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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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Friday
Sep232016

In Which We Disappoint Our Blind Brother

Like Mute or Deaf, But Without Sight

by ELEANOR MORROW

Bill (Nick Kroll) really hates his brother Robbie (Adam Scott). When Robbie starts to become interested in a local Jewish woman Rose (Jenny Slate), Bill begins to weigh his many charms in front of her. They go as follows:

1) He can see.

2) He's Jewish also, and weirdly, his brother is not. How did this happen? Who knows, it's a mitzvah.

3) He is also able to watch television and not just listen to audiobooks and exercise. (see 1)

4) He is self-deprecating, which is what every woman wants. "What's wrong with you?" Rose asks him, and Bill is just like, "Everything."

5) He knows another blind guy who can secure them weed.

6) He is portrayed by Nick Kroll, whose new Broadway show Oh, Hello where he and John Mulaney play old Jews, commands upwards of $80 a ticket.

7) Nick Kroll dated Amy Poehler for two years. What was that like? It was filled with cute moments of affection, bonding moments with Amy's two boys with ex-husband Will Arnett.

8) Did I mention he was Jewish and he can see?

Now Amy Poehler dates some goofball who walks around in an Upright Citizens Brigade t-shirt. She and Adam Scott were a pretty unbelievable couple on Parks & Recreation. It seemed like he spent a lot of time trying to please her and she was never really quite there for him. Then Nick Kroll stepped in. Keeping fiction and real life straight has never been my strong suit. All I know is that Adam Scott is happily married, and that he is quite shockingly 43 years old.

My Blind Brother continues Scott's desire to recast himself as a dick in every single independent film he does. In a wonderful movie that Jason Sudeikis ruined last year, Sleeping with Other People, Scott played a disturbing and unfaithful doctor. If he were six inches taller, you get the feeling that Scott would be Richard Gere. But he's just not. Unfortunately, My Blind Brother finds absolutely nothing redeeming about Scott's character, I guess so you don't feel bad that Rose is cheating on him with Nick Kroll.

In one memorable scene, Rose and Bill are having sex on the couch when Robbie walks in full of excitement. He apologizes to both of them for how he has been acting that day, and they slowly put on their clothes. Robbie seems for a moment to catch the scent of sex on the air — how could he not? — but perhaps he prefers to put his suspicions aside. A blind man must make accommodations for the people in his life.

After thinking about it for awhile, My Blind Brother is not very revealing about what it is like to be blind. Despite his lack of sight, Robbie drives a car around in several very dangerous scenes. Somehow he also punches men in the face and knows exactly where Rose's head is when he wants to kiss it. By the end of the film, you are not entirely sure whether he was blind at any point.

Rose's friend Francine (Zoe Kazan) naturally sympathizes with the blind character. Rose tries to get her involved with Bill in order to simplify this messy situation. He is wonderful with Francine, and she takes a liking to him as well. Unfortunately, Francine is only part Jewish, and this is not a very prominent part.

My Blind Brother is not very sensitive to the feelings of any of these people. The film features many prolonged segments where Nick Kroll explains to Jenny Slate how deeply in love she is with him and how they are destined to be together. What exactly does this phenomenal pseudo-couple have in common? Nothing really — it's like this problem where two funny people meet. They think they should be together, because they have such a great time. And why wouldn't they? They're both hilarious.

Unfortunately, the quality of jokes you can make in someone's presence has very little to do with compatibility. My Blind Brother could easily have focused on physical comedy considering the circumstances, but instead director Sophie Goodhart opts for a more mopey, serious vibe. The resulting film is pleasant if a bit slight when it could take on more dramatic weight.

But perhaps that was the right choice: comedians are terrible together. Even the chemistry Slate and Kroll developed during their reality show parodies on Comedy Central's Kroll Show can't save the lack of romance here. Watching them rub their bodies against each other is like watching a woman cuddle with her best gay friend.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Thursday
Sep222016

In Which The Only People Concerned Know Nothing

Bad People

by ETHAN PETERSON

The Good Place
creator Michael Schur
NBC

There is a moment in NBC's new sitcom The Good Place where Ted Danson lists a bunch of things which are good and bad, and the numerical positive or negative value he has assigned to each. The first positive thing he shows is "eating a sandwich" and the first negative thing he shows is "buys a trashy magazine." That is the initial troubling sign that the people behind The Good Place have as little idea what it means to be a good person as the show's central character, Eleanor (Kristen Bell).

Kristen Bell is undoubtedly a good person, since you would have to be extremely virtuous to marry or even have sex once with Dax Shepard. (His face looks like the protagonist of Ratatouille.) Then she brought joy to so many young people by voicing that girl in Frozen who was absolutely boy crazy until her sexuality was thawed by leaving the chaste castle in which her parents kept her.

Maybe the creators of The Good Place could have just asked Kristen Bell what it means to be good. Everyone in this version of heaven has dedicated their lives to helping others, except for her soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper). Chidi speaks French, although it is translated as English to Eleanor since she does not understand the French language. Chidi was a professor of ethics and moral philosophy, although evidently he was so terrible at academia that he has to remind himself of the basics by reading Kant:

The idea of training Eleanor to be good is repulsive to Chidi, which I suppose also makes him a sort of bad person. Even though Eleanor is the only white person except for a pair of homosexuals who, somewhat inappropriately, enjoy picking up trash (this was not thought out well), she never makes notice of it. Her soulmate is from Senegal, her next-door neighbors are from different parts of Asia and Europe, and Ted Danson is really the only other genuinely white person there. 

