Our minds all go to different places when we see a signifier. You have entered the realm of the purely semiotic. Each individual brings different experiences to the idea of a large p rising through some bro named Jeffrey's shawts. Maybe she didn't expect it; or maybe it triggered an identification with some negative moment in her life. Who knows, you might never know. Maybe she was hoping you would take it out!?

On some level she was probably aware your penis was living a quiet and flaccid life before this, and at the slightest hint of contact with a human being it would choose to spring to alert, screaming with the urethra as its de facto mouth, "I am aware of the current circumstances, Jeff!"

It is important not to let this slow you. If you do not show a woman that you desire her sexually, she will not be able to respond in a concomitant fashion. There is no such thing as taking it slow. The faster you are able to establish a connection between the body and mind of a woman, the sooner you will have a real relationship, versus the penis-observer functionality that you and Paisley are currently operating under.

"Here With Me" - Susie Suh & Robot Koch (mp3)




In Which We Will Never Drink Out Of Cups Again



Knight of Cups
dir. Terrence Malick
118 minutes

There is this scene in Knight of Cups where Rick (Christian Bale) is dry-humping a prostitute named Della (Imogen Potts) and he interlaces his hands with hers and they sort of swing them back and forth in a silly way, like two kids might. The couple never actually speaks to each other, we only hear their inner thoughts in voiceover. This is a Terrence Malick joint.

Were you interested in the less cohesive aspects of The Tree of Life without necessarily needing a whole lot of plot or exposition? Knight of Cups provides that important experience, in a package you will recognize completely. Half the shots might have been ripped straight from Grand Theft Auto V and L.A. Story. Los Angeles, and Christian Bale as an amoral womanizer, are both too familiar.

Knight of Cups is not really about any of that. Malick photographs most of the movie with a convex lens, and much of the camera movement creates motion sickness. Do not be alarmed — this is the strongest emotion you will experience during the journey of Rick, or as I prefer to call him, Master Rick.

Master Rick spends a lot of time strolling. The only time he shows the slightest bit of evidence that the world as it exists is affecting him in any way is during an earthquake. To be completely honest, I have trouble identifying with a character like this because I recently cried during an episode of the now-canceled CBS sitcom Angel from Hell.

Master Rick's brother Barry (Wes Bentley) takes him on a tour of the less impressive aspects of Los Angeles. Malick is deeply afraid of actual homeless people, so he casts actors in their roles. Much like Master Rick, Barry is very disappointed in the world. He sticks a fork in his hand and proclaims that he wants to feel something. This is the same guy who filmed an image of a paper bag getting knocked around in the wind and proclaimed that it was beautiful.

Master Rick gave me this idea. It is time to hold actors responsible for the content of their roles. An actor never really kills or maims, so you will not have to judge him for that. You will have to evaluate the sons of Stanislavsky on what they say. David Mamet always said that action talks and bullshit walks, but I mean, does it?

A brother's untimely death is the reason that Master Rick is sad. He tries to get over it by objectifying and projecting himself into various women. It turns out that his ex-wife Nancy (Cate Blanchett) is not having any of that. She wriggles away from the touch of Master Rick! The two have zero chemistry; it occurs to us that maybe Christian Bale cannot even understand his ex-wife's accent. She complains that he became angry for small things, like maybe she was not the best housekeeper or she was facebook messaging a real estate agent named Gary Percival.

None of these examples are actually in Knight of Cups, but the movie becomes very boring so it is natural to imagine the lives of the characters if they were not complete clichés. "When I'm with you, I forget everything else," Natalie Portman puts it at one point, wearing a mesh sweater that looks like a fishing net.

Nancy and Master Rick start having sex in a bathtub (this might have been a flashback) but their dog interrupts. (I don't know the exact breed, it could have been a pinscher of some kind.) Nancy and Master Rick shared a contemporary style bungalow with a really nice pool, but neither of them struck me as swimmers. None of this really seems to affect Master Rick and Malick generally shoots Bale from behind, forcing us to intuit his responses to most of this horseshit.

