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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose

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 We Cannot Pass Unseen Or Untouched

My Disposition


I am always a little surprised to discover that I have a body. Soon after I’d moved to Chicago, someone brushed my arm on the train and I almost cried because I could not remember the last time someone had touched me.

In the summer I bruise easily. The backs of my calves bloom with purple-black spots at the impact of bike pedals. Now, on my thigh above my knee, there’s a yellow-green spot from when I walked into a drawer that I had opened just moments prior. It’s disappointing, as an adult, to discover that you cannot pass unseen or untouched as easily as you did when you were a child.

I would rather reveal a deep, humiliating secret than have somebody invade my personal space. In the city, there are degrees of closeness. A certain touch in the train is formal, compartmentalized into what we refer to as “rush hour”: the slow sludge movement of hundreds of people trying to squeeze through doorways and turnstiles, through the curled spaces between other humans.

Even if they never reach the same physical proximity as these commuters, someone who means harm can be detected almost immediately. The bodily threat hangs pungent in the space between us. I remember a strange boy putting his hand on my knee when I was in high school, but perhaps he just lifted it from his own and began reaching towards me.

“Don’t touch me,” I warned.

I’m taller than almost any other woman I’ve met, and of a serious, unsmiling disposition. On the street, men whistle, but I don’t know what they’re whistling at. These hips? These breasts? I spent years trying to wish them out of existence, not because I was ashamed of them, but because the fantasy of being admired for simply my mind held an undeniable lure.

When a boy I liked in high school kissed me on the cheek one morning in the hallway before class, I felt it all the way down to my toes. I wasn’t kissed on the mouth until later, long after most people my age had already lost their sense of physical wonder. It was a little bit like being picked last for a sports team, except I was great at it right away, like my body knew things that my mind didn’t, answers to questions that have circulated since the beginning of time.

I took to water like a fish, not afraid of its depths like most children but terrified of the man-made box it was in, the feats of engineering that drained it and filled it and filtered it. When I was seven, I went swimming alone in the deep end by myself. I slipped underwater and reached down to touch the bottom of the pool, near the drain that I feared so much. As I let my body float to the surface of its own buoyant accord, I closed my eyes. My right cheek struck something sharp. I surfaced, bringing my hand to my face, and opened my eyes to see blood covering my palm and running down my arm. I’d gashed my face open on the ladder. At the hospital, they covered my face with tissue paper as they stitched up the wound with a needle shaped like a fish hook.

I forgot to drink water during my freshman year of college. I woke up in the middle of the night sometimes so parched I’d search the whole room, in the dark, trying not to wake my roommate up, for enough change to go buy a bottle of water from the vending machine. Sometimes I couldn’t find enough change and I had to wait until breakfast. The water in the bathrooms tasted metallic, with a twist of chlorine strong enough to make me reminisce about entire Southern California summers spent in the pool. It was a cocktail of childhood, of living in a place I’d lived in before after I’d lived in a place that obliterated all other places for me. My body was the only constant between here and there, and it has never been constant.

I bit my nails for years. Never until they bled, but close. Now, when I see someone on the train with badly bitten fingers, my stomach turns and I have to look away. I wish I could remember how I stopped, or why when I’m taken almost completely out of my body by a book or a film, I resume the old habit.

Eating a lot, and eating well, has always moored me to the physical. But it’s a transient activity. If only I could pick up some sort of tic, a discomfort that would constantly remind me of my body. If I could tap my toes obsessively. If I blinked more than the usual amount. If I possessed one superhuman sensation, even at the expense of another. I realize that these wishes are nonsensical, even offensive. But the desire to change, mutilate, or enhance one’s body has been around forever. It is simply the desire to be a body that we are also proud of, instead of this paradoxical creature that we happen to be but cannot always identify with.

My thighs are touching again. I’m wearing a sundress and the humidity makes my legs stick together uncomfortably. When I’ve felt unbeautiful, I’ve known deep inside that it is simply a result of my own feelings, not the physical reality of me. I’ve always thought more about what I could give to people in terms of my presence or thoughts; giving my body to friends or lovers to embrace and study seems foreign and bizarre even now. I enjoy it with the same wonder as I enjoy pondering a new and difficult concept.

We copyright them sometimes, but in truth, our thoughts are universal. Once you share an idea with someone, you’ve put it out into the universe, and you can’t take it back. Our bodies are the only things that truly belong to us, truly are us. Even in our most intimate physical sharing, we remain separate. You can pass an idea off as your own but you cannot pretend to own somebody else’s body. It’s the part of us that keeps us from becoming truly universal, perhaps from fully belonging.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by David Drebin.

"Follow You" - Night Riots (mp3)

"Oh My Heart" - Night Riots (mp3)


In Which Some Of These Questions Occupy Our Time

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.


Lately I have been getting into a lot of fights with my mom about my boyfriend Tim. Even though Tim and I live together in an apartment about twenty minutes away from my Mom's house, she frequently asks him to come over to help her out with tasks around the house. The chores are menial but I resent that she feels she can occupy his time. He feels he can't say no to her but is far from eager to pitch in.

There is another complication to my problem. My dad left when I was four after cheating regularly on my mom. My mom likes and appreciates Tim, but she also continues to encourage me to monitor his comings and goings so that the same thing doesn't happen to me. It makes me paranoid and sometimes I find myself wondering. I've explained this to Tim and he says he doesn't find it out of the ordinary, but I'm worried these two things will drive him far away - possibly to Alaska or the former Soviet Union. How do I handle this ticklish sitch?

Lake T.


Dear Lake,

At first it may seem like these are really two separate problems, each requiring their own unique solution. In reality, one complements the other quite well. If your mother actually believes Tim is cheating on you, she will stop asking him to help out around the house.