The Good Place becomes a weird hymn to white privilege, since Eleanor is transported to these environs without any actual virtue: so it must just be because of her skin color, and maybe her general complexion and appeal. Bell's handsome looks are no longer childlike, and she has become very expressive and soulful as she matures into her thirties. So far, few of her acting opportunities have utilized this new dimension, and The Good Place mainly writes jokes for her that revolve around her not being able to curse.

Sometimes we flash back to Eleanor's live in Phoenix, Arizona. You see, Hollywood writers look down on Arizona because it is nearby and thus an easy target. In Phoenix, Eleanor sold a nasal product that was composed of chalk, even though the FDA would never allow such a thing. This makes Eleanor's real life just as fanciful as her afterlife — it is a clue that you should not think about The Good Place too seriously. Creator Michael Schur emphasizes this when he recently stated in an interview that he started researching religion but gave up because it was too hard and cut into his golf time.

It is not enough that people like Schur not believe in God or any religious concepts: they cannot even be bothered to find out where they come for. Just as valid, they think, is whatever concept for the afterlife that come up with offhand during a pitch meeting. Well, atheists should be allowed their ideas too: what Schur and company have up with is basically hell — an unfunny mess of cliches, jokes stolen from Albert Brooks and physical comedy involving Ted Danson licking the sweat from his armpits. Who would willingly watch such a thing?

The aspect of The Good Place that is most insulting to its viewers is that it has no conception of how racist its ideas even are. The ethnic characters that surround Kristen Bell's Eleanor have no agency or will of their own: they simply exist to make her feel worse or better as the episode demands. The only time these empty shells ever show the slightest bit of agency is when Tahani (Jameela Jamil) decides that she and her Buddhist husband should try to cheer Ted Danson up. Why would he be sad? Danson has more hair now that he did twenty years ago.

Even Bell is afforded nothing but a basic perplexity. She becomes unsympathetic so quickly — she has no other function except to drink and enjoy her time in this new world. She is essentially uncurious and she avoids love or caring as if it these emotions were anathema to her new existence. She and her neighbors cannot be destroyed or harmed by anything in this new place, and yet they run around screaming when they see a group of giraffes stampeding down their streets. The only thing worse than a bad deed is a bad idea.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Wednesday
Sep212016

In Which We Lasted A Whole Lot Longer Than You Did

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.

Hi,

My wife and I have been friends with another couple, who I will call Jean and Greg, for a few years. We all enjoy spending time together. My wife recently told me that Jean has informed her the two are having some problems and Jean met someone else. Jean is unsure whether to leave Greg or cut this other guy out of her life.

After talking to Greg casually about the issue and offering my ear if he wanted it, he opened up to me. It's obvious he has no idea what is actually going on and only knows what Jean told him. I want to tell Greg the truth, since I am not a very good liar. Also, if he finds out later on that I knew, I fear losing him as a friend.

My wife isn't going to care what I do either way, and I feel more loyal to Greg in this situation. I know getting involved could mean we lose Jean and Greg as friends, but I think that might be worth the trouble. What should I do?

Max B.

Max,

It is possibly, but not likely, than you know everything about the life that Jean and Greg had. We often make the mistake of thinking we know what is going on in a relationship, but it is very, very easy to mistake the symptom for a cause.

I had a friend whose girlfriend was frequently quite mean to him in public. Many people commented about how she acted, but it turned out that my "friend" was actually quite disgusting to her in private. Did this justify her behavior? Absolutely.

It is also completely in the realm of possibility that Greg knows about this other guy, but he is hiding it from you to save face. Or maybe it is not just of any concern to him, since he knows that the real problems in his relationship aren't going to be solved by eliminating a rival.

Even if you tell Greg the truth, he is probably going to hate you for it. If you really want to retain him as a friend, lie and tell him you knew nothing about it when the time comes.

Hi,

I have been with my girlfriend Nancy for the past four years. We have shared a lot together, and helped each other through so much, and I truly love and respect her as my partner and a human being.

Nancy was married before so it's not something she has a great deal of interest in at this time. We do live together and share expenses. She recently broached the concept of having children. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I did not want to have kids if we were not going to get married. Then I wasn't even sure if I wanted that.

I don't know if my doubts about the relationship now are just because Nancy's idea about children made me think of things in a new light, or perhaps I am just getting committment jitters. I don't know how to interpret what I am going through. I love Nancy, but I also don't like the idea of never being with anyone else.

Armin P.

Dear Armin,

You realized that having children with Nancy means that it would be very difficult to bail out of the relationship later on.

If you wanted all these things with her, you would know it. You would be building a crib and convincing her to marry you. There is no woman who is in that kind of love who would really resist marriage if it were put to her in a correct way. It was a happy thing for you that she was not super-pushy about the future, since you did not actually envision a future with her.

Four years is a long time, but it could be a lot worse. Nancy could have adopted a whole legion of children, stopped doing whatever it was to your butt you enjoyed so much a decade ago, filed for divorce, and found out about your affair with Marion Cotillard.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.