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Alex Carnevale
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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
Nov192014

In Which They Recently Met Through Mutual Friends

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.

Hi,

I recently met a woman through some mutual friends. Dee is a social worker who is very devoted to the people she helps get on their feet. She is great at her job. 

Frequently, our dates or hangouts are postponed because things come up unexpectedly. Dee doesn't have a lot of faith in the people with which she works, so she feels like she has to handle these things herself. I try to accept that I am not always going to be her number one priority, but I am starting to worry it might be this way forever. She is apologetic and feels really guilty when she cancels the plans, and I try not to make things worse. I don't feel comfortable bringing it up to her since we have only been dating for four months. Should I give up now, or is it possible things will change in the future?

Henry P.

Dear Henri,

Dee probably is balancing a lot of things on her plate at one time, and since she deals with people who are used to letting her down and feeling bad about it, she is reflexively adopting their behavior. A good psychologist could probably fix her in a month or two.

We don't have that kind of time. It seems like she likes you because you are the one person she can disappoint, which means you may be very special to Dee. The irony seems to be lost on you.

Your instinct to wait until further in the relationship to make this an issue seems sound. By six months she will have bonded to you further, and you can influence her decision-making without her openly wondering where you got the nerve to tell her what to do. Four months in, you're just another aspect of the patriarchy holding her back.

Hi,

Last year for Christmas our friend Jaina gave all of us very expensive presents, including jewelry and clothing. It was something of a surprise, but she now can afford to give more lavish gifts. Since it was unexpected last year, it wasn't really reasonable that we would have such expensive gifts for her.

This year she seems to be planning on making a big deal out of the Christmas gifts again. None of us either want or in some cases are not able to give gifts of commensurate value. Speaking for myself, I feel uncomfortable accepting them as well. Is there a way to bring this up to Jaina without sounding ungrateful? She has never demanded equal value, although she does bring up what she got us last year quite often.

Allison O.

Dear Allison,

Inform Jaina that you "can't wait" to give her what you got her, and pass along your present earlier. It is an abstract expressionist drawing of her that makes her look substantially larger and more annoying that she actually is, which from the sounds of it is a whole lot.

What has this Jaina done for you lately, except been an expensive pain-in-the-ass? Find friends who do not celebrate Christmas, and if they give you something for Hannukah, burn it with the flame of a menorah to make your point.

But seriously, proposing a gift system where one person in your group has to give only one gift to another person in your group will likely alleviate this problem. Jaina will probably know this is about her, so when she asks, tell her, "We were on a break!" You deserve better.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

Tuesday
Nov182014

In Which We Wake Up Each Day Knowing We Are Tom Cruise

Sleepyhead

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Before I Go To Sleep
dir. Rowan Joffe
89 minutes

"I don't think I'm the kind of person who would cheat," Christine (Nicole Kidman)  says in Before I Go To Sleep. "Do you?" Her therapist, Dr. Michael Nasch (Mark Strong) eyes her suspiciously, sort of like the way a reindeer eyes a sleigh.

Things are already out of sorts. Before I Go To Sleep is set near Greenwich, England, but Nicole Kidman does a weird approximation of a half-American accent for some reason. Christine wakes up every day remembering very little. "You think you're in your twenties," her husband (Colin Firth) tells her. "But you're forty. You're forty." He tells her this like eight more times as he mansplains who she is, and again when she's sitting on the toilet.

Christine's daily amnesia is supplemented by a video camera she keeps in her drawer, where an earlier version of herself does not want her to trust the husband man sleeping next to her - if he indeed is who he says.


In this new film from director Rowan Joffe, Kidman looks pretty good all things considered. (Marriage to Tom Cruise is the only thing I considered.) They shoot a lot of the movie in a car so as not to emphasize how much taller she is than the men around her. She has always seemed like the kind of person who needed be given lines to say anything.

When Christine starts having feelings for her therapist, she becomes worried that he may be the man who attacked her and caused the memory loss in the first place. He explains that transference is natural, but counter-transference means that he must recuse himself from her case. He does not mouth the words 'I love you' but it is implied that for some men, a woman who can easily forget their flaws is something of a virtue.


Strong is a fun performer to watch: no one seems as natural vacillating between various facial expressions. He doesn't fit a more reserved role of a psychologist falling in love with his patient because his Achilles heel is showing two things, vulnerability and erudition. On the plus side he is as subtle as a mace, which perfectly suits the events of Before I Go To Sleep.

