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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 We Cannot Keep You Off Of Our Feet

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.


I went abroad for the fall semester in Paris. My boyfriend Tom and I talked and facetimed every day and I was missing him a lot. When I came back he cried and confessed that he had a emotional relationship with a girl in his dorm, but that they never touched or even kissed. I didn't really know what to say as the context of their thing seems kind of unclear to me.

Since we talked a lot while I was in France, I'm actually kind of amazed he would even have time or need to make a connection like this. On the other hand, since I was not actually there and nothing happened, there seems to be some doubt as to whether or not something dealbreaking occured. He says that he doesn't want to talk to her anymore and only wants to be with me, and I believe him. I'm tempted to just forgive him considering the situation, but am I being too accomodating?

Raina C.

Dear Raina,

Some people are very good at telling lies, and others are not so good at it. You can work out for yourself which kind of person you would rather be with. What you need to know is that among those who are good at telling lies, many have learned the utility of telling half-truths.

The advantage of the half-truth is that is lessens a guilt compulsion that many people feel when they do something wrong, without exposing the liar to the reprecussions of the actual truth. Again, not all of want to hear the full truth all the time. If Tiger Woods' wife Elin did, she would most likely have run him over with that car, and his half-lie spared her decades in prison.

Now she's dating a great guy who is also rich, so his half-lie was the best thing that ever could have happened to both of them.

I don't know what kind of person Tom is. It's possible that he is telling you the whole truth, in which case you can forgive him and see where things go from there. Connections in college are unavoidable, and it can be very lonely to be by yourself when the person you love is away in the romance capital of the universe. But it might be best to dig deeper. Out of nowhere, shout at him, "DID YOU ORDER THE CODE RED?" and when he looks puzzled, whisper to yourself, "You're goddamned right I did."

Find out if what you are hearing is the whole truth, and get the full story from the other woman if you must. You might save yourself a lot of heartbreak later on.


My cousin Jeff is planning to propose to a woman he met on a dating website. (Not Christian Mingle.) A little bit about her:

- Her name is Sandy.
- She loves to surf, sunbathe and she is always cold indoors, no matter the actual temperature.
- She calls bicyclists "flappy nerds" and joggers "pinwheels." Sometimes my mom can't understand what she is saying.

Given everything, she doesn't feel like the best fit for Jeff. If she makes him happy I feel like I shouldn't interfere, but I think marrying this woman would be a tragic misstep. What should I do?

Anna S.

Dear Anna,

The vagaries of American slang are only of practical use to those who use the appallations, or if you are in a long term relationship with John McWhorter or Noam Chomsky. At least she doesn't ride a bicycle, because our experience is that almost everyone who does thinks their poop smells like a delicatessen.

The phrase "if she makes him happy" has lost all meaning at this point. Charles Manson is currently making a woman happy. Happiness is just a brain imbalance — too much serotonin — and is not attributable to one person, unless that one person makes cat sounds while eating. I would, theoretically, find that very amusing.

You need to find out what things are like between Jeff and Sandy when you or your mom is not around. Asssuming she can bring him to completion and is able to tolerate his very basic first name, you may not have a leg to stand on. Everyone is annoying to someone.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Worried Mind" - Eilen Jewell (mp3)

"Hallelujah Band" - Eilen Jewell (mp3)



In Which We Capture And Imprison Joan Of Arc

The Good


The Arnolfini Double Portrait is the most mysterious painting in modern art. Jan van Eyck's oil canvas ostensibly concerned a couple trying to get pregnant. A convex mirror in the back of the room and a Bolognese dog at the couple's feet draw attention away from the faces of the individuals involved. Two gargoyles sit in repose, representing death. Or do they?

For most of his life, Van Eyck's patron and employer was Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. It was the Duke's forces which would capture Joan of Arc and deliver her to be tried by the English. Philip was always doing one of three things: partying, waging war against other nations and having sex with women other than his wife. Philip was definitely good at all of these things; he even found the time to father 18 children with his many mistresses.

