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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Wednesday
Mar112009

In Which It's Not Gay Unless The Boobs Touch

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Lesbian Chics

by Molly Lambert

Just because The L Word is over doesn't mean you're at a loss for hot same-sex television pairings. Forget the endless seduction wankfest that is Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, it's all about the tender loving care made manifest by Blair and Serena.

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OMG CUTEFEST ON THE MET STEPS, AND NO BOYZ!!!

In the wake of so many bromosocial movies and sitcoms and fan-fiction about threesomes between Obama, Joe Biden, and Rahm Emmanuel, we have no choice but to champion an alternative sisterly kind of love. A deep feminine bond.

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If you're in the dark about "shipping" and what it means for a Big Love fan to "ship" Barb and Margene, you can learn up at Fan Secrets. Unless you'd rather just not know about the dark underbelly of the internet. It's a strange and deviant world.

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Blair: "sorry Chuck. I love you but I've chosen dykeness."

Kanye And The Real Girl

In a time when the economy is crumbling and heterosexual relationships are fraught with violence, who can be blamed for taking safe refuge in the (beautiful in totally different ways) bosoms of rich and fashionable fictional socialites.

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power lesbians Amber Rose and Pink planning a business lunch

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Kanye's girl got a (ex) girlfriend

Pretty sure Amber Rose's ex girl could take Kanye in a fight.

Perpetual belle of twitter John Mayer has a man-boner for Kanye, likes sex and he's good at it.

More pictures of Kanye and new girlfriend Amber Rose

channeling Lady Gaga and Archie Andrews

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Beyonce and Bey-Z, the ultimate in being a diva

Keri Hilson and a still mulleted Kanye reenact the androgynous Andrew McCarthy and Ally Sheedy sex scene from St. Elmo's Fire which we wrote about recently.

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Kelly Clarkson's new single "I Do Not Hook Up" is about eschewing casual sex in favor of a longer lasting emotional connection. It was written by Katy Perry, of last year's bisexual crossover hit "I Kissed A Girl."

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Which begs the question, can you be a bisexually curious prude? What does that entail? Lots and lots of scissoring? Third wave feminism is red pandas.

I'm a ninth wave feminist. What does that mean? You'll find out when you get here. Get on my level, womyn.

Other Gay Couples We Like:

Steve Buscemi and Paul Rudd (kute!!!)

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Jason Segel and Alex Carnevale's favorite actor Jack McBrayer

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Jason Segel and Paul Rudd do "Dracula's Lament"

Back in the dull heteronormative world, Emily Gould convinced me to resurrect my short-lived but remarkably successful (thank u Ed Westwick fans!) ladyporn venture Mrs. Skin, now with her contributions. So if you are a straight girl or gay dude or bisexual octopus person come check out our gallery of hot menfolk. Occasionally NSFW.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording

YOWWWWWW KELLY CLARKSON!

I Do Not Hook Up - Kelly Clarkson: (mp3)

Don't Let Me Stop You - Kelly Clarkson: (mp3)

Long Shot - Kelly Clarkson: (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING:

Scarlett Johansson ♥s Natalie Portman

The 9 Year Old Pickup Artist

Blair And Chuck And Devin The Dude 4 Eva

blakeleighton1

This Recording Is A Boston Marriage Between Equals

Monday
Mar092009

In Which We Have Had It With Those Little Versions of Ourselves

from an issue of Granta magazine in the mid-1990s

The Case Against Babies

by JOY WILLIAMS

Babies, babies, babies. There's a plague of babies. Too many rabbits or elephants or mustangs or swans brings out the myxomatosis, the culling guns, the sterility drugs, the scientific brigade of egg smashers. Other species can 'strain their environments' or 'overrun their range' or clash with their human 'neighbours', but human babies are always welcome at life's banquet. Welcome, Welcome, Welcome--Live Long and Consume! You can't draw the line when it comes to babies because . . . where are you going to draw the line?

Consider having none or one and be sure to stop after two the organization Zero Population Growth suggests politely. Can barely hear them what with all the babies squalling. Hundreds of them popping out every minute. Ninety-seven million of them each year. While legions of other biological life forms go extinct (or, in the creepy phrase of ecologists, 'wink out'), human life bustles self-importantly on. Those babies just keep coming! They've gone way beyond being 'God's gift'; they've become entitlements. Everyone's having babies, even women who can't have babies, particularly women who can't have babies--they're the ones who sweep fashionably along the corridors of consumerism with their double-wide strollers, stuffed with twins and triplets. (Women push those things with the effrontery of someone piloting a bulldozer, which strollers uncannily bring to mind.)

