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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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Mia Nguyen
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Brittany Julious
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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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Tuesday
Feb242015

In Which She Leaves Her College Town After Everyone Else

The Meadows

by STEPHANIE GORTON MURPHY

When I was twenty-four, I lived in a grand, minimalist apartment in Edinburgh, on the south side of the Meadows. That wide expanse of green is crisscrossed by wide, lonely paths, and each way into the park has its charm: a gate in a stone wall, an arch formed by the giant jawbone of a whale. In centuries past the Meadows had been a loch, but after an episode of plague it had been filled in. Now lush elm trees and emerald grass grew where there had once been sixty acres of murky water.

Every day I would wake up in my high-ceilinged room, walk across the Meadows and the Old Town, duck through a narrow alley that seemed ripe for murder and into the courtyard of the company's building, and land at my post in the editorial department. There I would stay until past dark most days, except in midsummer when our northern latitude kept the day going past nine. It was that summer, when my life seemed perfectly shaped and yet strangely stalled, that the blindness of my thinking propelled me into something unplanned, messy, and far from everyone I loved. There was a realization that I still struggle to explain, and then an escape, and now looking back I'm not sure which life was the borrowed one and which held permanence, that one I had or the one I flew off to.   

The good news came, as it often does, in a manila envelope. I tore into it and tipped out my passport, which fell open to a new, stiff, pink page. My own stern face looked back at me from a visa that said I could stay for five more years, and have the option to become a British citizen after that, if I wanted. I called my British-American-Lebanese parents in London and we cheered over the phone. I looked at the passport again, and then put it in the drawer where it belonged. How neat my life now looked on paper, how free I ought to feel. The night passed in inexplicable, suffocating panic, and I found myself dreaming of the day when I could quit the whole scene — the beautiful home, perfect job, maybe even life itself. For the first time, it seemed impossible to want what I was supposed to want.

The stamp meant an option I had furiously hoped and worked for. Six years before I had come to Edinburgh for a weekend, and decided I needed to live there. I'd gone from one student visa to the next, to a work permit called the Fresh Talent designation. But now, at twenty-four, my Fresh Talent had expired. I had gathered hundreds of documents and put a heavy paperwork burden on my employer in a bid to get sponsored, unskilled as I was. They had had to advertise my job, and interview other candidates for it, which was chilling to watch. I had even made a backup plan with a friend from the Highlands, that he and I would get married if the visa was denied. And yet, now that the bureaucratic nightmare was over, I looked around at my painstakingly assembled world and wanted to flee. 

The poet Kapka Kassabova wrote about living in Edinburgh: " … nothing changes here except in memory … The haar that [creeps] in from the sea. The cemeteries bumpy with centuries of flesh … The way nobody is too interested in you – a great British quality." Like Kassabova, I was certain this city was home. I liked being an American abroad. It allowed me to sneak into a close acquaintance with a place, but always as an observer. I could abstract myself when I needed to, ask the most naïve questions, drift from one scene to the next, and treat others as though I was unlikely to stay. At the same time, this was the place I had forged the beginning of a self-sufficient life.

When I was a child, each successive move or change of schools made me even more impatient to grow up. I wanted to find a place no one in my family had been before, make it my own, and dig in for good. My rebellion was making my life predictable. Edinburgh had given me a start: six years, and another would pass before I left. Surely I owed the place more commitment. Two weeks after my passport was returned, I cautiously mentioned the panic to my father. He analyzed me via Groucho Marx: “You don't want to belong to any club that will accept you as a member.” Was that it?

But my home was becoming a strange place, outside of my control. It started in August, when Edinburgh is one great performance. There are festivals that turn every surface into a stage or screen, the city's population triples, and locals complain of the throngs who make regular life and sleep impossible for a month. Music blared through my office window, and the long shadows in the morning and evening drew gorgeous shapes from the steeples and crags over the noisy streets. Drunk couples slumped over each other in buses and parks, like pale, elfin Hogarth etchings.  

The less photogenic seams of the city were there too. I loved my workplace, but had little left to learn from my job. My college friends moved to bigger cities, and my long hours left little chance to make new ones. The Bush years were finally over, but my accent, which refused to soften, still attracted the wrong kind of attention from men at the pub. On hearing me place an order, they often launched into joyous anti-American rants or, on countless occasions, smilingly asked if I “liked Bush.” Then there was Roderick, my roommate, a high school English teacher nearing thirty who spent his evenings working on a novel. He had seemed perfect, a bright-eyed redhead who might set me up with his friends.

