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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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Thursday
Mar192015

In Which There Are Times He Resembles A Penny Loafer

Color Me Grey

by KARA VANDERBIJL

The Fall
creator Alan Cubitt

When Jamie Dornan isn’t murdering brunettes in Belfast, he’s busy slinging Dakota Johnson over his knee to spank her. Now that BBC’s The Fall has been renewed for a third season, in which he’ll (presumably) pick up the role of serial killer Paul Spector, Dornan will likely continue his spree as one of the most disturbing televised turn-ons. It isn’t much of a surprise: with his breathy brogue, Dornan could resemble a penny loafer and still drop every pair of panties west of the Atlantic. What is ironic, however, is the fact that his serial killer, Paul Spector, is ten times sexier than his billionaire sadist, Christian Grey. Whether that says more about Dornan’s abilities, Fifty Shades of Grey, or human desire, I’m not sure.

The Fall, created by Allan Cubitt, follows Spector as he commits a string of murders around Belfast, and focuses on the local police force, led by Detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), as they attempt to catch him.  

As far as crime dramas go, The Fall doesn’t offer much novelty. The narrative zeroes in on both the killer and the detectives pursuing him, which is refreshing, but hardly new — remember Dexter?  The Fall pounds the point home yet again that nobody’s innocent. Detectives stalk Spector in much the same way that Spector stalks his female victims. Spector’s young daughter Olivia and his wife lie to the police. Spector is just as capable of accomplishing positive things (raising children, helping a woman escape her abusive spouse) as the detectives are capable of doing negative things (becoming media informants, beating up women). We get it: everybody’s terrible!  

Thankfully, the series doesn’t spend too much time on this theme. It’s more concerned with the gritty present, not its characters’ tragic pasts, and this lends a sort of clinical agnosticism to its moral judgments, not to mention its characterization. Since Spector’s — not to mention the detectives’ — motives are cloudy, we can only judge them by their actions. And this is where The Fall really shines. 

Take Detective Stella Gibson, for example. We know almost nothing about her except that she’s from London, she’s competent, and, like her spiritual predecessor, Dana Scully, she’s logical to the extreme. The problem? She’s also attractive. Her boss, Jim (John Lynch), can barely control himself around her, even though their affair ended years ago. When she leaves a button undone on her blouse during a press conference, it’s all anybody can talk about — not the fact that she’s the one who answers all the questions with poise. After a one-night stand with a colleague who happens to be married — and later gets killed — Gibson gains a reputation as a loose woman who doesn’t respect conventions like marriage or professional distance.  

This is the uneasy truce men have made with women: they won’t question your professional prowess, as long as you shed it (along with your clothes) once they visit your hotel room. If not, they’ll get sullen — or predictably, violent.  

Paul Spector kills successful women for reasons that The Fall’s first two seasons only begin to untangle. But it’s not a stretch to imagine that Spector shares a similar history with Jamie Dornan’s other character, Christian Grey, whose “dark side” involves silk ties and a riding crop.

Sure, there’s a huge, and perhaps categorical, difference between those who like it rough and those who rough women up, but the stories are the same: they ask us to look into the character’s past to decipher why he has become like this, what has brought him to this point — so that we can empathize, perhaps forgive, and in poor, spanked Dakota Johnson’s case, even love the perpetrator.  

At one point in The Fall, Spector breaks into Detective Gibson’s hotel room and steals her journal. Although its contents aren’t revealed in any great detail to viewers, Spector later taunts Stella about what she has written concerning her father, hinting at a dysfunctional relationship.

He means to prove that he’s not the only one with twisted sexual desires, but instead, he reveals a tragic point: in Stella’s case, nobody will forgive. Nobody will empathize. Nobody will love. A man’s past justifies his end; a woman’s condemns hers.  

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording.

"Mona Lisa" - Goodbyemotel (mp3)


Wednesday
Mar182015

In Which This Is His Most Difficult Confession

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,

 

My boyfriend Hal and I were recently watching Bravo's Married at First Sight for reasons. One couple on the show renewed their bows in Las Vegas. It was absolutely disgusting.

Hal started talking about his only trip to Vegas seven years ago, and confessed that during the trip, after some encouragement from his friends, he had sex with a prostitute in a brothel.

I guess I didn't really know how to react at the time. Maybe I still don't. I know STD-wise that Hal is clean, but I'm having trouble dealing with this admission. Am I right to be upset?

Joan R.

Dear Joan,

I'm more worried about Hal's judgment. He could have lied about this and you would never know the difference until the prost in question came looking for child support. I had a friend who looked for sex on Craigslist for years before his marriage. He also patronized Asian massage parlors quite frequently.

Whether or not his wife knows about this period, I couldn't say, but I told him what I would have told Hal. Nothing good comes from telling the truth about sex with women for money. As is, there's no going back to the place where you did not know this information.

The bright side is this: not only do you have a get out of jail free card for anything you want, you can be sure Hal is super into you. Finding a man who can't lie is not the worst development. Make sure this is the case by going all "Did you order the Code Red?" on him and try get him to admit to other prosts. Also, ask the woman's name. It always helps to get all the information first.

