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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
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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In Which They Must Eat Sardines

What Are We Looking For If Not to Please?

by Molly Young

The men at the next table are talking politics. "Nixon got elected because his head was so big," one of them says. Starbucks has emptied out and each occupied table makes a conspicuous contribution to the ambient noise.

This is how I hear the couple next to me speaking Portuguese. A man and a woman, each partner picking up exactly where the other left off so there is no pause in conversation.

The two are short and dark, with the butter-dense volume of moneyed Europeans. Like Picasso. Thick and virile, even the women. They must eat a lot of sardines.


picasso & his wife

Anyhow. The woman is lovely.

She acts as though she’s young and beautiful, even though she’s not. It’s a kind of confidence that makes Americans resentful of Europeans. For them, I guess, looks are incidental to attractiveness. I’m generalizing here.


birkin, gardner

This is what I am thinking as I watch the Portuguese couple. They have drinks but barely touch them, and this strikes me as another important distinction between Them and Us. When Americans buy drinks, we drink them fast. My cup has been empty since I got here. I drank it quickly in order to finish it before I realized that I wanted something else.


dora maar au chat

This, incidentally, is one of the reasons Americans love buffets. Because we think that satisfying an appetite is about having a lot of choices. Ditto malls. These things prey on the anxiety that if you don’t get to see everything you’ll miss out.

But then, of course, that anxiety doesn’t go away even after you’ve seen everything. Instead you wind up feeling anxious AND glutted – a horrible combo.


alt, casta

The Portuguese couple finish their drinks and get up to leave, still talking. The man takes his wife’s cup and throws it away for her. They amble out the door and I return to my Starbucks brochure that I found near the Splenda, and which I am reading because I forgot my book. It tells me that Starbucks offers up to 87,000 different drink combinations, and at the same time I read this someone orders a raspberry hot chocolate with gusto.

Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. Her website is Magic Molly, and you can read her past work on TR here, here, here, here, here, and here.

"Until We Bleed" - Kleerup ft. Lykke Li (mp3)

"Chords" - Kleerup (mp3)


Personal ads are a tough business.

Absolutely the greatest Craigslist post ever.

Tess had a Carrie Bradshaw moment.


julio pomar


In Which Door to Door We See If They Can Win This One

Drive for Change

by Maria Diaz

You see in the time leading up to this coming election for president, you are going to meet somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 white girls telling you that you should vote for Obama for president.

Alex wrote that awhile ago, and I can confirm it's a number which is almost entirely accurate. I'd like to add the following to: you'll also meet abut 50 former hippies who drive hybrid SUVs, about 500 thin, passive white men who graduated from liberal arts colleges, and a few lesbian couples. Oh, and one Dominican girl who sounds like a white girl. That'd be me.

I went to Reno, where I canvassed for Obama, or "drove for change." Or rather, sat in the passenger seat of a really old BMW and knocked on doors for change. I'd never been to Reno before, and as a person who enjoys eating meat and looking at flashy lights, I loved it.

As if they knew an annoying San Francisco resident was coming with a cheap digital camera, a laptop and a Moleskine, that same weekend was also the Reno Street Vibrations festival. The bikers there were not the manorexic dudes you fantasize about when they come to your office to drop off packages, but bikers that are in actual gangs and roam in packs wearing jackets with their gang's name.

The first night, I played nickel slots and watched a cover band play in the hotel bar of the Sands Regency Hotel with about 100 dancing biker women. After the required AC/DC and Skynyrd covers, the band asked : "There any Nickelback fans here!?", and the crowd roared back. And off they went into a rendition of "This Is How You Remind Me." I ordered another whiskey and ginger ale and switched to playing the eBay penny slots, a huge rip off which I can't recommend.

The next morning, while walking around downtown Reno in desperate search of coffee that didn't taste like poison, I spotted an enormous McCain/Palin sign. Two doors down is the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. One for passive aggressive notes? You decide.