Three days after he moved in, Roderick casually mentioned that he had a young daughter in Japan; his plan, sprung on me after the lease had been signed, was that she and her mother would spend the summer with us. Soon after that, I got home early from work to find the bathroom door open, a bath running, and Roderick dipping a toe in, completely nude with a fat joint glowing between his lips. I couldn't help but laugh. But he mistook laughter for approval, and over time I would come home to find Roderick undressed and high in every room of the apartment, including my own. In the midst of this, excited at the fact that I worked for a publisher, he sent me his manuscript-in-progress. It was a series of violent, self-aggrandizing fantasies about the women in his life. The fact that I had invited this person to live with me — that I had chosen him from a handful of Craigslist responders — gnawed at the trust I'd once had in myself.

Maybe if I'd been attached, my relationship to the place would not have been the test of character that it was when I was so often alone. Long before my visa application, I had broken up with my boyfriend of three years because I couldn't see us living the same life. Within weeks he was with someone new, and I waited confidently to fall in love again too. But my affections seemed to have gone to sleep. On the evenings I didn't hit a pub with coworkers, I ran. I plugged myself into headphones and let my strides eat the town, the alleyways through the Meadows, the road around the cold, humped volcanic hill of Arthur's Seat. 

It was a spare, deliberate life for a young person, and it’s sad evidence that few people can love forever what they loved at eighteen. I think of Edinburgh as someone I tried to marry and missed the mark. “One’s prime is elusive,” lectured Miss Jean Brodie in Muriel Spark’s most famous Edinburgh novel. “Recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must then live it to the full.” I knew I was not in my prime, and this was bad, because surely twenty-four is everyone’s prime. Looking at my totem of acceptance, the UK visa, it was clear that another version of myself could have been happy there. I was close to being that version and wonder if it will be hard to see the city again when I go back. For in the end, I had to leave the city to get away from a sad love that sat like fog over a swamp until I flew to new, dry ground.

I reformatted my CV with American spelling and ran it by the few people I knew in New York. A year later, in mid-August, I moved back across the Atlantic. I had a job and an apartment, both unsuitable, and neither would last long. But on that flight, I realized I was waking up again. The plane taxied to a halt, the airport doors swung open, and a well of humidity and taxi horns embraced me.

Stephanie Gorton Murphy is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Providence. This is her first appearance in these pages.

"Let It Rain" - Mat Kearney (mp3)

"Ghost" - Mat Kearney (mp3)

The new album from Mat Kearney, Just Kids, is out today.


Monday
Feb232015

In Which We Hire Saul Goodman At Our Own Convenience

Guilty Conscience

by DICK CHENEY

Better Call Saul
creators Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

I would do anything to never to hear my wife utter the words fan service again. Did you see the trailer for Ant-Man? This tongue-in-cheek shit has got to end. Instead of, you know, working on something new, the people behind Breaking Bad have an assembled an hour long drama around the concept that anything even peripherally associated with Jesse Pinkman is fantastic and interesting. And you know what: they might have a point.

You know, I'm starting to think there might be some problems with the criminal justice system.

Seven years ago Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) has his own quirky cast of characters surrounding his single room law practice in the rear of a downtrodden nail salon. Returning from Breaking Bad is Jonathan Banks, who looks about twenty years older than he did on the previous show despite this chronologically predating everything on Breaking Bad. Tuco (Raymond Cruz) also makes a substantial appearance in the new show, but most everything else is completely new.

This is an incredibly ineffective way of getting a paper towel roll.

Whereas Breaking Bad was about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, Better Call Saul is about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Watching Odenkirk struggle with his conscience quickly gets old. We're supposed to think that he was slowly corrupted into Saul Goodman over time, little by little. Since we already know the end result - an amoral bag of garbage - we can't help but be disappointed by the pace of the process. No one thinks to themselves, "Jeez, Mussolini was such a nice little kid!"

If this is the last cul-de-sac I ever see, it will be too soon.

The problem with the basic concept is that we only have reason to encounter minor characters. Hank Schrader is not suddenly going to show up on Better Call Saul, and even if he did he would probably look like Mason Verger and all we would think about is his ignominious end in Breaking Bad. Fan service (ugh) only actually works when we have a positive nostalgic feeling about what is being revisited. There is no such need to be reminded of how we left Walt's family or friends.

Despite the fact that I have loathed Jonathan Banks for three decades and his appearance on Community should have given him a life sentence in jail, I have to admit that the character of Mike is a great one. When Saul meets him in Better Call Saul he is merely a parking lot attendant at a courthouse, which is unlikely but amusing as a one off joke.