The Duke was significantly lacking in appreciation of painting, however. Jan van Eyck was such a prodigy that he could not fail to be recognized by Philip. Van Eyck's aesthetic eye was put to work decorating the Duke's various venues in Bruges, Brussels and Lille. Decorations for ceremonies and dinners were well within his sphere, like having Michelangelo design a dinner party. Artists in the Burgundy court were sometimes tasked with finding the best way for a person to jump out of a cake.

Philip was a lot more interested in what were called 'illuminated manuscripts'; basically engraved and designed books more likely to stand the test of time due to the effort placed in their creation. As Duke he commissioned over 600 of them. This left Jan Van Eyck time to freelance his skills to other individuals or even work outside of the Duke's immediate requests, which normally consisted of small portraits.

The search for the ghostly man in the Arnolfini double portrait has gone back and forth betwen art historians over the years. Records of the fifteenth century are hard to come by, and it is a great deal of guesswork going into the idea that the man in the portrait is Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini, a merchant from Lucca. Since Arnolfini was not married in 1434, critics like Craig Harvison and Margaret Koster have speculated the woman is Arnolfini's first wife Constanza Trent, who died before the Arnolfini Double Portrait ever took shape.

A later portrait by Van Eyck of di Nicolao confirms the identity of the man but not the woman. The face's ghastly repose is the frightening apex of the Arnolfini Double Portrait, even more so today when di Nicalao's androgynous looks and pale features appear utterly out of place in a warmed over setting.

The two men appraising the couple in the convex mirror have been considered attendants at the Arnolfini wedding, and the painting itself has been described as a secret wedding portrait, most prominently by German art historian Edwin Panofsky.

The small gargoyles coyly mocking the couple undermine the ceremony. Appearing above and below the couple's weirdly chaste hand-holding, their inclusion is the best indication that van Eyck is painting a scene which never existed. In fact, van Eyck never painted scenes exactly as they appeared in a model or real life event. All his oil paintings are constructed versions of reality, a movement towards obfuscation that made van Eyck a man out of his own time.

Panofsky theorized that one of the men in the convex mirror was van Eyck himself. Edwin was a professor at the University of Hamburg for over a decade until he was fired for being  a Jew. He moved his work to Princeton, where he became friendly with Albert Einstein. He strangely writes that the singular burning candle in the chandelier looming ominously above the couple is "the all-seeing eye of God."

After picking apart the various religious symbolism of the Arnolfini Double Portrait, Panofsky engages in a bizarre about-face. Like any critic who has delved too deeply into signification, a part of him is seriously ashamed by what he has done. He writes, "The supreme charm of the picture — and this applies to the creations of van Eyck in general — is essentially based on the fact that the spectator is not irritated by the mass of complicated hieroglyphs, but instead is allowed to abandon himself to the quiet fascination of what may be called a transfigured reality." After explicating the real life symbols behind the portrait, Panofsky essentially concludes it is something like a fake. Just enjoy it.

The Arnolfini dog represented "the personification of nature" for Panofsky, fidelity for older critics. The text above the mirror subverts all: Johannes de Eyck fuit hic, it reads.

Through his work for the Duke, van Eyck was able to purchase a large home in Bruges for he and his wife Margaret to live in. Material goods loom large for van Eyck; they are an alternative, equally useful way that people explain themselves to each other. The attention paid to each object in the Arnolfini Double Portrait exemplifes van Eyck's obsession with the material world, and his drive to construct surfaces and textures as close to reality as possible. In this effort his objects achieve an otherworldliness not possible through different means.

Jan van Eyck had a personal motto: Als il kan, which means 'As best I can'. This prosaic view of affairs could have been useful in coming to terms with his patron the Duke, who outlived van Eyck by two decades. Van Eyck was settled in a cushy place in the Duke's court, but he may have resented trips he made as Philip's emissary, including one to Lisbon to arrange the Duke's marriage with Isabella of Portugal. (He also painted the bride.)