When you see twins or triplets do you think awahhh or owhoo or that's sort of cool, that's unusual, or do you think that woman dropped a wad on in vitro fertilization, twenty-five, thirty thousand dollars at least . . . ?

The human race hardly needs to be more fertile, but fertility clinics are booming. The new millionaires are the hot-shot fertility doctors who serve anxious gottahavababy women, techno-shamans who have become the most important aspect of the baby process, giving women what they want: BABIES. (It used to be a mystery what women wanted, but no more . . . Nietzsche was right . . . ) Ironically--though it is far from being the only irony in this baby craze--women think of themselves as being successful, personally fulfilled when they have a baby, even if it takes a battery of men in white smocks and lots of hormones and drugs and needles and dishes and mixing and inserting and implanting to make it so. Having a baby means individual completion for a woman. What do boys have to do to be men? Sleep with a woman. Kill something. Yes, killing something, some luckless deer, duck, bear, pretty much anything large-ish in the animal kingdom, or even another man, appropriate in times of war, has ushered many a lad into manhood. But what's a woman to do? She gets to want to have a baby.

While much effort has been expended in Third World countries educating women into a range of options which does not limit their role merely to bearing children, well-off, educated and indulged American women are clamouring for babies, babies, BABIES to complete their status. They've had it all and now they want a baby. And women over thirty-five want them NOW. They're the ones who opt for the aggressive fertility route, they're impatient, they're sick of being laissez-faire about this. Sex seems such a laborious way to go about it. At this point they don't want to endure all that intercourse over and over and maybe get no baby. What a waste of time! And time's awasting. A life with no child would be a life perfecting hedonism a forty-something infertile woman said, now the proud owner of pricey twins. Even women who have the grace to submit to fate can sound wistful. It's not so much that I wish that I had children now, a travel writer said, but that I wish I had had them. I hate to fail at anything. Women are supposed to wish and want and not fail. (Lesbians want to have babies too and when lesbians have babies watch out! They lay names on them like Wolf.)

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The eighties were a decade when it was kind of unusual to have a baby. Oh, the lower classes still had them with more or less gusto, but professionals did not. Having a baby was indeed so quaintly rebellious and remarkable that a publishing niche was developed for men writing about babies, their baby, their baby's first year in which every single day was recorded (he slept through the night . . . he didn't sleep through the night . . . ). The writers would marvel over the size of their infant's scrotum; give advice on how to tip the obstetrician (not a case of booze, a clock from Tiffany's is nicer); and bemusedly admit that their baby exhibited intelligent behaviour like rolling over, laughing and showing fascination with the TV screen far earlier than normal children. Aside from the talk about the poopie and the rashes and the cat's psychological decline, these books frequently contained a passage, an overheard bit of Mommy-to-Baby monologue along these lines: I love you so much I don't ever want you to have teeth or stand up or walk or go on dates or get married. I want you to stay right here with me and be my baby . . . Babies are one thing. Human beings are another. We have way too many human beings. Almost everyone knows this.

Adoption was an eighties thing. People flying to Chile, all over the globe, God knows where, returning triumphantly with their BABY. It was difficult, adventurous, expensive and generous. It was trendy then. People were into adopting bunches of babies in all different flavours and colours (Korean, Chinese, part-Indian--part-Indian was very popular; Guatemalan--Guatemalan babies are way cute). Adoption was a fad, just like the Cabbage Patch dolls which fed the fad to tens of thousands of pre-pubescent girl consumers.

Now it is absolutely necessary to digress for a moment and provide an account of this marketing phenomenon. These fatuous-faced soft-sculpture dolls were immensely popular in the eighties. The gimmick was that these dolls were 'born'; you couldn't just buy the damn things--if you wanted one you had to 'adopt' it. Today they are still being born and adopted, although at a slower rate, in Babyland General Hospital, a former medical clinic right on the fast-food and car-dealership strip in the otherwise unexceptional north Georgia town of Cleveland.

There are several rooms at Babyland General. One of them is devoted to the premies (all snug in their little gowns, each in its own spiffy incubator) and another is devoted to the cabbage patch itself, a suggestive mound with a fake tree on it from which several times a day comes the announcement CABBAGE IN LABOUR! A few demented moments later, a woman in full nurse regalia appears from a door in the tree holding a brand-new Cabbage Patch Kid by the feet and giving it a little whack on the bottom. All around her in the fertile patch are happy little soft heads among the cabbages. Each one of these things costs $175, and you have to sign papers promising to care for it and treasure it forever. There are some cheesy dolls in boxes that you wouldn't have to adopt, but children don't want those--they want to sign on the line, want the documentation, the papers. The dolls are all supposed to be different but they certainly look identical. They've got tiny ears, big eyes, a pinched rictus of a mouth and lumpy little arms and legs. The colours of the cloth vary for racial verisimilitude, but their expressions are the same. They're glad to be here and they expect everything.

