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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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Wednesday
Nov152017

In Which This Is Not The Greatest News For Him

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.

Last March I had a brief relationship with a co-worker, who I will call Sam. The relationship ended when Sam was transferred to another part of the company - it's about an two hours drive away. I never heard that it was because another employee found out about us, and transfers are frequent. 

I miss Sam a lot, and I have thought about asking for a transfer or leaving my job so that this would not be an obstacle to us being together. When I talk to him about it, he is mostly focused on the repercussions for his career. He does say he wants to be together, but it seems impossible right now. Can you suggest any course of action?

Nadine A.

Dear Nadine,

A man is a beautiful thing. He smells of musk and Raisinets, and he always has a kind word for a tourniquet or bedfellow. A hour is not too far to conduct any relationship, but two can make it rather difficult on both of you. 

The facts seem to be these, though: if you did not tell someone about your relationship, then it is quite possible Sam did, which means he may not exactly want this relationship as much as it seems. It's a great cop-out, and we can add to the fact that if he wanted to see you on a regular basis, he probably would.

It can be tricky to get out of a work relationship, and Sam most likely felt trapped. This is through no fault of your own, but the fact that you are still pursuing this even when he has been transferred indicates the momentum in the relationship is entirely on your side.

Let me tell you a story. A man (Joseph Cotten) loved a woman (Ginger Rogers). When he found out that she had to serve three years in prison for murdering her boss when the man tried to drunkenly r her, he was like, "I will wait for you my darling." He was there outside the prison when she got out, and they had three wonderful children together, two of them addressed by their peers and parents as "Monsignor."

Instead of Joseph Cotten, who was also a war hero in this particular instance, you have targeted a mid-level functionary at your organization who has a lot of excuses that he can't be with you. He sounds like Scar from The Lion King, and while Scar's phallus was shaped like a can of tuna, Scar also had some pretty attractive qualities. Every single person in the universe can be the love of your life. Sam doesn't want to be. 

You can probably turn this around. Cut off all contact with Sam and start dating someone named Davidson LeGrue. Problem partially solved.

Hi,

My friend Ashley has a boyfriend named Johnny. A few nights ago she got a call from him: he was in the hospital. He had woken up there without any knowledge of how he had gotten there other than that he had drinks with a female friend. There was some kind of drug in his system that indicated one of his drinks was spiked; he has no idea by who.

She was comforting, but I was pretty aghast at this entire story and the idea that she believed him without verifying any of the information. Then again, he did not have to call her from the hospital at all or provide any of this, to me, weird story.

What do you think actually happened here, and what should I tell Ashley to do about it?

Raina N.

Dear Raina,

It is disturbingly serious what Bill Cosby did to all these women. And to offer them a muffin afterwards and send them on their way after the rape is just disgusting. I don't know how that relates to your question, but I must admit it has been on my mind.

I was reading this Robert Heinlein book about life on the moon the other day. Any crime is punishable by death, if it is bad enough. The idea that rape is a crime worse than murder only makes sense in that it is more difficult to prosecute. I don't know how that relates to your question either.

Or maybe I do, since your friend's boyfriend is and isn't having a reaction that indicates this may have happened to him. If he simply drank too much, the only reason not to say so if he did something so out of character it might be revealed to Ashley by a third party. Then, his excuse is built into the original story.

For a second let's assume everything he said is true. It is possible to be drugged by someone we know, or drink from someone else's glass. (This happened in The Princess Bride as I recall.) There would be no reason not to tell Ashley the truth in this scenario, and it would explain most everything in the story.

Unfortunately, pathological exaggerators seek to play up stories, and people often feel humiliated and embarrassed when their drinking leads them to medical care. I don't know if there is much to be gained by checking up on this story however. You should be only able to find out whether Johnny was a patient at the hospital. If he was, then that is the likely limit of your investigation.

It would be beneficial for you yourself to quiz Johnny about this incident, but Ashley is likely going to have to do this on her own. Here is some advice for follow-up that you can provide here.

* Questions will keep coming up. Do not ask them randomly, as they come to mind, or constantly hint or make suggestions about her doubts. This is easy to deflect. Most people can only tell one lie at a time.

* The key is to really find a specific moment, preferably in public, to talk at length to Johnny about this incident. If he really is a pathological liar, he will want to do this in private.