Spotted outside the Sands Regency: a MoveOn.org canvasser, competition! I wanted to challenge him to a fight, I looked him dead in the eye and he just smiled and asked the biker standing behind me if he wanted to register. The biker declined. He didn't ask me if I needed to register. I wonder if the Obama/Biden sticker on my notebook can be picked up through his Moveon.org x-ray vision (it is a power they are assigned, along with the ability to send 1 million mass emails a day).

One person we talked to told us that she was also hit up by McCain/Palin canvassers. I signed up for McCain's site (McCainSpace!) under a fake Gmail address to see if I could find out more. You have to apply for their program, where you can be a "McCain Maverick" or a "McCain marshal." My profile on McCain space has yet to be approved, but I have been receiving messages from Sarah Palin. I keep reporting her to spam.

Annoyingly, this election will be decided by the undecideds. By the people who will wake up on November 4th and decide they didn't like how Obama looked during a rally on TV. Or by people who aren't educated in one way or another, who think that by voting for "the hot chick", the hot chick will sleep with them (are these the same people inspired to drink shitty beer by watching Bud Light commercials or who actually purchase Axe Body Spray?). who perhaps were rejected by Harvard Law. When we asked them, what is the most important issue, most people couldn't name it.

I think the reality is that most people are decided, they are just ashamed and can't trust their own feelings. Case in point: the couple who tells us they are undecided, but the minute we close the door, yell out so we can hear them: "We're voting for McCain! YAY MCCAIN!!!"

There are a lot of bikers in the sub development we visit and most of them aren't home because of the bike festival. One biker answers the door and towers over us, two stereotypes of blue state liberals there ever was: unpolished, messy hair, dark rimmed glasses, dark tshirts. We are terrified as he tells us that everyone in his house has made up their mind. He says: "We're all voting for Obama." We breath a huge sigh of relief and thank him for his time.

Only one door got slammed in our face out of about 100 doors knocked. I knew it was coming when I saw the multiple pick up trucks in the garage.

My favorite people to talk to are the old lady Democrats, the 90 year olds who slowly answer their door in full makeup. They do not hesitate to tell us they're voting for Obama. They like him, they say. And besides, they tell us, McCain is too old.

The next day, while playing nickel slots, waiting for my ride and enjoying a lunch time cocktail, I spot one of our McCain voters, also at the nickel slots. We're all the same, united by a love of throwing our money into a toilet. Or a machine with flashing 7's, all in a row.

Maria Diaz is a contibutor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here.

portrait of the author

"Mr. Universe" - Aqualung (mp3)

"Good Goodnight" - Aqualung (mp3)

"Can't Get You Out of My Mind" - Aqualung (mp3)

"On My Knees" - Aqualung (mp3)


Josh experiences the fun of bun.

Stalking becomes so easy it’s barely worth the effort.

The truth about the sexes.


In Which We Are Not The Same, I Am A Martian

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite blog is besides my own and I say "Joe Blog." I don't always feel like explaining that Joe Blog is not the work of anyone named Joe (that would be my other favorite Joe Blog, Bitten Tongue), but rather one Elizabeth Czyzewski. You know Liz as the girl with the awesome Weezy lip tattoo from the bad tattoos post. Joe Blog is all the things a good blog should be: informative, concise, and entertaining. I talked Liz into guest posting. She's chosen The Carter as her inaugural subject. Not Lil' Wayne, the other Carter. - ML

Jimmy Carter

by Elizabeth Czyzewski

Some people say that Jimmy Carter was the worst president. I insist that he's an excellent guy and one of the most genuine, caring, well-intended people that ever walked this well-trodden earth. To be quite honest, I don't know that much about the Carter administration.

When I make the claims I just made, I base them on Jimmy Carter and energy, so let me clarify that when I say he was a good guy, I am only looking at a small part of his presidency. If I could pick 3 people to lunch with, I'd choose Jimmy Carter and 2 others.

. 39th President of the United States of America (1977-1981)

. Carter established the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

. Speaking in relation to the latter, Carter passed a national energy policy that included strict conservation measures (for one) with the end goal being energy independence by 1985.