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But these are just dolls, of course. The real adopted babies who rode the wave of fashion into many hiply caring homes are children now, an entirely different kettle of fish, and though they may be providing (just as they were supposed to) great joy, they are not darling babies anymore. A baby is not really a child; a baby is a BABY, a cuddleball, representative of virility, wombrismo and humankind's unquenchable wish to outfox Death.

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Adoptive parents must feel a little out of it these days, so dreadfully dated in the nineties. Adoption--how foolishly sweet. It's so Benetton, so kind of naive. With adopted babies, you just don't know, it's too much of a crap shoot. Oh, they told you that the father was an English major at Yale and that the mother was a brilliant mathematician and harpsichordist who was just not quite ready to juggle career and child, but what are you going to think when the baby turns into a kid who rather than showing any talent whatsoever is trying to drown the dog and set national parks on fire? Adoptive parents do their best, of course, at least as far as their liberal genes allow; they look into the baby's background, they don't want just any old baby (even going to the dog and cat pound you'd want to pick and choose, right?); they want a pleasant, healthy one, someone who will appreciate the benefits of a nice environment and respond to a nurturing and attentive home. They steer away (I mean, one has to be realistic, one can't save the world) from the crack and smack babies, the physically and mentally handicapped babies, the HIV and foetal-alcoholic syndrome babies.

Genes matter, more and more, and adoption is just too . . . where's the connection? Not a single DNA strand to call your own. Adoption signifies you didn't do everything you could; you were too cheap or shy or lacked the imagination to go the energetic fertility route which, when successful, would come with the assurance that some part of the Baby or Babies would be a continuation of you, or at the very least your companion, loved one, partner, whatever.

I once prevented a waitress from taking away my martini glass which had a tiny bit of martini remaining in it, and she snarled, Oh, the precious liquid, before slamming it back down on the table. It's true that I probably imagined that there was more martini in the glass than there actually was (what on earth could have happened to it all?) but the precious liquid remark brings unpleasantly to mind the reverent regard in which so many people hold themselves. Those eggs, that sperm, oh precious, precious stuff!

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There was a terrible fright among humankind recently when some scientists suggested that an abundance of synthetic chemicals was causing lower sperm counts in human males--awful, awful, awful--but this proves not to be the case; sperm counts are holding steady and are even on the rise in New York. Los Angeles males don't fare as well (do they drink more water than beer?), nor do the Chinese who, to add insult to insult, are further found to have smaller testicles, a finding which will undoubtedly result in even more wildlife mutilation in the quest for aphrodisiacs. Synthetic chemicals do 'adversely affect' the reproductive capabilities of non-human animals (fish, birds), but this is considered relatively unimportant. It's human sperm that's held in high regard and in this overpopulated age it's become more valuable--good sperm that is, from intelligent, athletic men who don't smoke, drink, do drugs, have AIDS or a history of homicide--because this overpopulated age is also the donor age. Donor sperm, donor womb, donor eggs. Think of all the eggs that are lost to menstruation every month.

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Baby's lineage can be a little complicated in this one big worldwebby family. With the help of drugs like Clomid and Perganol there are an awful lot of eggs out there these days-all being harvested by those rich and clever, clever doctors in a 'simple procedure' and nailed with bull's-eye accuracy by a spermatozoon. One then gets to 'choose' among the resulting cell clumps (or the doctor gets to choose, he's the one who knows about these things), and a number of them (for optimum success) are inserted into the womb, sometimes the mother's womb and sometimes not. These fertilized eggs, unsurprisingly, often result in multiple possibilities, which can be decreased by 'selective reduction'. They're not calendar babies yet, they're embryos, and it is at this point, the multiple possibility point, that the mother-to-be often gets a little overly ecstatic, even greedy, thinking ahead perhaps to the day when they're not babies any longer, the day when they'll be able to amuse themselves by themselves like a litter of kittens or something--if there's a bunch of them all at once there'll be no need to go through that harrowing process of finding appropriate playmates for them. She starts to think Nannies probably don't charge that much more for three than for two or heaven knows we've got enough money or we wouldn't have gotten into all this in the first place. And many women at the multiple-possibility point, after having gone through pretty much all the meddling and hubris that biomedical technology has come up with, say demurely, I don't want to play God (I DON'T WANT TO PLAY GOD?) or It would be grotesque to snuff one out to improve the odds for the others or Whatever will be will be.