Maybe you're not comfortable lying to your mom about Tim's "fucking around." After all, she raised you, presumably by herself. Why not be vague and say that you and Tim have been having some problems. When she asks what kind of problems, you must select the only problem that couples have that no one would ever want to get involved with, even your mom: religion. Inform your mom that Tim really doesn't mind helping her, but because of these problems it's hurtful to you to have him spending time there when you need your space. Cry during this, and if the moment strikes you, weep. I once saw a friend sob like a baby while simultaneously sucking fluid from a juicebox full of Juicy Juice. I assure you I never was able to forget it.


I spent the weekend with an amazing guy. It was my first time meeting him in person after a few online interactions. He filled me with excitement about dating again. I felt an immediate connection with him after our dinner date and we went back to his place, but nothing physical happened.

It was a tiresome weekend for the both of us since we were tied with obligations, but we tried to spend as much time together as possible. We spent one evening watching a movie. I wanted to make a move the entire time, but was too nervous. I didn't want him to think it was a one time hook-up. I haven't dated anyone formally in two years and didn't know how to behave myself. I was taken aback. I want to let him know I feel without ruining what we have. I want to know how he feels, but I don't if I should bring it up the next time I see him or through text. We have a 10-year age difference, but it doesn't feel that way. What should I do?

Lacey M.

Dear Lacey,

During an extended, awkward first encounter like the one you are describing, some men will not make the first move. If you do not reciprocate, then their entire weekend is kind of unpleasant. Also, you might reciprocate just to smooth through the weekend rather than some genuine attraction. In our experience, people are most hesitant to pounce on a woman when they actually do like her, so there may be hope for you.

The fact that you didn't make a move is probably viewed by him as a sign of disinterest, though. I mean, you were there and hanging out for awhile. You probably watched The Grand Budapest Hotel and he empathized with Tilda Swinton and wondered if you were only interested in him for the heady bequest you would receive from his will. Never watch a Wes Anderson movie when sex is in the offing; it makes legs flaccid as well as penises.

There is nothing wrong with being the initiator, as long as he doesn't feel it is expected. Keep him on his toes by entering and exiting rooms very quickly. Perhaps too quickly? And use emdashes, but not too many emdashes. Guys don't like that.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Glory" - John Legend & Common (mp3)


In Which Jessica Chastain Resembles A Dinner Mint

Standard Oil


A Most Violent Year
dir. J.C. Chandor
121 minutes

Oscar Isaac usually looks like a bunch of rolled up newspapers. Not here. As Abel Morales, the owner of a growing heating oil company in 1981 New York City, he moves swifty and surely through his muted world. In A Most Violent Year Abel never once makes a false move or second guesses himself; he has no idea what a crisis of conscience even is. Once, he gets slightly upset that his wife's handgun reminds him of a weapon a prostitute would use to protect herself. Other than that, he never alters his expression from a steely, viscous meow.

The world that revolves around Morales is filled with character actors of various ability: a menopausal Albert Brooks, a tense Alessandro Nivola and Glenn Flesher fresh off his role in True Detective. None offers much in the way of an antagonist. The closest thing to that is the prosecutor played by a masterful David Oyelowo, whose only scene with Jessica Chastain has all the romantic chemistry that Isaac and the dinner mint that is JC lack.

It seems unkind to shit on J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost) for making an exceedingly subtle movie in an environment where such machinations are lost on viewers used to television hammering home every single plot point. More happens in fifteen minutes of Boardwalk Empire than in the entire running time of A Most Violent Year. Unfortunately, nothing much lurks behind the subtlety of A Most Violent Year; there is instead a serious lack of emphasis on anything except the indifferent virtuism with which Morales regards the awful place he calls his home.

Morales has been the victim of about ten oil robberies when A Most Violent Year begins. The film concerns his search for the individuals that stole his trucks, as well as his desire to secure money to purchase a facility on the East River after his bank drops out of the funding to pressure from his competitors and the government.

Morales' wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) keeps the books. Chastain accomplishes her usual effortless job of slipping into the skin of another human being, but she is really given quite little to do here. (She does not even get nude once.) Anna tells Abel that if he will not protect his family from the people that are hurting them, she will. In this:

In one particularly on-the-nose scene, unusual for the film, Chastain gets out of their car to execute a deer that they have accidentally injured. She shoots several times to be sure of the animal's death, as her husband looks on in horror. Anna is the daughter of a prominent Brooklyn gangster, and the concept of guilt by association that hovers at the margins of A Most Violent Year is never fully explored.

Hints are all we get. They paint a picture of a corrupt industry in which collusion and underhanded practices threaten the lives of anyone who challenges the preexisting power structure. This view is likely accurate - it is, however, neither eye-opening or very much fun. It is difficult to know exactly who A Most Violent Year is aimed at, situated on the median between period piece and industrial thriller. It is not particular gritty, but it is gloomy. Waking up from Chandor's film feels like drawing your head quickly out of a water bucket.

"I feel like I haven't seen the girls in days," Morales complains about his two young daughters.  One of them finds a gun in the bushes of their house, dropped by a would-be assailant. The magazine is loaded and the safety is off. We could have more than a few seconds with this moment, but instead we never even find out Abel's daughter's name. Her parents are too concerned with larger matters. In this world there is only one aspect of self that is ever worth paying attention to, and that is how it is projected on others, or conversely, violated by them.

Morales remains untarnished by the vanity, greed and idolatry he experiences in this version of New York City. The other world lingers at the outskirts of his, more peaceful by far. Eventually, we assume, there will be  lessening, a weakness, a lack of functioning in that intensity. That moment never arrives.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Song to the Siren" - Amen Dunes (mp3)