. From 1977 to 1982, foreign imports decreased by 50%, which brings me to a reason Jimmy Carter was great (though I can see why he may have been unpopular to some).

. Conservation learned in the late 70s and following the 1973 oil embargo led to a decreased demand.

. When the oil was turned back on following the 1979 crisis, anticipated demand exceeded actual demand. More oil flooded the market than was needed and so prices dropped. Good for the consumer.

. However, people say that cheap prices in the 80s discouraged domestic exploration (it was uneconomical) and development of renewables (we had enough oil and why pursue something worthwhile if there's no real, immediate crisis?). Bad for the oil industry (and the future).

. Jimmy Carter advocated increased coal usage, as we had an abundance of coal and CO2 was not yet realized as an issue. Bad news, but...he had the best intentions.

. Carter installed solar panels on the White House roof (Reagan removed them), urged Americans to turn down their thermostats, wore cardigan sweaters and, some may say he "ruined Christmas" with this last one, he asked that Christmas lights not be turned on in 1979 and 1980 in order to save electricity.

. Let me deviate from my traditional form of bullet-pointed facts and offer a paragraph that is an opinion based on observation.

This afternoon, I watched 4 Jimmy Carter videos and listened to 1 audio recording of a speech. Jimmy Carter really wanted to work with the people. Jimmy Carter admitted that he might make mistakes. Jimmy Carter truly believed in America and its power to change. I know all this stuff sounds pretty stupid, but it's true.

I'm as genuine as Jimmy Carter when I say that Jimmy Carter was a top notch guy and cared about the greater good. You can tell and if you can't, let the fact that Jimmy Carter and his wife founded a non-profit organization for human rights (The Carter Center) convince you.

. He is the second oldest living president (beat by George Bush).

. Carter was the first president to have been born in a hospital.

. He loved to read.

. At age 13, Carter owned a dog named Bozo.

. He played basketball. He was a "star player."

. Only President to have graduated from the Naval Academy - Carter.

. He was involved in a peanut farming accident and was left with a permanently bent finger.

. As Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter was the first to call publicly for an end to racial segregation.

. In 1969, Carter submitted a UFO sighting to the International UFO Bureau but last year, when questioned about the submission, Carter claimed that he did not remember why he filed it and guessed it was probably "at the request of" one of his children and was some sort of military object.

. His brother, Billy Carter, was real trouble: he peed on an airport runway in front of press and dignitaries and developed this image of being a beer-drinking Southern boy and endorsed Billy Beer.

. Last but not least, Carter is a Nobel Peace Prize winner (2002) because of his involvement with the Carter (III) Center.

I'll leave it at that and leave you with the picture below (taken in 2008). I said it once before about someone different and I'll say it again regarding Jimmy Carter (below): "What a spry old man."


President - Lil' Wayne ft. Currency: (mp3)

Black Republicans - Lil' Wayne ft. Juelz Santana: (mp3)

Get High, Rule Tha World - Lil' Wayne: (mp3)

La La La - Lil' Wayne: (mp3)

Let The Beat Build - Lil' Wayne: (mp3)

Money Pussy Weed - Lil' Wayne: (mp3)

Sky Is The Limit - Lil' Wayne: (mp3)

I Can't Feel My Face - Lil' Wayne: (mp3)

Elizabeth Czyzewski is a film editor living in Los Angeles.
This is her first contribution to This Recording.


In Which Sarah Palin Is Too Weird To Live And Too Rare To Die

Take A Page From the Hunter S. Thompson Playbook

by Alex Carnevale

A friend of mine bought me a Rolling Stone subscription as a gift last year. I quickly discovered that the magazine was better utilized as a coaster. The only real use I've gotten out of it is the time I took the Obama cover and put it on my little brother's face while he was sleeping, so that when he woke up, he was kissing BO.

So it has come to this: all it takes is a woman murdering a moose in cold blood to create a more exciting alternative to the Democratic Party? Is that really enough to turn a candidate who watches The Wire into John Kerry? We want caricatures as our leaders, argued Hunter S. Thompson, and so he made them.