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So triplets happen, and even quads and quints (network television is still interested in quints). And as soon as the multiples, or even the less prestigious single baby, are old enough to toddle into daycare, they're responsibly taught the importance of their one and only Earth, taught the 3Rs--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Too many people (which is frequently considered undesirable--gimme my space!) is caused by too many people (it's only logical) but it's mean to blame the babies, you can't blame the babies, they're innocent. Those poor bean counters at the United Nations Population Fund say that at current growth rates, the world will double its population in forty years. Overpopulation poses the greatest threat to all life on earth, but most organizations concerned with this problem don't like to limit their suggestions to the most obvious one--DON'T HAVE A BABY!--because it sounds so negative. Instead, they provide additional, more positive tips for easing the pressures on our reeling environment such as car pooling or tree planting. (A portion of the proceeds from that adorable bestselling BABIES calendar goes to the Arbor Day Foundation for the planting of trees.)

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Some would have it that not having a baby is disallowing a human life, horribly inappropriate in this world of rights. Everyone has rights; the unborn have rights; it follows that the unconceived have rights. (Think of all those babies pissed off at the fact that they haven't even been thought of yet.) Women have the right to have babies (we've fought so hard for this), and women who can't have babies have an even bigger right to have them. These rights should be independent of marital or economic status, or age. (Fifty- and sixty-something moms tend to name their babies after the gynaecologist.) The reproduction industry wants fertility treatments to be available to anyone and says that it wouldn't all be so expensive if those recalcitrant insurance companies and government agencies like Medicare and Medicaid weren't so cost-conscious and discriminatory and would just cough up the money.

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It's not as though you have to take out a permit to have a baby, be licensed or anything. What about the rights of a poor, elderly, feminist cancer patient who is handicapped in some way (her car has one of those stickers . . . ) who wants to assert her right to independent motherhood and feels entitled to both artificial insemination into a gestational 'hostess' and the right to sex selection as a basis for abortion should the foetus turn out to be male when she wants a female? Huh? What about her? Or what about the fifteen-year-old of the near future who kind of wants to have her baby even though it means she'll be stuck with a kid all through high school and won't be able to go out with her friends any more who discovers through the wonders of amniocentesis and DNA analysis that the baby is going to turn out fat, and the fifteen-year-old just can't deal with fat and shouldn't have to . . . ? Out goes the baby with the bathwater.

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But these scenarios are involved merely with messy political or ethical issues, the problematical, somewhat gross by-products of technological and marketing advances. Let the philosophers and professional ethicists drone on and let the baby business boom. Let the courts figure it out. Each day brings another more pressing problem. Implanted with their weak-cervixed daughter's eggs and their son-in-law's sperm, women become pregnant with their own grandchildren; frozen embryos are inadvertently thawed; eggs are pirated; eggs are harvested from aborted foetuses; divorced couples battle over the fate of cryopreserved material. 'We have to have better regulation of the genetic product--eggs, sperm and embryos--so we can legally determine who owns what,' a professor of law and medicine at a California university says plaintively. (Physicians tend to oppose more regulation however, claiming that it would 'impede research'.)

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While high-tech nations are refining their options eugenically and quibbling litigiously, the inhabitants of low-tech countries are just having babies. The fastest growth in human numbers in all history is going to take place in a single generation, an increase of almost five billion people (all of whom started out as babies). Ninety-seven per cent of the surge is going to take place in developing countries, with Africa alone accounting for thirty-five per cent of it (the poorer the country, the higher the birth rate, that's just the way it is). These babies are begotten in more 'traditional', doubtless less desperate ways, and although they are not considered as fashion statements, they're probably loved just as much as upper-class western babies (or that singular one-per-family Chinese boy baby) and are even considered productive assets when they get a little older and can labour for the common good of their large families by exploiting more and more, scarcer and scarcer resources.

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The argument that western countries with their wealth and relatively low birth rate do not fuel the population crisis is, of course, fallacious. France, as national policy, urges its citizens to procreate, giving lots of subsidies and perks to those French who make more French. The US population is growing faster than that of eighteen other industrialized nations and, in terms of energy consumption, when an American couple stops spawning at two babies, it's the same as an average East Indian couple stopping at sixty-six, or an Ethiopian couple drawing the line at one thousand.