The cunning resemblance between di Nicalao and van Eyck's patron is subtle, but why not another symbol? At times van Eyck had to beg for back pay, and in canvases like the Arnolfini Double Portrait, he took his revenge.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Bad Blood" - Fred Thomas (mp3)

"Unfading Flower" - Fred Thomas (mp3)


In Which We Do Not Envy Anyone Except Bronn



It is not easy being a blogger, but it is a lot better than being Sansa Stark. Before I recapped Game of Thrones to while away the remaining years of my retirement, I worked in the White House where I was a part of several prominent conspiracies, I use the term 'conspiracy' in its most literal sense, because the most I ever accomplished in whispers was to get a young Hawaiian kid with a ton of political promise addicted to smoking, and pay women to dump Joe Biden for the last forty years.

If you know someone's weakness, then you own them. Here are some weaknesses I have noticed in people over the years:

Clint Eastwood: neckbeard
Monica Lewinsky: regular orgasms
Frankie Muniz: crack
Jesus: attention
Bethenny Frankel: rompers
George Michael: condoms or cousins, depending on the GM
Ed Sheeran: pubes are neon

tyrion lannister: valentines

Bill de Blasio: hates actually making decisions
Chris Evans: loves baby food
Helen Mirren: whores

Sansa Stark: people being meansies

Jon Snow: black and white cookies
George R.R. Martin: writing
Cersei Lannister: Monty Python
Sir Kevan Lannister: love of Casterly Rock's numerous panini restaurants

You see how I started things off by taking shots at prominent Democrats, but then by the end I was making trenchant commentary about GoT?

That's a cute wheelchair. He's the Stephen Hawking of Dorne.

The New York Post and certain other publications for reasons too stupid to understand are no longer printing the word whore. Instead they write w---e, as if we will not know exactly what is being talked about. Any legitimate journalist outlet which censors words for any reason should shut down. Hope this leads to the end of Anne Lamott's career.

Tyrion Lannister has no problem saying the w word. In a pinch, he will begin spontaneously humble-bragging about his penis, which he has named Tuesday Held. My younger readers probably don't remember Tuesday Weld. When Stanley Kubrick asked Ms. Weld to play the part of Lolita, she told him, "I don't need to play the part of Lolita, I am Lolita." Peter Dinklage would make a fantastic Humbert Humbert.

A young girl with a touch of incest and zero self-awareness. Run.

Instead he has been abducted by the Onion Knight's best buddy, creating the first workable beginnings of the alliance between Stannis Baratheon and the Targaryens. (Please include the previous sentence somewhere in my eulogy. TY) I foresee Jorah ruling the fighting pits by giving all his opponents greyscale and insisting that Stannis will love them despite it.

Jaime and Bronn's dumb sally into Dorne more resembles The Three Amigos than anything else. Watching Jaime's lame sword-play makes it seem ridiculous that he could fend off any trained warrior for more than a minute, let alone several with whips reminiscent of a young Jamie Dornan. I guess maybe they took pity on him.

Scene from Harper Lee's next novel To Kill A Gay

Things go even worse for the Tyrells. The old woman's husband is destined to become one of the many faces the Braavosi rely upon to blow bubbles on the stomachs of young children in order to enshre regular tickles. Incidentally, the tickling industry has a powerful lobby, and Gwyneth Paltrow has an annual tickle spend of £2.2 million. Imagine how much Rachel McAdams' husband has to spend on her tickles. It would be ludicrous if it wasn't completely believable.

feels like there are very few playful tickles in Braavos.

As for Ser Loras: my sympathy extends only so far. Renly Baratheon's sexuality was fairly fluid. If my readings of the companion graphic novel to A Song of Ice and Fire are correct, he slipped Brienne a French kiss from time to time as well. No man can entirely resist the appeal of a woman. Let's get real: even the foulest female smells like vanilla in the summertime. Ser Loras, however, wasn't about that life. He thought that women — including his own sister — were the grossest. Margaery's lack of inner beauty may legit be the reason Loras was gay.

As for Sansa, she was completely savvy in one scene and an utter dunce in the next. She could not really think talking about Tyrion in a favorable way was the best of ideas. I don't want to victim blame, but could she not just have tickled her way out of this situation? It worked for Anita Hill.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Moonlight" - Young Wonder (mp3)