Hi,

I recently wrote to Hard to Say about my boyfriend Jeff. He was insisting on taking things slow, and after I wrote in, things have only gotten more serious. One thing hasn't changed, though - he still insists that he has no intention of ever getting married again.

In the intervening time, Jeff has made plans to relocate to my city and we are thinking of ways that we can live together as soon as the fall.

Am I making a mistake?

Andrea R.

Dear Andrea,

It's impossible to know completely what Jeff is thinking without taking stock of other factors. It's good that you and Jeff are not moving in together immediately. If he does move in with you or stay with you for any extended length of time you will be married in everything except name, which is not a very good situation to be in.

Why not say you'll be needing your own space for the indefinite future? If things are going as well as they seem to, he'll crack on this issue. Anyone's mind can be changed, but the one way you can be sure that it won't be is by asking him outright at this juncture. You need to know more about the relationship and judge it on its real terms before suggesting ultimatums or making promises of your own.

Actually, fuck Jeff.

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

 

"Current Carry" - Vetiver (mp3)

"Time Flies By" - Vetiver (mp3)

 

 

Tuesday
Mar172015

In Which We Jenga For Days In The Dark Recesses Of Our House Of Cards

Spoilers for the third season of the Netflix series House of Cards appear in the following essai.


Douglas Stamper's Romper Room

by DICK CHENEY

Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) saw that movie where Jennifer Aniston complains a lot about being in pain and took it to heart. Lynne calls Doug Stamper 'Stampsies', and every time he does something that requires a questionable amount of moral integrity, such as squirt whiskey into his mouth with a syringe or pitch a crying fit in the oval office, she cries out, "Oh Stampsies, what will you do next?!"

This season of House of Cards oscillates from utterly boring to bald-head-to-the-wall fascinating in mere seconds, which makes it a difficult show to review in my inimitable style. The point of this constant temperature change is to echo the real pace of politics, which most of the time consists of sleepy policy proposals and pseudo-scandals about Hillary Clinton chucking her hard drives into the Chesapeake Bay or you know, lying about the murders of American ambassadors.

It's disgusting that Jon Stewart could give a shit whether or not he is lied to. All politicians lie, he moans between clips of the man he is dangerously obsessed with, Bill O'Reilly. You can judge someone pretty much completely by the types of people they take seriously. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) doesn't take anyone seriously except his wife - and that abiding belief is erased by the events of House of Cards' third season.

At times in his rise to power, Underwood had various crises of faith and through her officious and cold decision-making, Claire Underwood (the stunning yet vaguely asexual version of Robin Wright) pulled her husband past the crisis. That he is unable to save her the way she has done for him is the through-line here.

To obtain the presidency, Frank had to do a lot of messed-up, implausible shit. Now that he is the president, he has to do a lot of moaning, spinning around in a chair, and gripping the throats of women with his non-masturbating hand. Frank is no longer the asynchronous terror he once was, and this season of House of Cards has been accused of being dull, watered-down, and excessively foreign policy focused.

The last charge comes with a new antagonist, Russian president Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen). Featuring the real-life situation of the suddenly disappeared Russian president in the real world hews a bit too close to home, making us realize there are tyrants far worse than Frank Underwood. That an aging and more sympathetic Frank comes across like a weak baby in comparison to the strong Russian president is an easy irony, but it doesn't really help the narrative of the show. House of Cards has not lost the breakneck pace or compelling, theater-esque characterization that propelled it to success, but this season does seem to be missing a lot.

Spacey has aged precipitously since the last Cards ended with the Underwoods' ascent to the Oval Office. His virility has dissipated more quickly than any of us could imagined. I know the feeling: I lived it. At one point in my life I had hair, and then I didn't. (Likewise, Putin has returned from his sabbatical, where he received medical treatment to restore his low testosterone, but he will never really be as threatening to the West again.)

In order to sell the public on his brilliant American Works program that would employ every person currently sitting around during the day watching House of Cards on Netflix, Frank hires a novelist (Paul Sparks) with whom he has a weird, ambiguously sexual relationship after admiring a video game review the man wrote about iOS smash Monument Valley.

This entire threadline is setup for what will surely be played out in the show's fourth season, reminding us how much we lost, character-wise, from the first two. Peter Russo was a gentleman and a scholar; Zoe was a witch but at least she was our witch; Christina had a certain something I once saw in a young Courteney Cox before her smile became frightening; Claire's ex-boyfriend who she reverse cowboyed was a terrible photographer, but at least he provided something in the way of relief. It can't be all-Underwood, all-the-time. That's the mistake the Democratic Party made before the 2000 election.

Even in this season characters which might have been further fleshed out or reappropriated - like Benito Martinez's savvy and handsome Hector Mendoza or Derek Cecil's disturbingly manipulative Seth Grayson - don't get much in the way of screen time. If you measure it out, more than half the show's scenes feature Claire flipping her hair or being subtly disgusted by her husband's misogyny. A hammer can only pound a nail so many times. Ask Lynne.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.