Hunter's overblown style eliminated his main weakness as a writer - a lack of nuance, and made for all-in-fun re-fashionings of the American political scene. Still, he took elections seriously.

We are currently headed for one of the more polarized elections in our history, with McCain leading in North Carolina by twenty points. This divide is largely cultural, as the two major candidates agree on 90 percent of the issues, and their disagreements on the rest are minimal.

It was that cultural divide that HST played on, smoking weed with Jann Wenner and dropping acid with friends real and imaginary. And yet Hunter's counter-culture was distinctive for including an American machismo: he titled his suicide note 'Football Season Is Over' partly because he loved the NFL so much. This is a problem for every cultural critic - he is a permanent, inescapable part of what he loathes in his criticism. (See Steinem, Gloria and folks like Christopher Hitchens, Robert Downey Jr. and Bryan Singer who became what they loathed.)

There's always some noise about "what if so and so were alive today?" And to be fair, Hunter's writing on Bush hardly ranks as memorable. But it is just as sure that the Democratic Party needs him now. When Kerry laid down and got eaten alive by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Obama and Biden are trying to prove they've learned that passivity need not be a Democratic calling card. Practically, however, it's resulted into Biden slamming Sarah's down syndrome baby. That's just not the kind of change we need.

So consider taking a page out of Hunter's playbook. In the following essay, taken from his classic Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, he starts a rumor that Ed Muskie, George McGovern's opponent in the 1972 Democratic Primary, was an Ibogaine addict, and that Hubert Humphrey was addicted to speed. Perhaps Andrea Mitchell could suggest that Palin is a salvia fiend. To wit:

from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

by Hunter S. Thompson

Not much has been written about The Ibogaine Effect as a serious factor in the Presidential Campaign, but toward the end of the Wisconsin primary race -- about a week before the vote -- word leaked out that some of Muskie's top advisors had called in a Brazilian doctor who was said to be treating the candidate with "some kind of strange drug" that nobody in the press corps had ever heard of.

It had been common knowledge for many weeks that Humphrey was using an exotic brand of speed known as Wallot . . . and it had long been whispered that Muskie was into something very heavy, but it was hard to take the talk seriously until I heard about the appearance of a mysterious Brazilian doctor. That was the key.

I immediately recognized The Ibogaine Effect - from Muskie's tearful breakdown on the flatbed truck in New Hampshire, the delusions and altered thinking that characterized his campaign in Florida, and finally the condition of "total rage" that gripped him in Wisconsin.

There was no doubt about it: The Man from Maine had turned to massive doses of Ibogaine as a last resort. The only remaining question was "when did he start?" But nobody could answer this one, and I was not able to press the candidate himself for an answer because I was permanently barred from the Muskie campaign after that incident on the "Sunshine Special" in Florida . . . and that scene makes far more sense now than it did at the time. Muskie has always taken pride in his ability to deal with hecklers; he has frequently challenged them, calling them up to the stage in front of big crowds and then forcing the poor bastards to debate with him in a blaze of TV lights.

hunter's wife Anita and her blog

But there was none of that in Florida. When the Boohoo began grabbing at his legs and screaming for more gin, Big Ed went all to pieces . . . which gave rise to speculation. among reporters familiar with his campaign style in '68 and '70, that Muskie was not himself. It was noted, among other things, that he had developed a tendency to roll his eyes wildly during TV interviews, that his thought patterns had become strangely fragmented, and that not even his closest advisors could predict when he might suddenly spiral off into babbling rages, or neocomatose funks.

hunter and jann wenner

In restrospect, however, it is easy to see why Muskie fell apart on that caboose platform in the Miami train station. There he was - far gone in a bad Ibogaine frenzy - suddenly shoved out in a rainstorm to face a sullen crowd and some kind of snarling lunatic going for his legs while he tried to explain why he was "the only Democrat who can beat Nixon."