Yet we burble along, procreating, and in the process suffocating thousands of other species with our selfishness. We're in a baby glut, yet it's as if we've just discovered babies, or invented them. Reproduction is sexy. Assisted reproduction is cool. The announcement that a movie star is going to have a baby is met with breathless wonder. A BABY! Old men on their third marriage regard their new babies with 'awe' and crow about the 'ultimate experience' of parenting. Bruce Springsteen found 'salvation' with the birth of his son. When in doubt, have a baby. When you've tried it all, champagne, cocaine, try a baby. Pop icons who trudged through a decade of adulation and high living confess upon motherhood, This Baby Saved My Life. Bill Gates, zillionaire founder of Microsoft, is going to have (this is so wonderful) a BABY. News commentators are already speculating: will fatherhood take away his edge, his drive; will it diminish his will to succeed, to succeed, to succeed? National Public Radio recently interviewed other high-powered CEO dads as to that ghastly possibility.

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It's as though, all together, in the waning years of this dying century, we collectively opened the Door of our Home and instead of seeing a friend standing there in some sweet spring twilight, someone we had invited over for drinks and dinner and a lovely civilized chat, there was Death, with those creepy little black seeds of his for planting in the garden. And along with Death we got a glimpse of ecological collapse and the coming anarchy of an over-peopled planet. And we all, in denial of this unwelcome vision, decided to slam the door and retreat to our toys and make babies--those heirs, those hopes, those products of our species' selfishness, sentimentality and global death wish.

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"Tony Hart's Revenge Theme" - Halves (mp3)

"Burial on a Windfarm" - Halves (mp3)

"Take Exact Revenge" - Halves (mp3)

halves1

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Celebrity Couples Presage The Apocalypse

We Remake Every Movie Using Nicholas Cage As The Lead

Herbie: The Car That Fucked A Girl

BB Winston Churchill Reads TR

Sunday
Feb082009

In Which We Enter The Box

Feeling Elbows, Rubbing Queasy

by Molly Young

Through a couple of flukes (acquaintances, a cousin involved in the ownership) I've ended up at The Box twice in one week. The Box is a club in downtown Manhattan. It has a live burlesque show and a drinks list featuring $13,000 champagne (did I read that correctly?)

As with many such places, The Box adheres to a mystical door policy. On Visit #1 I was told to say "SUGAR RAY" as a password. On Visit #2 I was not allowed inside until my cousin poked his head out the door and identified me like a perp in a police lineup. Casual humiliation: a staple of the nightlife.

On both visits the atmosphere inside reminded me of an Edith Wharton novel. It is moneyed, socially complex, and devoted to elaborate carousing. The club is full of thoughtful details: paper bags of popcorn, servers in old-tymey costume, live music and a red velvet curtain. There are bottles of Grey Goose the size of rain sticks. It is the kind of thing that sends a ticker tape of WHOA! through your mind.

Whenever I find myself in an elevated position, I always look for something to throw at the people below me. Peanuts, popcorn, coupons.

It is a bizarre place to be - a spectacle with all the theoretical implications of that word. "Fellini-esque circus" works too. Like any cultural Petri dish, The Box felt emblematic and puzzling all at once. Worthy of a witness, certainly, and some documentation. I'll give a little overview of the show we saw on Visit #2 (it was mostly the same show as Visit #1, but shuffled around.) Analysis will follow.

The first act (though it changes from night to night) had a Persian theme. There was a naked blonde babe wriggling on a chaise while a sultan tickled her with a pink feather. Throughout the room men leaned toward their friends and said, "Check it out."

Oh, a brief interruption. On the first night we'd been seated in a balcony booth. The second night we were on a sofa directly in front of the stage. From the balcony, the performers had appeared perfect. From up close the show was less magical. You could see backstage, for one thing, and you could tally the natural flaws of the performers' bodies: stray zits, heavy makeup, pubic stubble.

I hope that crop is made of licorice!

After the Persian act a contortionist came onstage and balanced his entire body on a strap-on penis attached to his assistant. Cool. Then there was a medley featuring a comic midget and some vaudeville renditions of Billy Idol and Rolling Stones songs.

The best acts were the ones with some sort of intellectual component. A girl dressed as Hitler performed a skillful striptease that felt like antique political satire. One routine had a dancer in traditional costume emerge from a Matryoshka doll to perform a Russian dance. At one point she lifted her dress, squatted over a pedestal, and ejected a mini doll from her vagina. (Cue hooting.) More traditional dance. As a finale, she squatted again over the ejected doll and hoovered it back up. The final routine that I can remember was incest-oriented. Details elided here.