Meanwhile, Christine's husband Ben (Firth) is perpetually rotating his head so we don't see the bad side of his face. He plays his part a bit upside down, since when he turns on Christine because she can't enjoy their relationship, it's way overdue. No one could stand being forgotten on a daily basis except Adam Sandler, and Christine is far from nice about the difficulties Firth faces in caring for an invalid. She has driven everyone in her life away, to the point where we wonder why she can't just pretend to remember for a little while.

It turns out that Christine is the kind of person who would cheat. The fact that she in any way caused her own amnesia is basically a gussied-up version of blaming the victim. Whatever life she idealizes instead of the one she has probably seems better because she lost it. (Tom Cruise wakes up each day not knowing who he is, get it?)


The concept that you should never allow yourself to be betrayed twice by the same person is an important principle of self-respect. The repeated shattering of her trust that Christine suffers almost renders her inert, but it is great fun to watch her survive by feeding off her own frenzy. Kidman's constant glancing everywhere is meant to portray her shaky emotional state, but at times she resembles a spectator at a ping-pong tourney. Her too-short hair, suggesting a recent cut, is always the first betrayal in her life. She does not look the way she feels.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"You and Me" - The Veronicas (mp3)

"Mad Love" - The Veronicas (mp3)

Monday
Nov172014

In Which We Find It Difficult To Write About Him Not To Him

Eight Percent

by CEILIDH BARLOW CASH

My office is on the first floor, fourth window in from the left. I have an aloe plant in the window that I watered for the first time in weeks today. I wasn’t intentionally neglecting it, I think it’s more accurate to say that I was waiting to see if it would eventually wilt and beg for water. It never seemed to change, although I think it’s fair to say that changes of that variety are often imperceptible. That is, it’s not hard to overlook the things start hurting around you if you go fast enough. And as I breeze in and out of this office, riding highs and lows (think weather fronts, pressure systems, wind and rain) I know I sometimes miss the things that aren’t moving as forcefully as I am. 

The last few months have been a balancing act between “I have adequate skills and real goals” and “I would like to throw it all out the window to find an apartment in Montreal.” I’m thinking the Mile End, something with enough windows to hold a few more aloe plants, and maybe a cactus. Sometimes I’m not sure I want to be responsible for myself, but I think I could handle watering a few plants through the winter  especially the cactus, which I’m told is a lazy person’s plant. I don’t care. I would arrange them on the sill to admire as a testament to my adult self.

He lived in Montreal for a while too  graduated from the same school my best friend is now attending. I think they would approve of one another, and I would smile coyly knowing each had seen me naked, and approved of that too. That’s the trouble with me these days: I’m not sure how to reconcile the part of me that wants to curl my lip and say I win when someone lusts after me. It’s not a game, but I will play you. I’ve boiled it down (because rationalize would be too strong a word) to animal instinct. I figure I’m about eight percent animal. The kind with docile eyes and fangs that I’ll flash if you look at me the wrong way. Watch out, I bite. That’s usually the way I approach these matters  I’ll smile pretty just so long as you know that I could have your head if I wanted it. I’ve thought about sharpening my nails into claws more than once.

Things didn’t unfold in that way with him though. It all unraveled in the most dangerous and subtle way: with immediate trust. I emerged from a drunken stupor when he first padded towards me, offering a hug and calm eyes. If I was an animal in that moment, I was wounded and sulking on my way home. There was a distinct moment of clarity when I first saw his face, then wrapped my heavy limbs around his and collapsed. He didn’t catch me (that would be too poetic) but I remember looking up to his lips as he said “I would very much like to kiss you.” Yes. Yes, I want to kiss you too. I bit my lip and nodded my head so furiously I’m not sure how he slowed me down enough to catch my mouth. 

Mid-kiss, a new character swooped in, screeching and crowing about our matching hair colour, which was either a spectacle or an insult, I couldn’t tell. In those moments, as he lashed out at her and I reined him back in, I decided we were a team. A friend once told me the best way to make friends is to declare that the friendship already exists. I’m not sure it works the same way with lovers, or if I could have just told him: You’re mine. He might have believed me. I wanted him to. 

I learned he was an actor. A talented one. One whose act I couldn’t outperform, and so I abandoned mine  the Bio-Medical sciences major who was too sophisticated for medical school, or the poet with a dangerous mouth. These things are all true, but they’re embellished, shiny. Not the things that really matter about me. That’s the thing with actors  they know when you’re acting, too. So I sat in the vulnerability of my particular self, thinking about the definition of serendipity. I decided it wasn’t a pretty enough word for what this felt like. 