It is entirely conceivable -- given the known effects of Ibogaine -- that Muskie's brain was almost paralyzed by hallucinations at the time; that he looked out at that crowd and saw gila monsters instead of people, and that his mind snapped completely when he felt something large and apparently vicious clawing at his legs. We can only speculate on this, because those in a position to know have flatly refused to comment on rumors concerning the Senator's disastrous experiments with Ibogaine. I tried to find the Brazilian doctor on election Bight in Milwaukee, but by the time the polls closed he was long gone. One of the hired bimbos in Milwaukee's Holiday Inn headquarters said a man with fresh welts on his head had been dragged out the side door and put on a bus to Chicago, but we were never able to confirm this. . . .

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself in 2005.

A Rapture Hard To Recapture

by Christopher Hitchens

In early August of 1990 I went to Aspen, Colo., to cover what looked as if it would be a rather banal summit involving Margaret Thatcher and George Bush. (The meeting was to be enlivened by the announcement of the forcible annexation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, who would go on to trouble our tranquility for another 13 years.) While the banal bit was still going on, the city invited the visiting press hacks for a cocktail reception at the top of an imposing mountain. Stepping off the ski lift, I was met by immaculate specimens of young American womanhood, holding silver trays and flashing perfect dentition. What would I like? I thought a gin and tonic would meet the case. "Sir, that would be inappropriate." In what respect? "At this altitude gin would be very much more toxic than at ground level." In that case, I said, make it a double.

The very slight contraction of the freeze-frame smile made it plain that I was wasting my time: It was the early days of the brave new America that knew what was best for you.

Spurning the chardonnay and stepping straight back onto the ski lift, I was soon back in town and then, after a short drive, making a turn opposite the Woody Creek Inn (easily spotted by the pig on its roof). And there, at the very fringe of habitation, was Owl Farm and its genial proprietor, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

Once inside these well-armed precincts, I could drink and smoke and ingest any damn thing I liked. I finished a fairly long evening by doing some friendly target-practice, with laser-guided high-velocity rifles, in the company of my host. An empty bottle didn't stand any more of a chance outside than a full one would have had within. It was vertiginous, for me, to be able to move from one America to another, in point of time and also of place, so rapidly.

It had been in 1970 that Thompson first ran for local office in Aspen, and stood against the wave of bourgeoisification that would soon make it a place where the locals could no longer afford to live. Local police officials tried to harass him in numberless ways, only to find that they were dealing not with some hippie or freak, but with one of the charter members of the Colorado National Rifle Association.

Thompson was to pursue this feud, with absolutely Corsican persistence, for many decades. If he had done nothing else, he might be remembered as a village Hampden, or a minuteman of the Rockies.

But, as Carey McWilliams of The Nation had recognized a long time before, Hunter was more than just a "character." His proposal to write about the Hell's Angels for the magazine, once accepted, was more than a brilliant piece of observant and participant journalism. It helped to curtain-raise the '60s, and perhaps most especially the hectic excess of that decade in California.

Keen as he was on the herbivorous and antimilitarist side of that moment, Thompson wasn't at all blind to the noir aspect, and helped prepare readers for the Manson and Altamont dimension. He'd been in this mood since at least November 22, 1963, when he first employed the words "fear and loathing" to express the way he felt about whomever it was who had murdered the president.


"The only things I've ever been arrested for," said Hunter in one late interview, "were things I didn't do." It would take a very long article to describe all the deeds for which he could have been indicted, and all the days and nights when he could well have ended up dead. I hope that it isn't true that he became depressed and miserable about the pain and immobility of a broken leg, and that the only lethal crime he ever committed was against himself in a dark hour, but the thing seems depressingly plausible, and there would always have been a firearm, and ammo, within easy reach.

I'm not that crazy about the gonzo school, or any other version of the new journalism either, but Thompson's signature style was not always, or not entirely, about faxing unedited notes or having his life insurance cancelled by Jann Wenner. He was, above all, a highly polished hater, and could fuel himself as well as ignite others with his sheer contempt for Richard Nixon and all that he stood for.