Now, let me ask you a question. Do you have a switch in your head that you can flick in order to extinguish moral judgments? Like for when you go see stand-up comedy or a Wayans brothers movie, or when you listen to George Carlin on headphones? There are certain things you can't enjoy, I mean, without suppressing your moral responses. Turning off the switch is the equivalent of playing a game: you acknowledge that it is a temporary situation in which certain rules need to apply in order to have fun.

Shoes on the bed: uncouth.

Well, The Box presents quite a challenge to this switch. There is so much to delight in: the naked girls, the atmosphere, the drinks, the show. And yet, there is so much to panic over! One thing that is apparent from the start is that There Are No Rules For the Rich. Inside the club you can smoke cigarettes and ash them on the floor, straddle your boyfriend amid 300 strangers, laughingly refer to the financial straits of third-world countries and do drugs. No one is held accountable for their bad behavior. Outsiders like us will always find such an atmosphere uncomfortable. At some moments it felt sinister.

"Decadent" might be the exact word for The Box. I should clarify, though, because "decadent" is so often misused as an adjective. Molten chocolate cake, for instance, is not decadent (though it is tasty.) For something to count as decadent, it has to have a strong element of waste and disregard. A touch of pre-apocalypse. Images that recurred to me at The Box: sinking of the Titanic, court of Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas II.

Allegory alert!

With the economy dissolving into paste, the bar for decadence is falling. Things that used to seem like standard elements of celebrity glamour (private jets, $30,000 handbags) are quickly becoming distasteful. What was glitzy is now gauche. I wonder how Kanye West will adapt.

And what about The Box? Hard to say. When we took the J back to Bushwick at 4 AM (sprinting from the subway stop all the way home because it was the first chilly night of the season), I had that metaphysical hangover you get when you've snooped through someone's journal or eaten your roommate's peanut butter straight from the jar. Bad feelings, both.

Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. Here is her website.

Get that dog out of frame, pls.

"We Have To Respect Each Other" - Department of Eagles (mp3)

"Forty Dollar Rug" - Department of Eagles (mp3)

"Family Romance" - Department of Eagles (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Danny on the double feature.

Danish burned Malibu to the ground.

Barely safe links for work.

Monday
Dec222008

In Which We Look Back Through the Internet, Darkly

Exposed

by Georgia Hardstark

Amy McMahon pulling my skirt down, exposing my underwear to my entire 5th grade class, plays like a certain Looney Toons cartoon in my head. You know when the Road Runner, once again, outsmarts Wile E. Coyote and the moment before he plunges off the side of a cliff, or a giant bolder is dropped onto his head, the coyote looks into the camera and holds up a sign reading "uh oh" or "help!"?

That's what this moment is like for me, the only difference being that right as my skirt is in the middle of being yanked down - right at the moment where I'm being "pantsed" - the sign I'm holding while I pan my "oh shit" look at the camera reads, "This is the moment in my life where I become self-conscious."

“How can it all be attributed to one incident?” you may ask yourself. It's true that before this happened, before Amy and I got into a petty fight a day earlier, I wasn't a particularly confident girl. I was painfully skinny, had huge eyes that didn't exactly fit my face, and my personality was somewhere between a hippie pothead and an unmedicated ADHD adolescent...but I liked myself. I liked my "quirkiness", and I loved my imagination that was fueled by adventure and sci-fi paperbacks.

As for my physical self, I think I knew in the back of my mind that I'd grow into my features eventually, and dreamed about a She's Out Of Control-like transformation that I was sure I'd one-day have (minus Tony Danza).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DWoYzpdbHo]

This changed all that, though. This made me realize I was the butt of a joke, and started what would be years of questioning the authenticity of pretty much everyone in my life.

I know it's too easy to blame my rebellious teenage years on this incident, but in my mind they're directly related. The drugs, the punk rock friends and clothes and music, the intimidating posturing around my peers...it's so obvious to me that, since I couldn't distance myself physically from the humiliation of that one moment, I instead devised a plan to make myself unlikable and offensive so that I had something to blame my outcast status on, instead of it being based on my actual self, who was horribly self-conscious and overly self-aware.

I joined Facebook last week, after a year of condemning the site and questioning my friends as to "why, exactly, would you want people from high school to find you?"

I'm assuming everyone wants to flaunt what they've become, right? The ugly ducklings are now pretty, and show that via dozens of photos of themselves in tacky strapless dresses accessorized with brightly colored drinks clutched in one hand, the other arm thrown up in celebration of something. You can almost hear the "woo hoo!" that was bellowed right before the photo was shot.