* Ask a series of noncombative questions, and then suddenly turn nasty, but only for a moment, to gauge his reaction. Then back off — this isn't Guantanamo.

* If he becomes flustered or upset, this is not the greatest news for him. If he cries, this is not the greatest news for him. If he calmly tries to reassure you, this is the best news for him.

* Pray

Tuesday
Nov142017

In Which Taylor Swift Becomes A Stranger

Iconoclasted

by JANICE LEVENS

Reputation
Taylor Swift
producers Max Martin and Karl Schuster
November 10th on Big Machine

When evening comes, I go back home, and go to my study. On the threshold, I take off my work clothes, covered in mud and filth, and I put on the clothes an ambassador would wear. Decently dressed, I enter the ancient courts of rulers who have long since died. There, I am warmly welcomed, and I feed on the only food I find nourishing and was born to savour. I am not ashamed to talk to them and ask them to explain their actions and they, out of kindness, answer me. Four hours go by without my feeling any anxiety. I forget every worry. I am no longer afraid of poverty or frightened of death.

- Niccolò Machiavelli

If Taylor Swift is anything like the person depicted on her new album Reputation, she is the most devious, complicated, multifaceted person ever to exist. Let us take our time with a line from "I Did Something Bad", which I believe in the end represents everything this woman is concerned with: "I never trust a narcissist, but they love me." Such a statement implies that every single association Swift has with other people is deceitful in some way. This admission is startling on another level, since it prizes the latter section of the clause over the former. The beginning of the lyric is a preference, the ensuing clause is a state of being.

Of course there is the possibility that this, like so much else on Reputation, is tongue in cheek, or simply written by one of the many co-writers Swift has worked with over the years. On Reputation, Jack Antonoff and the producing-songwriting team of Karl Schuster and Max Martin are present to work in the confines of Swift's familiar sound. But the lyrical voice is distinctly Swift's own, and the message is completely fucked up:

I stay when it's hard, or it's wrong
Or we're making mistakes
I want your midnights
But I'll be cleaning up bottles with you

Again, if this is true, it's desperately sad and twisted. If it's only a conceit, the expression of it is somehow worse. I know that massive amounts of money and adulation are capable of changing a person, but altering them to this extent is potentially what happened to Lady Macbeth. Of course, no one ever said Lady Macbeth is boring, and Swift is intent on focusing this aspect of her personality. On "Dancing With My Hands Tied" she explains, "I'm the mess that you wanted." Uh-huh.

But no one could ever think Swift was, or has ever been a mess. So that part is a lie, and probably a lot else on this album. Swift's last album, the more enjoyably pop 1989, sold ten million copies, and Reputation attempts to put it in the dust. The more considered, low-key elements of that album are completely submerged here, with Swift more often sounding like mid-career Madonna than any iteration of herself.

There is something dated about Reputation, which suggests that the 27-year old is becoming very old, very quick. The orchestrations are generally limited, leaving the focus on Swift's sharp, bouncy voice, which is at its best when breathily intoning in something like speech. "Dress" is her most complete and exciting track in this vein, explaining, "I don't want you like a best friend," hinting at a story she refuses to tell. Instead, we receive the following blandishments:

Even in my worst times, you could see the best of me
Flashback to my mistakes
My rebounds, my earthquakes
Even in my worst light, you saw the truth in me
And I woke up just in time
Now I wake up by your side

It would be compelling to watch Swift take on various new themes in her work, including authentic estimations of loss and love. Instead Reputation is an extended revenge fantasy on no one in particular. "I'll be the actress starring in your bad dreams," she blurts out on "Look What You Made Me Do."

When Niccolo Machiavelli retired from private life, he wrote his signature work, The Prince. The entire time he was longing to return back to politics, since it was what brought joy to his life. In The Prince, he explains that such a person must be able to change his views at a moment's notice. He isn't able to be honest, because it would mean losing his ability to defeat his rivals, and kill them when he can. This was what Machiavelli called virtu. I feel like Taylor Swift is articulating a new philosophy along these lines, which is essentially a return to the old.

Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles.


Monday
Nov132017

In Which We Display Modesty As A Form Of Arrogance

How to Behave

The final diaries of Søren Kierkegaard occupy themselves primarily with an extended discussion of faith. Søren viewed most things through the lens of Christ, usually disdaining the paltry efforts of organized religion to represent the god he felt inside of him. Over his lifetime, he composed over 7,000 pages of journals on this and various other topics. His extended thoughts on his own belief may interest believers and non-believers alike, but he was much pithier and less sacrosanct about other aspects of his life.