This involved, for some years, a life where there was almost no distance between belief and action. And it is why his 1972 book on the campaign trail holds up so well. But even then he knew, as he was to keep repeating, that "the wave" of the insurgent '60s— "a fantastic, universal sense that whatever we were doing was right: that we were winning"—was a wave that had not only "broken" but had "rolled back."

This was a rapture that was hard to recapture. In Wayne Ewing's oddly effective movie, Breakfast with Hunter, it is possible to detect the sensation of diminishing returns. The old enrage doesn't really look that comfortable as he is card-indexed by the historian Douglas Brinkley (who edited his collected letters, for Chrissake) or venerated as an icon by George Plimpton.

He doesn't even seem all that keen on being played by Johnny Depp in the celluloid version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He's fine when hanging out with Warren Zevon, but he appears a bit lost when he's discharging fire extinguishers, or hurling blown-up fuck-dolls around the scenery, as if this sort of thing was expected of him. "He was never one to hang around when it was time to go," a mutual friend e-mailed me on Monday. The realization that this might have occurred to him before it occurred to us is a very melancholy one.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.

awesome hunter paraphrenalia site

he writes on two levels

Christopher Buckley:

One of the things that made Thompson an ''outlaw'' hero to this reviewer's generation was the demonic zest of his invective and contumely. The DNA of Thompson's adjectival lexicon is made up of the following, often in sequence: ''vicious,'' ''rancid,'' ''savage,'' ''fiendish,'' ''filthy,'' ''rotten,'' ''demented,'' ''treacherous,'' ''heinous,'' ''scurvy,'' ''devious,'' ''grisly,'' ''hamwit,'' ''filthy,'' ''foetid,'' ''cheapjack'' and ''hellish.'' Favorite gerunds and other verb forms of abuse include ''festering,'' ''stinking,'' ''crazed,'' ''deranged,'' ''soul-ripping,'' ''drooling,'' ''rabbit-punching'' and ''knee-crawling,'' to say nothing of even more piquant expressions

Joe Klein on Hunter

Rich Cohen and Hunter

The NYT accounting of the weird funeral

He died alone, writes David Carr

rare early short story by Hunter


young hunter

No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun—for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax—This won't hurt.

from their classic 2005 album, Set Free

"She's Half (demo)" - The American Analog Set (mp3)

"Sharp Briar (demo)" - The American Analog Set (mp3)

the history of the American Analog Set


Harris Feinsod on the famous Chighur haircut.

Alex is not a fan of modern Westerns.

No Country For Pwned Men.


In Which The Best Speeches In History Inform Our Present Moment

The Ten Best Political Speeches of All Time


The art of oratory is in a strange place, as John McWhorter pointed out in a recent article in The New Republic. The shift that has taken place has been driven by technological change:

Part of the difference between our era and earlier times is technology. Speakers in the early twentieth century and before had to get their message across in large spaces without microphones. ...They were experienced by most from a distance, forced to speak precisely and use broad gestures. Today's speakers can use their natural voices, and, as often as not, their faces are shown on large screens as they speak. The old-style grandiloquence would seem affected and insincere.

The best political speeches of the last couple hundred years have been driven by a healthy mix of "old-style grandiloquence" and the everyday language that has now permeated most aspects of American life.

Never known for his oratorical skill, John McCain has made few stirring speeches in his lifetime before a national audience. It's unlikely that he will aim for any kind of transcendent moment - his campaign van is called the Straight Talk Express, and the more capable speaker Barack Obama avoided flowery language at all costs in his address in Denver. Here's our list of the top ten speeches of all time and how they can help Obama and McCain.

10. Barbara Jordan's Address to the 1976 Democratic National Convention (mp3)

Our favorite lesbian Democrat was born in the wrong generation. President Clinton loved the hell out of this woman and if she was younger and her health had been better, she might have been the Madeleine Albright of his administration.