Even worse, my high school alumni page looks like a freaking bridal website. Oh look!, there's the pretty, popular girl braced in an intimate kiss with some boringly handsome guy during their first dance as a (boring) married couple! I was also left pondering if any research has been done into my hypothesis that, the moment one has a kid, something clicks in the new parent's brain which leads them to assume that people outside their immediate family are at all interested in photos of their kid. I wonder if that will happen to me someday. Although to be fair, I would have an adorable kid.

Anyway, my point is this: it took me years to get over the Depantsing Incident of '91. The decade that followed was a painful one of a drug habit briefly picked up, then kicked, cripplingly low self-esteem covered up with an intimidating cockiness that I almost convinced myself was reality, riot grrrl shows and punk shows, a brief flirtation with not eating, laughably padded bras to cover up my (now loved) tiny breasts, older boyfriends and a short-lived relationship with my first and only girlfriend, and more than anything, driving my parents nuts with worry and frustration.

But luckily, somewhere in my early to mid 20's, I figured that shit out. Slick Rick said it best when he rhymed, "I used to walk around and get upset and upsetter, until I figured out ways to make myself look better." I came to the realization that I'm at least relatively cute, definitely smart, and I had met enough boring people by that point to know that the witty sarcasm and amusing story telling abilities I possessed were not something that came easy to most.

More than anything though, it dawned on my how much time I was wasting by not liking myself when, ya know, just assuming I was an awesome person until I was met with definitive evidence to the contrary was so much easier. Things like jealousy, depression binges, envy, annoyingly nibbling on a salad when what you really want is a burger...those things pretty much go out the window when you actually like yourself.

So why is it that, the moment an old acquaintance from high school added me as a friend, I frantically searched my photos to make sure that they all represented the "hot" version of me (as opposed to the "I overslept and have 20 minutes to get ready for work" version)?. I scrutinized every photo for a wonky eye or that damn, camera-shy upper lip of mine, before thinking to myself "why the fuck do I care about this?”

Why, indeed. I'm happy; I have a solid job, a blog that people read/like, wonderful friends and a new boyfriend who's quite possibly the sweetest person I've ever met, and a life that is so indistinguishable from the one I was living before I graduated high school and moved to LA, that it sometimes feels as though my past was a fictional story...a badly written, overly dramatic, made-for-TV-movie type fictional story.

When I found Amy McMahon's Facebook profile, why did it please me so that she looked like a wreck; her breasts almost spilling out of her strapless dress, her arm thrust into the air to convey that she was having Good Time and Loved Life, not to mention the guilt I felt when I thought to myself "Ha! I'm cuter!” There's a mighty thin line between confidence and arrogance, and it seems as if I'm inching my perfectly manicured toe over to the dark side. But really? That bitch YANKED MY SKIRT DOWN IN FRONT OF MY ENTIRE CLASS.

Georgia Hardstark is the contributing editor to This Recording. She blogs it here and tumbles it here.

"Portrait of the Artist as a Fountain" - Simon Bookish (mp3)

"The Flood" - Simon Bookish (mp3)

"Alsatian Dog" - Simon Bookish (mp3)

"Il Trionfo Del Tempo... (Ridley Road)" - Simon Bookish (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

The hair makes the man in No Country for Old Men.


Venus and Serena remind us of the future.


John C. Reilly’s beautiful singing voice.

Thursday
Dec182008

In Which We Pay It Backward

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A Test

by Julia McCloy

Last summer I didn’t have a boyfriend. I still don’t have a boyfriend but last summer the fact that I didn’t seemed more significant.

I thought about the fact that I didn’t almost on an hourly basis. I thought about it when I was home washing the dishes and when I was listening to the faxes come through the front office at work and when I was wrapping my hands around cold beers at barbecues. I spent a great deal of time thinking about it. And I think this was because I was also expending a lot of effort trying to get AIDS.

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I had volunteered for a study at St. Jude, which is a research center and hospital primarily known for commercials involving bald, dying children smiling very hard.

St. Jude is a very large facility. It covers more than nine city blocks in downtown Memphis. It is full of researchers researching and doctors doctoring and hopefully children getting better. St Jude describes itself as “internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.” One of those diseases is HIV.

I had volunteered in order to help test a vaccine. Some people spend their summers assuaging their parent’s fears about whitewater canoe trips or mountain bike trips in Glacier National Park. I spent my summer telling my family, “Hey, don’t worry. They are almost 90% sure I won’t get AIDS or have any side effects that will kill me.”

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I am a thirty-one year old female who is HIV negative. I don’t share needles, or use needles, or really look at needles at all unless in a doctor’s office. And even then I usually think, "Needle, huh. You sure there’s not another way?"

