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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.

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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 We Need To Subtly Tarnish Everything Around Us

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.


My girlfriend Marilyn is a charismatic, loving and caring person. She does one thing that has grown to bother me over time. Whenever she is walking around the city, examining various buildings, she says one thing over and over again, "Who lives here?" with a quizzical tone.

I don't know if she genuinely wonders who is living in the domiciles, or if she just thinks it's a funny thing to say. I've told her in a nice way that she might want to give "Who lives here?" a rest for awhile, but she just thinks it's a wonderful inside joke between us. How can I make her stop uttering these words?

Randolph B.

Dear Randolph,

"Who lives here?" seems a perfectly reasonable thing to say. Your girlfriend harbors a wonderful curiosity about the world and its denizens, and you may never find her ilk again.

Still, even the most introspective and important questions can get a bit grating if repeated often enough. In order to get her to stop asking, each time that she poses the question offer an intricate analysis of the residents' socio-economic levels, day-to-day rituals, grocery shopping lists, possible medications and television viewing habits. Become accustomed to uttering the phrase, "Nielsen viewing patterns tell us..."

After a few times, she will never ask "Who lives here?" again. Did you know most sociologists are divorced?


My daughter recently became pregnant by her longtime boyfriend, Anthony. They decided that they should get married and had a bridal shower, bachelor party and a lovely wedding. The expense to our family was considerable, and even more so because my husband recently had to take a lower-paying job.

Last month I found out from my daughter that her and Anthony had not actually gotten legally married in this ceremony. When I confronted her about this lie, she blew me off and told me that "marriage means different things to different people." Am I right to be upset?

Louise F.

Dear Louise,

No. The American Wedding Industry exists to take money from vulnerable, naive individuals such as yourself. Did you know that in some cultures, such as those of the Incans, a married couple was required to administer blow jobs to everyone who showed up at their nuptials? A gift bag was also provided.

You gave a gift of your own free will. If it was conditional on something, you should not have given it. If it bothers you that much, ask for your money back. You won't get it, but everyone will know you're an insanely gullible person whose devotion to cultural norms will only be eradicated through shock therapy or divorce.


I recently got into a very bad argument with my fiance Steven. In the wake of it, I have asked a lot of different people for advice about the argument in terms of who was wrong and who was right, and I feel like I still don't know the right answer.

Most things are great with Steven, but one issue keeps coming up again and again with us, and that is his relationship with his mother. I try to understand how close he is with her, but I just feel he doesn't put me first at times. Things came to a head when she had one of her many doctor's appointments and he had to drive three hours so he would be there to take her.

While a serious medical issue is one thing, Steven's mother Dorothy seems to be a bit of a hypochrodriac. She is nearly always developing a new ailment, and I can't help but feel she does it to get attention from him, her husband David and even me at times. When I brought this up to Steven finally, he admitted that it might be true, but that his mom did have health issues and suggested she is understandably wanting to feel better.

I don't know how to deal with this and not come across as the bad guy or overly controlling GF. Help.

Melanie T.

Dear Melanie,

Deconstructing the relationship between a boy and his mother is always difficult. Keep in mind, he literally emerged from her uterus. "Well," you might say, "this was long ago." No, it was not. It feels like just yesterday he was in the womb, deriving nutrients from the quinoa she was eating during her pregnancy.

Telling a man to change that relationship is never going to accomplish your goal. You need to subtly tarnish her in his eyes. Does she have any racist or politically incorrect views you can bring to his attention? Perhaps she fears men who wear hoodies, or foolishly purchased an Xbox One? Any anachronistic behavior makes her look like a crazy loon who needs her son too much.

It's important to get a handle on this soon, Melanie. No one wants a Norma/Norman Bates type situation.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Perfect" - One Direction (mp3)


In Which Absolutely Nothing Is Taken For Granted



by Margo Jefferson
Pantheon, 248 pp

"There are so many ways to be ambushed by insult and humiliation," writes Margo Jefferson in her new memoir Negroland. Reviews of the book so far focused on Jefferson's class, implying that she had set out to write a history of the lives of upper class blacks in America. 

There is that history here, but it is strange to call it the story of the bourgeoisie. When we tell the history of other peoples and places, focusing exclusively on the most wealthy and powerful people of the time seems pretty much conventional. With African-Americans, some special dispensation must be made. 

Jefferson grew up in a white area of Chicago. She was one of the only black students in her school, and as such, she dealt with a condescending type of racism. It is this kind of subtle racism that has replaced the good old Confederate flag waving kind, for the most part. 

When students at the University of Missouri confronted their president, they were aggrieved by his tone more than anything. They asked him whether he knew what systematic oppression was. He responded by saying, "I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer. Systematic oppression is when you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success."

In the first part of her book, Jefferson tells the stories of black Americans who achieved success in the white, racist world of early America. These are inspiring stories, in some cases moving ones, although Jefferson tells them with a scholarly distance that makes of them no more than the facts of their lives. The point of this approach is to pretend unbias — but we cannot really manage this, since every black person who lived during this time is a hero even for existing. 

"Nothing about us is taken for granted by anyone anywhere in the world," Jefferson explains of a guided tour through the black magazines of the period around her youth. Ebony was set on explaining the black experience in a facile way, and looking back on the headlines from the time betrays the fact that there was no such consistent experience. 

The story of Jefferson's own life reiterates this message. She believes on some level that her tony upbringing isn't representative, that it does not tell the full story, hence the inclusion of so many other histories as a preface to her own. She moves through each excruciating grade with a memory that exceeds most conscious descriptions of childhood.