A serious misogynist, Kierkegaard had largely abandoned relationships with women near the end of his life. It had gone wrong once, and he refused to let it happen again. His relationship with the media, as reflected on below, could hardly be said to be better. He sees himself so definitely that at times he does not even realize how dead-on balls accurate he is. The highly edited extracts below from his last years on earth display modesty as a form of arrogance, ascended to highest ideal.

It is commonly thought that it is cowardice to flee from the world and enter a monastery.

Now perhaps it is sometimes the case that such a man doubts whether he can endure the bestial laughter and ridicule, the persecution and maltreatment which may result from his having to express the 'spirit' in the midst of animal creatures.

But the matter can be regarded from another side. Such a man flees because he does not have the heart to upset the others, of whom he knows very well that he will never entirely win them to his view, and so he will only be a torment to them. Would you not much prefer to be rid of a man who speaks only of one thing, of dying, of dying to the world?

+

My task is so new that in Christianity's eighteen hundred years there is literally not one from whom I can learn how to behave.

When I die, there will be something for the professors! These wretched rascals! And it does not help, it does not help in the least, even if it is printed and read over again. The professors will still make a profit of me, and they will lecture away, perhaps with the additional remark that the peculiarity of this man is that he cannot be lectured about.

+

If I were a father and had a daughter who was seduced, I should by no means give her up; but if I had a son who became a journalist I should regard him as lost.

+

Evil is always more horrible the longer it lasts. Cannibals kill a man and eat him - and that is that. It lasts only a short time and when it is over, there is as it were a hope - till the next time - that the cannibal become a different man, might become better. But the priest and the professor make their preparations (with cold calculation) once for all to live on the sufferings of those saints. They get married on the strength of them, they beget children, they organize an idyllic and thoroughly enjoyable life. They live on the torment of the saints.

+

Is moral philosophy not, like astrology and alchemy, a science which has to do with something which does not exist?

+

Everyone who has a little experience knows at heart that this is a rotten world. But just as it is the done thing in a prison to keep a stiff upper lip, as it is also regarded as the cleverest thing to do, and to pretend one is having a good time, and as it is in consequence the custom in prisons to tease and torment the man who lets it be seen he is suffering, so with the whole world or with mankind in the world. In general, anyone who wants to understand human life as the whole would do best to study the criminal world - this is the really reliable analogy.

+

Surely not even my bitterest enemy would deny that I shall acquire a certain renown. But I am beginning to wonder whether I will not become renowned in a quite different sphere than I have hitherto imagined - namely, as a naturalist. For I have discovered, or at least made a very significant contribution to the natural history of parasites, I mean priests and professors, those voracious and prolific parasites, who even have the effrontery (unlike other parasites) to try and pass themselves off as the friends and disciples of those whose sufferings they live on.

+

What a woman is most afraid of, where she feels that her being and her power are annihilated, is when she has risked the utmost in seduction, and it ends with the laughter of her opponent. And strangely enough, wherever they get it from - presumably from instinct - women seem to suspect that so far as I am concerned, just when they make the greatest efforts I would burst out laughing - and no woman will risk this at any price.

Alas, there is some truth in this, that it could end with my bursting out laughing. But the reason is neither my great virtue nor my great spirituality but - my melancholy.

+

The daily press is properly calculated to make personality impossible. For it has the effect of an immense abstration, the generation, which has infinite power over the single person. It is a means which was unknown in former times. For in former times the battle between a personality and the abstract was not so immensely disproportionate as now, when an individual who is impersonal and scoundrelly can use this fearful weapon against the single person.

+

Most men do not have enough self-esteem to be able to assert themselves in the face of other men, so their self-esteem demands that they have some people who obey them absolutely, whom they have entirely in their power, so that they also feel that they are the man and the master. These people are children. God pity what takes place in family life! What brutality and what egoism are hidden there. Is is unfortunately only too certain that the parents usually need more upbringing than the children.

+

When his mother is cursing him, Richard III, in order not to hear her curses, turns to the drummers and says, "Strike up the drum." Is it not so with us all? There is something in us we do not want to hear.

1854