Also, I don’t get paid for sex, unless by paid you mean dinner and/or whatever alcohol it takes for me to eventually think you can’t regret it, if you don’t remember it. On top of that I am generally healthy. For that reason I was accepted as a volunteer in a HIV vaccine study that would take about six months and would involve one month where I would be "you know, sick. Not really sick, but sick like a bad cold …maybe flu." This was according to the nurse who had accepted me for the study.

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The nurse was my personal guide through the process. I spoke to her on the phone when I called to volunteer and she was the first person to shake my hand when I entered the St. Jude campus. She was going to walk me through the entire process. She was there for every meeting, including the last one where I held my face and cried, “I can’t. I am sorry I know this is my fault… it is not you, but I can’t.”

But before the moment that I broke down (both ridiculously and humiliatingly) in the examining room and cried because I felt I was too much of a coward to complete the study, I had to meet the nurse.

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She truly was the closest thing I had to a boyfriend the whole summer. She gave me her phone number and told me to call her at home. She held my hand every time I came in the office and told me to tell her about my feelings. She bragged about me to other workers. When I left her a message that I “was worried and nervous,” she called me back within an hour at home and said she would like to meet me as soon as possible. I liked her and I began to really hope she liked me.

She was a woman in her fifties who wore her hair in a manner that yelled, “I am not a lesbian, but 5 out of 6 lesbians in their fifties would give my haircut a thumbs-up.”

She was tall and when I spoke to her I said, “yes, ma’am.” She asked me why I wanted to do the study and I answered honestly, “because I feel really badly about people being in pain for whatever reason, like it makes my stomach hurt, I assume that is why I became a social worker -- and maybe this will help lessen it.” She stared at me. I assumed there was a follow-up question, but there wasn’t. There was just an awkward couple of minutes where she stared at me and I realized my answer to that question may have been both too honest and also in no way clarifying.

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As she stared at me I remembered a story a friend once told me about in which she ruined a first date by blurting out, “My dad molested me, so I don’t know… I am kinda weird about dating men, but I am having a great time right now, wanna get pizza?”

I met with the nurse several times. Despite all the anatomy and physiology classes I took in college (including a few where I was required to handle cadavers), I didn’t really understand the mechanism in which the vaccine worked or how my body responded.

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When the nurse spoke to me, all I could think of was those shows I watched as a child where animated versions of germs with fists and grimaces crawled into the mouth of a boy’s body causing the boy to double over and say “ I don’t feel well.” All the while the germs jumped up and down in the boy’s body cavity. After I tried to explain the cartoon to the nurse, she asked, ”Did you ever take a biology class in high school? Do you know what I mean when I say the word ‘immunity’?” She said it very softly and patted the top of my hand. She was the best boyfriend in the entire world.

She gave me a green folder to keep all the material I was learning about the vaccine, the study, and my part in it. I only looked at it when I had to pick it up in order to clean under it.

I had other things to remind me of the nurse anyway, like a bruise on my arm from where she extracted what I can only describe as a buttload of blood. This was on the third meeting. During this meeting she rubbed my shoulders as another nurse repeated, “Yeah, we have to get a lot of blood. It takes a long time.” She repeated this over and over. She said it in a breathy manner and in a rush. I couldn’t help but imagining her saying it while having sex. I was thoroughly uncomfortable.

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Despite the nurse’s patience and calls at home and handholding (literal handholding), in the end I couldn’t go through with the study. There were too many worries. The vaccine by definition would cause me to test positive for HIV on the Western Blot test, despite the fact that I wouldn’t have HIV. This would affect my insurance coverage, range of possible occupations, and dating.

I tried to imagine explaining to a date, “Okay here’s the thing. You know how you want us to get tested for AIDS, well I got a kooky, crazy story to tell you and it involves al lot of science and a little love and a woman named Julia who doesn’t have HIV, but tests positive for it. But mostly this story involves you and a plan. A plan so crazy…it just might work.” It was funny in my head. It would be funnier in real life. I didn’t want it to ever happen.

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So it didn’t. Because I dropped out of the study. I called the nurse and made an emergency meeting. Like most breakups, it was awkward and weird and too long and I spent most of the time thinking, ”Just let them talk. Be quiet, and be glad you just didn’t get any venereal diseases. Just nod and get up and walk away.” And I did.

Julia McCloy is a writer living in Memphis. This is her first time writing in these pages.

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PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

I could stay in bed.

Like my momma said don't just do something.

Sit around instead.

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