Knight of Cups features a consistent focus on animals and how they move and walk: if they sway, if they dart off balance, how a duck saunters, how a fly buzzes, that sort of thing. This observational perspective channels how a child reacts when he sees an animal, emitting a basic wonder that they are not as we are. Such intimacy with nature originates as a childish notion, and most of us move beyond it by the time we reach the advanced age of ten. I get the feeling that when Terrence Malick witnesses a bee buzzing he probably achieves a hard-on, or at least wants to get one.

I don't mean to be too harsh on this guy. Maybe he hasn't seen the 100 movies released last year about disassociated and depressed white men. Malick has the character most akin to him explain that women — and their associated problems — are "a distraction." He probably doesn't understand that on some fundamental level casting a bunch of beautiful, talented actresses as accessories to the travails of a rich, complainy white guy is incredibly offensive. I mean, Master Malick was born in 1943. There were not even civil rights then, and suffrage for women in America was only twenty-three years old.

None of these women seem to have a particularly close connection with Master Rick. A few of the sex workers would be the same age as his daughter. Natalie Portman gives off a weird sister vibe with Bale and their intimate scenes together feel remarkably like incest. She puts her foot in his mouth and laughs. She is the most like him, the only other character in Knight of Cups who actually has a dilemma and story of her own. So of course it is hinted that she kills herself.

One of these women is a stripper with a philosophical streak named Karen (Teresa Palmer) who tells Master Rick he can be whatever he wants to be. "We're like clouds, aren't we?" she explains to him. He responds to that by pushing her around in a shopping cart and skateboarding. Master Rick is inert, but sometimes he can follow a woman if she is looking back at him while she moves forward. I have never met anyone like that.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Better or Worse" - Beacon (mp3)


In Which We Would Never Lie To A British Person

Sickness and Remorse


War & Peace
creators Andrew Davies and Tom Harper

The BBC is a strange institution. The thought of taking money that could be used to feed and clothe your poorest citizens and spending it on period dramas and left-wing news reports has always seemed a bit gauche, but I mean what the hell you only live once.

The venerable screenwriter Andrew Davies is still working at 79. He is back with the BBC, because I guess he was the only person there who actually lived during the events of War & Peace? "People like bonnets. I don't think you can underestimate that," Davies said recently, complaining about the reason his state-run media was not interested in his adaptations of some minor English novels. They demand the classics and that's what he is giving them!

It is fortunate that we do not have to suffer through such a proliferation of period adaptations in this country, and England is taking that bullet for us. I think something similar is going on with Muslim immigration? Turning War & Peace into a Jane Austen novel is an extremely audacious move. Much like the novel this BBC adaptation (exported to America later this year) is a dull slog punctuated by a couple of exciting moments.

Apparently Russia in the 1800s was basically England. If you did not know any better, how would you even tell this is taking place in a country other than Britain? One of the actress in War & Peace attempts a Russian accent, but no one else even tries. It is a weird disconnect: like did they not tell her no one was going to do this? Was she going ham on her own? Was Andrew Davies napping during the filming of this scene?

So many questions. Pierre (Paul Dano) inherits a massive fortune from his father despite the fact that he is one of many illegitimate sons. We never hear about any of the other children. Pierre's friend Andrei (James Norton) is extremely unhappy living in St. Petersburg society. Despite the fact that Andrei's wife has a child on the way, he heads off to the war against Napoleon. Dano stays behind and marries a terrible woman.

All these events seemed quite important to Leo Tolstoy, but I mean, they weren't. No one even talks about Napoleon very much except to notice he was something of a dick, and this entire Russian society was wiped out by the murderous delusions of the communists. In order to make War & Peace relevant, Davies focuses on the psychological and existential aspect of the novel. The scenes of war represent spectacle we have to endure to uncover personal revelations that can only be realized in the context of wealth.

