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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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 Ryan Murphy Corrupts This Poor Woman

The Four de Sades


American Horror Story
creator Ryan Murphy

It was sometime during the second orgy of the American Horror Story premiere, where Lady Gaga was humping an Asian woman she had met at an outdoor screening of a lesser Bela Lugosi movie. Despite being a spirited performer onstage, Ms. Germanotta is not much of an actress and you can see that she seems a bit confused about how exactly to play Ryan Murphy's amusing bon mots. She got this look on her face like, even I have no idea what's happening here.

Murphy hired Kathy Bates to be the proprieter of a sadistic hotel this season, and the show never really delves into suspense too much. It is mostly just gore and sex. You can't say Murphy's heart isn't into it: the first thirty minutes of Amercan Horror Story features several rapes, cannabilism, necrophilia and a man with his penis superglued inside of a woman. Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) instructs his colleagues to cut the man loose.

Chloe Sevigny tries desperately to anchor this ludicrous situation as a mother of a missing child married to Bentley. Watching Gaga slit the throats of Swedish tourists or snort cocaine feels pretty familiar, but Chloe Sevigny as a modest housewife trying to do right by her family is far more transgressive than anal rape. Sevigny was made for camp.

It is possible that Murphy uses Wes Bentley in the lead role here simply for the number of humorous references to American Beauty he can make. Bentley is by nature a joke: a goofy, blue eyed manikin who talks in a whispered hush at all times. He is absolutely perfect for this role, and Murphy's costumes for him are laugh-out-loud funny.

It does not seem Murphy is really having fun until he descends into amusing flashbacks of a mortified Kathy Bates searching for her drug addicted son. He is great at perching on the edge of something outlandish without going all the way there, which is why Lady Gaga talking about her days in New York and leading a little boy into a decadent room filled with unlimited candy and weird video game displays is kind of a drag.

Usually the problem with camp is that every once in awhile, usually by accident, it hits on something that is both sincere and original. Either one is fine on its own, but Murphy excels at never shying away from where his fantasies take him.

The best scene in American Horror Story is Wes Bentley and his daughter eating raw fish at a restaurant, a pastime every bit as disturbing as any sexual dysfunction, or the scene where Gaga slits the throat of a Swedish tourist with her fingernail.

Murphy is just as good as subtle repulsion as the bigger fish. In a film there is no time to explore the genuine expressions of emotion that exude naturally from the satire and parody inherent in camp, but Murphy can pretty much do whatever he wants in the loose format of American Horror Story. There is nothing else around with his whimsy, and that is why Nip/Tuck was much more amusing the more seriously it took itself.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

 "Two From The Vault" - David Bazan (mp3)


In Which We Would Ask You Kindly To Not Explain

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


The newest Mac operating system is out, and my boyfriend Ed immediately upgraded his computer. Then he upgraded mine. Then he upgraded my phone and his phone and gave me advice about what to do to make it run faster. On some level this kind of advice and dedication to whatever is helpful, but on the other hand it is tremendously annoying that Ed thinks he knows better. His tone borders on condescending when he tells me about it, but never gets too bad. However I am sick of all this mansplaining. Am I wrong?

Janice R.

Dear Janice,

Men feel helpless in the modern era. Since Apple products are easy to use, they quickly become experts at their finer points: they have nothing better to do with their time. If your car breaks down your boyfriend will be like, "It's probably something with the engine." Good one, Ed. The words "It's probably" prefacing any kind of declarative statement are most useless to people who require functional solutions.

It's probably that Ed is the kind of man, or as I call them, wan, who was raised to be the authoritative source of all information. And if you happen to break up, he will know all your passwords and could possibly even lock you out of your own computer.

To prevent this from happening, explain to Ed that while you would love his help, it's probably a security issue at work or school, and it's something you are not prepared to talk about right now, but perhaps when things get more serious.

Then make an observation of a public person — say Barack Obama — and accuse him of mansplaining something to America. Make Ed see that is not OK for a wan to ever fully reveal what he knows. People have to make their own mistakes. And tell him to take off that stupid hat.



This November will be my first holiday with my girlfriend Freda. We met in yoga class and things have been great. She has been talking about going to a lot of trouble preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for us, and I can't help but feel that preparations have gone off the rails a bit. Is there a nice way of asking her to scale back?

Cynthia B.


The only way to get out of a six course meal is with a lie, or in this case inventing a memory. Due to the prevalence of psychoanalysis in our society, the one hangup that is universally understood among human being is a desire not to relive the site and feeling of past negative experiences. Simply inform Freda of an extensive bad memory where you were all forced to eat food that was past its expiration date, or simply a meal that wasn't very tasty.

Isn't the holiday about more than food? you will scream as you denigrate the foundation of American excess. You can even push this to its logical endpoint: you simply cannot allow yourself to celebrate Thanksgiving until the American Indian is restored what was taken from him. I think Ohio?

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Average Person (demo)" - Paul McCartney (mp3)



In Which We Have Heard Enough About Your Border War

Take Me Back to Phoenix


dir. Denis Villeneuve
121 minutes

In his previous film Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve proved capable of making an entire film without a single joke in it. Prisoners could make a convincing argument for being the most humorless movie ever made, and in Sicario the director nearly accomplishes this feat again. Sicario is a numb, boring mess, the kind of effort only interesting to people who never go to the movies or watch television, where the "thrills" of the U.S./Mexico border war have been uncovered in more empathic and gripping fashion by dramas that actually have something to say.

Benicio Del Toro plays Alejandro as a poor man's Javier Bardem, attempting a portrayal of masterful subtlety that never comes together in the least. Alejandro is a corrupt government operative who plans to eliminate one cartel and put another in its place. His master plan is about as complicated as eggs on toast. Usually Del Toro is at least fun to watch, but here he seems like a parody of himself, too familiar to us from his previous roles and self-consciously hogging the camera at every opportunity. His performance is far short of a disaster, but it mainly sits there like a lump.

Most of Sicario is Emily Blunt whining to Josh Brolin about how she is upset about where he is taking her. He says they are going to El Paso to look for information about a mass grave in a booby-trapped house, but they are actually on the way to Juarez where they plan to shake down a guy for reasons. Blunt has improved her craft immensely in recent years, but she does not really have the charisma to carry the underwritten role of a flustered and naive cop. Brolin looks like her dumpy father rather than a peer.

In between extremely dull sequences of violence, Villeneuve places extensive aerial shots of crowded border crossing. It is a sight familiar to everyone familiar with this turgid topic. Blunt just wants to do the right thing, but it soon becomes apparent she has no actual idea what that is. "You're doing nothing in Phoenix," Brolin says. "Do you want to find the guys who did this?" She nods furiously.

When she is not complaining about the hidden motives of her superiors, Blunt meets a local officer (Jon Bernthal) in a bar and rides him at length. During their liasion, she spots a telltale band that the cartel uses to wrap drug money. She immediately goes for her gun. He renders her helpless, to be saved by the unlikely intervention of Del Toro. It was kind of difficult to hear what Del Toro said after that because he was muttering, but I doubt it was that important.

Why did Sicario receive such glowing reviews when it is basically the equivalent of dumping a cliched bag of shit onto a movie screen? I'm not really sure. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy made a hilarious, insightful trainwreck of a film on the same subject in 2013 called The Counselor and everyone hated it. I would say it comes down to Blunt herself, whose angular, ghostly face is expert in taking on an identity nothing like her own.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.