In gorgeous prose she lays out the specific details, careful to avoid any and all cliche. There is a fear of being critiqued that haunts her writing, a preemptive self-critique that is at times welcome and in other moments a source of frustration. "We were the third race," Jefferson explains at one point, though we know it is not true. 

Ms. Jefferson was a profoundly unhappy high schooler. She remained on the outside circles of her cliques, orbiting them like a moon. "I crave the gift of recreational shallowness," she admits, perhaps not entirely sincerely. Eventually she switches to telling her story of disillusion from a third person perspective, as though she is not herself at all. 

In its last third, Negroland nearly dissolves in anger. In the absence of sense-making, the book becomes a spirited intellectual recollection of blackness, mostly avoiding Margo's unhappy time at Brandeis. More history introduces on the ending of Negroland, as Jefferson decides exactly how pessimistic she should be about the immense volley of racism she has experienced, most of it underhanded and hinting, like the light stroke of a pen.

There is something more pernicious about such an assault. It is why freedom of speech remains valuable; for if we exterminated the most vile viewpoints from our society we would never know of this other, skulking racism that follows people of color from place to place. By the very end of her book, Jefferson has no idea what exactly led her to construct the sense of the self that she currently has. "It is too easy to recount unhappy memories," she sighs, and tries to write something encouraging to make Negroland less of a eulogy. There is a feeling there beyond her exhortation to "Go on" that we have not come very far at all.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Travel Light In The Badlands

Death of Good Taste


Into The Badlands
creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have a sketch in their new Netflix series W/Bob and David where a white director explains the genesis of his movie Better Roots. Ironically two white men have also teamed up on the AMC network to launch their version of the slave story called Into the Badlands.

In this stock photo from 1821, helpers are happy.Into the Badlands takes place on a massive plantation where young boys are either trained as ninjas or put to work in fields cultivating heroin. Young women aren't allowed to become warriors, so they are exclusively limited to farmwork. Sonny (Daniel Wu) is the top slave (in David Cross' terminology, "helper") who has a tattoed mark on his back representing every person he has killed for his master (Martin Csokas).

Despite the extensive slave allegory, exactly one of the helpers is black. You can see him slightly to the right of Csokas in the above photograph. Recently Adam Sandler had a huge problem recruiting Native Americans to play a role in his offensive movie The Ridiculous Six, which coincidentally also will air on Netflix. They have entirely corned the market in racism and anti-racism.

It's almost like he's a conquering hero in the vein of a Don Johnson.

So why use all this plantation imagery if you aren't actually going to include any black people or make any other reference to slavery except the plantation gear and southern accents? The creators of Into the Badlands can't really be blamed for this bizarre mishmash of signification. I mean, were they to be expected to read Olaudah Equino or the provocative work of Phyllis Wheatley? There is no serious evidence that the people who wrote this show can read, period.

You know, a lot of people have been asking me what I thought of what happened at the University of Missouri this month. I settled down with a chai latte, in my finest robe, and read the list of demands that the black students there came up with. Nothing on their list seemed terribly drastic. I mean, I think they were asking for like ten percent of faculty to be professors of color and maybe for some outreach. The real reason the university fired their president was because the football team went on strike. It's only the university at fault that the threat worked.

They probably should have just cast Andrew Lincoln and saved us all the trouble.

I'm happy that Lee Daniels made some money off Empire before he totaled it like a car for the insurance money, but I still think about Roots. For my younger readers, Roots was a miniseries that actually contained some of what African people experienced when they were dragged from their homes to this country. It did huge ratings on television; everyone was really into it although it was probably never merchandised like it should have been.

Roots was succesful because it was nothing that had ever been seen on television. Now violence is pretty de rigeur. Daniel Wu is an amazing stuntman and he kills about forty people in the pilot of Into the Badlands alone. To his credit, he is upset about it afterwards. In the mishmash world of Into the Badlands there are no guns, so there is no credible reason that there would even be slaves. Guns enabled slavery to happen in the absence of overwhelming force.

African-Americans aren't the only victims of this tripe. A living woman does not appear until after twenty minutes of Into the Badlands. She is the wife of Martin Csokas' Baron character and she is portrayed by Irish actress Orla Brady. Her husband is cheating on her with this trollop —

Rest assured that in this dystopian future, there is an H&M.

— but she accepts the situation because such is the plight of women on Into the Badlands. Make no mistake, creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar want you to know this is a corrupt and dangerous world. There is a place of hope that Daniel Wu and his lisping protege M.K. (Aramis Knight) are planning on reaching; it is roughly based off the plot of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. Evil women are set on foiling the plans of these men. One such individual is the Widow (Emily Beecham), who murdered her husband for power.

Or Norman Reedus? That would have been fine, too.

I am somewhat skeptical that anything positive will come of this. Into the Badlands might occur in a terrible place and time in human history, but there is no evidence that its masters realize just how bad things are. If you have sensed the allegory I am making to the University of Missouri, you are probably next in line for your own AMC series.

"This is just an extended audition for another show, right? Otherwise I have a blog on Medium about how offensive this is ready to go."

The funny thing is that in a previous generation, college protestors asked for a complete turnover of a new world order and soldiers brought home from endless military engagement abroad. Now kids are only asking for the people driving around their campus with Confederate flags to be expelled, and that's too much. Perhaps they could include on their list of demands the cancellation of Into the Badlands. (The whole thing was in rather poor taste, although Daniel Wu's martial arts stunts were admittedly impressive.) It is no problem satisfying American youths today. I am ready to become the next president of the University of Missouri. That's an easy fucking job.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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