Jordan's keynote was a moving, energetic address. For me, it does the best job of going past party lines to endear the audience to the speaker, while still being unabashedly partisan. If you did not like Barbara Jordan after this speech, you were crazy.

If we promise as public officials, we must deliver. If we as public officials propose, we must produce. If we say to the American people it is time for you to be sacrificial; sacrifice. If the public official says that, we (public officials) must be the first to give. We must be. And again, if we make mistakes, we must be willing to admit them.

We have to do that. What we have to do is strike a balance between the idea , the belief, that government ought to do nothing, and the idea that the government ought to do everything.

9. Ronald Reagan after the Challenger exploded (mp3)

This short address to the nation after the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after its launch is one of the great short addresses by a president to the nation. There's a reason Peggy Noonan has prime column space in the Wall Street Journal: she was one of the greatest presidential speechwriters in history. Her poignant, mannered, soulful speech for Reagan after the Challenger tragedy was a masterpiece of rhetoric. If you had to go over the top, you needed Peggy. The speech has a famous ending, but I love the structure of this part:

And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

As a devout Catholic, Peggy never banged on the first date, but she must had given you a hell of a time anyway. Here her faith and her love of flowery language hold up well. Masterfully done is the transition from natural language to heightened, metaphorical language. McCain should try it on for size - he's never been an inspirational figure like his counterpart (and perhaps that works in his favor with some) but a larger appeal to the nation at large wouldn't surprise me tonight.

8. Barack Obama's Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention (mp3)

if you look at the amazing focus group C-Span aired on Sunday by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, you'll see that despite the fact that Barack Obama has been a public figure since his 2004 epic speech at the Democratic National Convention, his speaking ability has never been in question. Since that fundamentally wasn't the reaction to his debut on the political scene, I think we can now agree that there's such thing as being too good of a speaker.

Both President Bushes milked this phenomenon for all it was worth, constantly pointing out that while giving speeches wasn't their strong suit, they had other strengths. Barack seems to have learned that people don't want to vote for someone they think is smarter than them.

That's why this speech was so effective. Instead of bragging about how his mother taught him to picture himself in another person's shoes, implying he's the most empathetic creature to walk the earth, Barack talked about where he came from and who he is. He needs to get back to that, stat. We don't disagree that Barack is empathetic, we just don't think swing voters care that he feels their pain. This speech had a different tone:

Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.

I think this was the moment when a lot of people made up their minds about the kind of person Barack is.

7. Winston Churchill, We shall fight them on the beaches (mp3)

When it comes to rah-rah, there was none better.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

young winston

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.

Winston always knew just what to say - check out his address at Harrow School. This kind of energy is more suited to John McCain. Churchill is a great model for him, even down to the level of the line.

6. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (mp3)

This magnificent speech couldn't be given today, but it's still an amazing piece of rhetorical skill. Honestly sometimes it's like Lincoln just pumped out a really hot blog the night before and then read it as his speech and everyone was like, "YOU BLOG AWESOME LINC!" I highly recommend John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, it is great.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Lincoln got stirring tributes at both conventions this year. He's a fascinating figure: depressed, sick, possibly gay. It's pretty much like if Proust had become president. I think eventually we will find a solid literary politician. In the meantime, Obama (who once considered becoming a novelist) is going to have to do.

5. Malcolm X, "The Ballot and the Bullet" (mp3)

One of the great memoirists of all time was also an extremely moving orator. Besides the obvious strengths of this speech, no one was better at knowing what to say to a specific type of person than Malcolm. It's natural that no one is too keen on comparing Barack with Malcolm. But they do share some qualities, including a way of speaking. Despite giving his DNC address on the anniversary of King's famous speech, Obama has more in common with X's oratory than King's.

The title of the speech is an echo of a Frederick Douglass essay, the kind of historical reference point that would go a long way for both candidates.

king and x

X's autobiography is on another level from most political books. It is taught in schools everywhere: the book is a moving and disturbing look at growing up in America. Like "The Ballot and the Bullet," it accomplishes that rare feat of appearing to be totally honest while manipulating the reader at the same time:

Well, I am one who doesn't believe in deluding myself. I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn't need any legislation; you wouldn't need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn't be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don't have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American.