He was carefully handsome. I remember clearly the pale geography of his shoulders, dappled in the same freckles that dance across my cheeks in July. I think there’s a direct correlation between sunshine and my happiness which you can measure by counting the freckles on my face at any given time. I’m good at math it’s called a linear relationship. But it was October and my freckles, like most other things, felt like they were fading from me.

I slipped on his plaid shirt after I’d taken mine off. It was soft and rolled carefully to the elbows. It fit me well. He began picking up my things as I tossed them on the floor one by one  my scarf, my bra, my watch. I was recklessly losing all important belongings that night  including my phone, a single sock and maybe the idea that I had to protect myself with claws and teeth. Maybe I could sit still and not have to rely on them anymore. Trust, like serendipity, just isn’t a pretty enough word for it. 

The rest of the night was still and warm. We slept under hotel sheets that were insincerely soft for how much we paid for the room. He told me the names of his parents, which I was dead-set on knowing, and I told him that I was very particular about my coffee. I admitted that I wasn’t sure if I could survive in Montreal without country roads and large animals. I also admitted that I wanted to go right now because there was no right time to do something that scared the shit out of you. Go now, shoot it all. 

The next morning was loud as we tumbled into breakfast alongside ten other hungover twenty-somethings. They’d picked the venue: a classic diner with linoleum tables and ketchup on the table, even at breakfast. I sat between him and a boy with a ponytail who looked startlingly similar to my best friend. It felt like a family affair: ten siblings arguing, negotiating and outlining the merits and pitfalls of eggs benny versus breakfast poutine for a hangover. I ordered French toast. When I discovered he was left-handed I nearly dropped my fork on the table. It was a strange quirk, that every boy I categorically decided I loved was left-handed. If the prevalence of left-handedness is high, I don’t want to know  I like to consider it a rare trait associated with boys who can handle me. 

So far I’ve left out that he was in a band. The lead singer of a band who was in town for one night on their tour  which was for charity, I might add. So yes, I may have been a groupie that morning, but I definitely wasn’t the only one. And even so, I didn’t feel like an addendum to his trip. I didn’t feel as though he had sat beside a new girl at breakfast all week.  I felt like I had walked on stage right on cue, as if he and I were expecting each other. 

The reality that it was late-October and I was only wearing a thin (albeit fabulously stylish) leather jacket crept up as we left the diner. I’m Canadian, but I am not designed for the cold. The rest of the band wanted to examine the massive church on top of the hill, which they thought was the only interesting thing in this town (they’re wrong, but that’s beside the point). So I left. I could have lingered, but I wanted to leave just as elegantly as I had entered. Lingering is never elegant. He kissed me goodbye, looked at me earnestly and I walked away.

I scampered back to my bed, hazy from the hangover and hoping more sleep would ease his storyline into mine. I wanted to stay very still, not risk another move that would rearrange the potential we’d pushed together in the past twelve hours. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I didn’t want it to disappear. I’m not very good at staying still though, and I found myself smiling as I washed my hands that night  his phone number on one palm and his email address on the other. He wrote in purple ink. I don’t know if I was smiling because his handwriting was there, or because it wouldn’t be tomorrow. Some things can go away so easily, so unnoticeably. I doubted he would be one of those things.

He hasn’t reappeared in my life since. I bite at my fingertips occasionally to see if I can taste him anymore. I can’t. It hurt for a while, the silence between us that felt void, unexplained and inflating. Not all silences are like that. It still feels absurd that he could waltz into and out of my life so effortlessly, when everything else I do is so deliberate. I’m the kind of girl who intentionally doesn’t water my aloe plant for three weeks to see what happens. Maybe he’s that kind of guy  maybe he’s doing the same thing to me. Maybe he doesn’t even notice that I’m wilting, I’m such a small a plant sitting in the windowsill of his office. Except I doubt he has an office, or that he spends his afternoons staring out the window  first floor, fourth one in from the left  lusting after the sunshine. But I swear I’m not a plant  I’m eight percent animal. And all eight percent of my animal self is still thinking about his flesh between my teeth. 

Ceilidh Barlow Cash is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Guelph, Ontario. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here

Photographs by Amardeep S

"Uncatena" - Sylvan Esso (mp3)

"Coffee" - Sylvan Esso (mp3)