"The Kettlemans" will be the next spin off. Jesse Pinkman will settle down with the divorced Mrs. Kettleman in Ronkonkoma.
The real fun will begin when Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) enters the picture. Although we explored his homosexual South American heritage in a flashback that still brings tears to my eyes to this day, I really hope we get the full origin story of Gustavo Fring. A lot seems like it was left out, and Gus was a very effective businessman who just happened to trifle with the wrong high school science teacher. Greatness can come from low places, I believe Scott Walker once killed a guy? Need to check my facts, but I'm pretty sure.

if you just photoshop out his hair, you have the sixth season of Breaking Bad

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a wee bit tired of the emotional shots of the New Mexico landscape. There may be nothing left to really explore in this bleak environment. Breaking Bad did a great job of making very few locations seem like an open, impossible world, but the same budgetary constraints seem to apply here.

There is little in the way of big time action or set pieces promised - after all, Better Call Saul features a relatively small story about a lawyer. The reason that networks produced legal dramas and films in the first place is because they were so inexpensive - Better Call Saul does a wonderful job of tricking their way around these limitations and making the show into a crime drama like its predecessor. Still, at times Better Call Saul feels like so much less.

Maybe throw some concealer and a wig on? Just a suggestion.

Once you make something successful, people want more of it. I understand this, just as I understand the basic impulse to elect another child of George H. W. Bush, or put someone else named Clinton in the Oval Office. We are afraid of change, especially Jonathan Banks, who has been doing the same gravelly voiced character since the 1960s.  

Better Call Saul ends up as a compelling show with a fantastic cast, so my complaints about repetition fall on deaf ears. We will shout, "Oh Walt!" probably at some point when Bryan Cranston does his first guest shot after pissing away all his Lyndon Johnson/Godzilla money on snickerdoodles. I only wonder if we could have gotten something even better.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. Visit our mobile site here.

"Sisters" - Gods (mp3)

"Misled" - Gods (mp3)

 

Friday
Feb202015

In Which The Snow Could Be Covering The Hole

Midwestern Dates

by KARA VANDERBIJL

5 minutes: Pay $14.95 for an Illinois fishing license

3 minutes: Put on old jeans, two shirts, a sweatshirt, socks from the Army/Navy surplus store, snow boots, down-filled coat, hat, and fleece-lined mittens

7 minutes: Load the sled with the necessities, e.g., beer, whiskey, an empty plastic bucket, an auger, a skimmer, two poles, two plastic condiment containers filled with wood shavings and maggots, a sonar scope, a heater named—no joke—"portable buddy"

15 minutes: Drag sled across frozen lake towards the best fishing spot, into the wind, trying not to slip

~2 minutes: Reach the other huts, realize I'm the only other woman on the ice 

1 minute: Screw the auger into the ice until a deep scent, reminiscent of summer, pokes through the freeze and water bubbles through the hole 

1 minute: Repeat

1 minute: Skim slushy lake water off the surface, stare deep into the murky hole

20 minutes: Attempt to raise the collapsible shelter in 20-30 mph gusts

3 minutes: Sit inside the shelter, freezing, while Jens attempts to tie down the back flaps

2 minutes: Scream when the wind catches the shelter through the open door and drags the whole thing three yards across the ice with me in it

2 minutes: Watch as Jens slips and slides after the fish bucket and a single glove that have blown away 



10 minutes: Figure out how to fortify the shelter against the wind with a series of disconnected metal poles and no instruction manual

1 minute: Breathe gas as the portable buddy kindles to life

30 seconds: Stab a maggot with a hook

30 seconds: Drop the line into the hole and watch the bait flicker green on the sonar scope

20 minutes: Wait for fish 

2 minutes: Laugh when Fleetwood Mac starts playing on Pandora. "It's like they know," I explain to Jens. 

30 minutes: Wait for fish

5 minutes: Have to pee, pull down pants, squat over the hole, feel like the most ridiculous being that has ever walked the planet

30 minutes: Wait for fish

3 minutes: Hear a conversation —

"Don't walk through the snow, you'll break your fucking leg." 

"It's not as slippery!" 

"The snow could be covering a 10 inch hole, you idiot." 

2 minutes: Study the intricate patterns crystallizing inside the strata of the ice 

3 minutes: Freak out, briefly, about the fact that all however many hundreds of pounds of us are sitting on eight inches of ice above twenty feet of water

1 minute: Marvel

20 minutes: Drink a beer that's so cold it makes my teeth hurt

5 minutes: Squat over the hole again

2 minutes: Attempt to tickle Jens through five layers of clothing

2 hours: Wait for fish

10 minutes: Insult fish

30 minutes: Wait for fish

5 minutes: Decide to call it a day

25 minutes: Pack it all up, slip-slide across the lake back the house hand-in-hand

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. You can subscribe to Hors Sujet here.

Paintings by Katherine Bradford.

"Sail" - Awolnation (mp3)