Dano, one of the most charismatic and understated actors of his generation, is given the awful role of Pierre. Director Tom Harper (Peaky Blinders) dresses him up like an idiot and most of his scenes are boring tripe that leave him looking off into the distance in utter unhappiness.

Despite embracing altruism and becoming a Freemason at one point, Pierre never grows or changes as a character and everyone involved in the story takes advantage of his good nature. Coming suddenly into a large amount of money is the kind of hypothetical moral problem that only England and Russia could find entertaining.

Making things substantially worse is the presence of Natasha (Lily James). Since she decided to ruin Downton Abbey with a disturbing lilt to her voice and her total lack of respect for the memory of Lady Sybil or her sex tape, James has insisted on appearing as almost every historical character: Cinderella, Joan of Arc, Margaret Thatcher, Gandhi.

In the future all roles will be portrayed by Lily James, hopefully after she spends a solid semester in acting class. Natasha wears progressively less clothing as the series goes on, giggling whenever anyone else speaks. If anyone happens — if she is scared, happy, sad, angry, bored — her eyes become misty and red like she is going to cry. "The girl is a treasure," Pierre explains, since we would not otherwise believe any man would even want to marry her.

Davies tries to spice things up by lending special emphasis to the affair Dano's wife Helene (Tupence Middleton) has with Dolokhov (Tom Burke). They have sex on a table with some plates quaking underneath their wintercourse.

When Pierre finds out that his wife is cheating on him, he challenges Dolokhov to a duel. Amusingly, he shoots and wounds his larger opponent. "The one thing I am thankful for is that I didn't kill that man," he explains to Andrei, who is aghast. "To take a man's life is always wrong," Pierre says. "For you, perhaps," Andrei responds. "For me there are only two evils: sickness and remorse."

It is difficult to feel too invested in any of the action taking place, since unlike in American stories, no one ever receives their just deserts. At the most someone gets told off or discarded. A few of the women die as is Tolstoy's want, but only long after we have stopped caring. War & Peace is just a Jackson Pollock canvas of shit, shit and more shit.

In this morass, Napoleon (Mathieu Kassovitz) becomes a sort of weird anti-hero who has correctly identified a poisoned, ancient society and is determined to destroy it. Unfortunately he does not do so, and this adaptation of War & Peace practically writes him out of the story altogether, even though he is one of the book's central figures.

The best thing in War and Peace is usually Andrei, who is the only individual of any virtue. ("He's intense and deep," Natasha says of him.) Andrei's wife dies during childbirth soon after his return from the front. Instead of doing anything interesting, he becomes a recluse who focuses on the problems of military organization, leaving the raising of the son to his parents. Pierre draws him back to society with disastrous results.

I do not really think English people could adapt War & Peace without making it about England. If it is true that the Russia of this period was doomed to destruction, then so was England. Unless, as seems likely, they were very different places.

As the miniseries soldiers on, the focus on Lily James' Natasha exceeds all reason. She is the worst character in all of War & Peace, a simpering ninny who jumps into bed with her mother for advice and only talks about which boys she is interested in. It takes most of the novel's length to even get her married; it feels like she turns down five or six proposals. Maybe we could understand this from a beautiful creature, but this is Lily James: she should probably settle for the first Andrei who agrees.

Ayn Rand once testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about a pro-Russia propaganda film produced by MGM called Song of Russia. She explained to the committee why the movie did not reflect anything about the Russia she knew. A racist Democrat from Georgia named John Stephens Wood asked her whether or not Song of Russia was useful propaganda if it fulfilled the purpose of keeping America allied with Russia against their Germany during the war.

I will never forget what she said. It was this: "I don't believe the American people should ever be told lies, publicly or privately." Such a seemingly innocuous statement, but it is true on every single level. Personally, I don't believe the British people should be told lies, publicy or privately. War & Peace is full of them, and it was paid for by their taxes.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Better Hand" - Young Fables (mp3)

"Paradise" - Young Fables (mp3)