No, I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy.

So, I'm not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I. I'm speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.

This is the opposite of an appeal. An appeal can be turned down, dismissed. A proclamation must stand and be heard. I think Obama accomplished this in his speech - tonight we'll see if McCain can do the same in his.


4. Mario Cuomo, Address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention (mp3)

At a convention where the Democrats were already doomed, Mario Cuomo's task was to lay out the critique of the Reagan years that the Democratic Party still offers today.

Maybe, maybe, Mr. President, if you visited some more places; maybe if you went to Appalachia where some people still live in sheds; maybe if you went to Lackawanna where thousands of unemployed steel workers wonder why we subsidized foreign steel. Maybe - Maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago and spoke to some of the homeless there; maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn't afford to use.

Maybe - Maybe, Mr. President. But I'm afraid not. Because the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from the very beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. "Government can't do everything," we were told, so it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer, and what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.

Although my own views on American politics have changed dramatically since I put a picture of Cuomo and the above quote from this speech on my wall in 1994 as an 11 year old, the impact of this speech is felt constantly. While the original perfected the art of the vague anecdote, the gesture is way overdone today.


Every time I hear Obama or McCain reference a vague anecdote as a premise for policy ("I met a woman in Iowa...") I secretly blame Cuomo. Bush and Clinton did this all the time as well. It's become a political staple, but it could be easily reinvented or subverted by a clever speaker.


3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (mp3)

The entire FDR presidency reminds us of the John McCain campaign. The brilliance of political operatives is paramount in both cases. The men running the McCain campaign have solved the image problem that FDR had by using an exciting woman, while the men running the FDR campaign just used trick photography and the wink-wink of the media.

FDR is awesome to listen to on the radio. He had the perfect voice for headphones, and his voice makes thoughts simple or complicated accessible to the audience. If you've visited the quote-heavy FDR Memorial in Washington, you know he had some of the classic lines in American history.

Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

2. Reverend King at the March on Washington (mp3)

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest - quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

What more can be said about this one? The only Reverend on this list, King's writings are compulsively readable, and the language never seems dated, probably because it channels religious verse rather than in spite of it. It will be fascinating to see if McCain references Christ or God in his speech. No one ever lost an election pandering to Christians.

1. Ronald Reagan's Speech at Point du Hoc (mp3)

John McCain's military career has been constantly highlighted during this convention, and Fred Thompson's long recounting of McCain's time as a POW was featured prominently on Tuesday night. Reagan wasn't much of a combat man himself (and neither was Noonan, the speech's principal writer).

reagan and daughter in the oval office

But instead of apologizing for that, he used it. He spoke from the position of most of us: the ones who owe a debt to those who served in wars. It was this refinement of where he was speaking from that made this speech so perfect:

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge - and pray God we have not lost it - that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

Reagan's unshakeability and moral certainty was a constant part of his appeal. When it comes to talking about our ongoing military scenarios in Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain will channel the moral certainty of his hero tonight. You can bet on that.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. Please tell me which speeches I missed in the comments plz.

peggy and her hero


"Kelly Watch the Stars (live on the BBC)" - Air (mp3)

"Window" - Guster (mp3)

"Miles Away" - Madonna (mp3)

jimmy carter and daughter amy

"The French Open" - Foals (mp3)

"Sad Robot" - Stars (mp3)

"The Youth (MMMatthias remix)" - MGMT (mp3)

gerald ford and daughter

"The Spirit of Giving" - The New Pornographers (mp3)

"Genesis (Chewy Chocolate Cookies remix)" - Justice (mp3)

"As the City Burned, We Trembled For We Saw the Makings of Its Undoings in Our Own..."  - The Ascent of Everest (mp3)


Michelle Obama, we hardly knew ye.

Dave Eggers really did it this time.

We made The L Word our betch.

reagan and nancy