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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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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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Tuesday
Apr122011

In Which Sidney Lumet Tells Us The Price Of Gas

Getting It

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Running on Empty
dir. Sidney Lumet
1988, 115 min

“Note-perfect,” was how my friend Akiva described Sidney Lumet’s Running on Empty in a recent gchat. As it often happens, I intuit praise as vital tidings; as if being made aware of something, in effect, hikes up its value. I have since watched the movie four times, three times alone, and once with someone who I feared was not 'getting it' — who I split my attention between, hoping to note a slight smile warming on his face during some of those 'note-perfect' scenes.

Released in 1988, three decades after Lumet's debut feature, 12 Angry Men, Running on Empty tells the story of Annie and Arthur Pope (Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch), whose past involvement in a 1970s anti-war bombing of a napalm laboratory has forced them underground.

On the run with their two sons, Danny (River Phoenix) and Harry (Jonas Abry), the Popes adopt new identities every time they are forced to skip town. "Hey kid, you," Annie quizzes Danny as she opens a can of tuna in their newest home, "What's your name?" "Michael," he answers only to have Arthur drill him more aggressively. "What's my name? Spell it. What's your mother's name? And your brother?" Danny responds with mocking fidelity, out-daring the very authority his father had taught him to rival all of those years.

But moments like that last one are rare, and the conceit of a fugitive family pales in comparison to the story of a family and its day by day dynamic. Their readiness to conspire — not just as outlaws, but as a little brother who pulls pranks at the dinner table, or as a mother who whispers to her love-struck teenage son, 'I like her,' or as a father who playfully winces whenever his kids speak in surfer slang and misuse the word 'radicaaaal' — that spirit is portrayed with a fullness that tolerates bouts of adolescence in adulthood and prodigious wisdom among children. Like so many of his films, despite his characters' jeopardous lifestyles or expiring freedom, Lumet's capacity for creating an entire world feels triumphant.

In re-watching Running on Empty, I noted, as if pocketing mementos for later, some of my favorite parts. Written by Naomi Foner (Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal's mother) the script really finds its sweet spots when Danny and his music teacher's daughter, Lorna Phillips (Martha Plimpton), fall in love. Lorna, whose assuredness and nervy manner of speaking (and whose voice is deeper than Phoenix's) — "You are certifiable!" is one of the first things she tells him — and who stands with her arms crossed, grins, defends her anger as wit, and impassively talks about feelings, family, and the future, is offset by Plimpton's soft, doll-like hair, her sunken boyish features, and most of all, her protective love for Danny.

River Phoenix, whose contemplative manner is at once serious and rebellious, anchors the movie. Even the score, a bittersweet piano that is somehow suggestive and nostalgic, both, might very well be one of his pieces; Danny's virtuosic piano playing and Julliard audition marks the beginning of his doubts to remain with his family on the lam. Although he talks like a teenager, "I feel kind of lousy," and reacts self-consciously like one too—removing his wire-frame glasses when he answers a question in class — his withdrawal is burdened by a life changing choice. Like most teenagers in movies who live in city outskirts, Danny’s rare flashes of abandon are captured when he peddles standing up and turns a corner, or how he never locks his bike, or how effortlessly he jumps over railings and climbs in and out of windows.

Annie's birthday dinner plays much like a foreign film: party crowns, a modest yet joyful table, jokes about LSD trips, and a James Taylor "Fire and Rain" sing-along as they clear the table, dance, and do the dishes. Here the Pope family's outlook is at its truest without becoming too darling. They are a unit, accompanied this time by Lorna, who in her tomato-red crop top and rainbow skirt is happily unfettered, a welcome change from her father's chamber music concerts where she "dresses for a funeral" in lace that matches the Phillips’ sitting room curtains.

phoenix & lumet

Especially great about Running on Empty is its endless supply of tokens from that time: Christine Lahti's high-waisted jeans and white baggy turtleneck, Judd Hirsch’s quintessential ‘Dad’ jokes, or those varying shades of corduroy brown and navy blues, or how saying "they look uptight" is the most accurate way of describing 'otherness.' Insulting someone's IQ, that too was once relevant, or how a teacher, if he took a particular liking to you, might say "Get outta here" after class. Or how home economics involved partnering off, aprons, rows of ovens and Formica counters, buttercream mixing bowls, and instructions on how to make tuna-walnut-casserole.

It’s an unusual type of fondness to love a movie that is neither groundbreaking nor particularly dazzling, and that does not occupy a critical place in its director's canon. But like passages from books that I revisit or quotes from teachers I copied in college notebooks, Running on Empty too, has incredibly strong restorative powers.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She twitters here and tumbls here. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about her mother.

the author with her brother

"Disappear" - Katy B (mp3)

"Go Away" - Katy B (mp3)

"Movement" - Katy B (mp3)

"Witches Brew" - Katy B (mp3)

Monday
Apr112011

In Which Tina Fey Engages With Pee Jars And Breast Milk

Her Own Foil

by DAYNA EVANS

Bossypants
by Tina Fey
Little, Brown and Company, 288 pp.

When the realization finally occurs to you at a near-adult age that the academic path you’ve chosen can only lead to four possibilities, you feel as if you have brought shame to your family and deserve to live in the sewers. And these sewers are not fun, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sewers with endless pizza and samurai swords — they are filthy and teeming with homeless people who also hold BAs in Whatever/Etc./Who Cares. This is where you will end up, and it is all your fault. Few of us, even the good-hearted charitable types, will escape this fate. Instead we will stagger forth in vigilant denial while we embody the qualities acquired from a liberal arts degree (self-hatred, love of free food), vowing to never stop until we've achieved critical acclaim for our novel/screenplay/artwork/who cares. And while we sneak beneath our potholes at night knowing that our success will only occur posthumously, there lives an exception to the rule. And thankfully, she has written a book.

Tina Fey — an idol for drab-haired, doughnut-loving women everywhere — chronicles her pigeon-toed walk (not run) to success in her new memoir Bossypants with a faux candor that reveals both a savvy, confident writer, and a self-effacing Dorito-muncher à la Liz Lemon. The pendulum swings between the two with impossible precision. In describing her "healthy body parts," Fey mentions her "droopy brown eyes designed to confuse predators into thinking I'm just on the verge of sleep and they should come back tomorrow to eat me." Or on the joy of matrimony: "There are plenty of positives to being married to me. I just can’t think of any of them right now." The writing is charming, and the tone is light, but what makes Bossypants memorable is that it isn’t a character telling us a story, it’s a story showing us a character. And with the wonderful plainness of her suburban background (Fey is from the town next door to mine and I believe we're soulmates — unified in mall appreciation), the character she has created is a foil that shines aggressively.

While any shmuck from a modest middle-class background can graduate college, get an entry-level, soul-sucking, endlessly thankless job vaguely related to their bullshit liberal arts degree for which their parents will never forgive them, very, very few will eventually make a creative empire out of it like Tina Fey has. Writer, actor, producer, comic, professional Sarah Palin lookalike — Fey has accomplished more than any of us could imagine doing, especially given our delusions of David Foster Wallace grandeur paired with a lack of people skills.

Alone in an expanse of memoirs that torture readers with turgid exploitation of unfortunate pasts, Tina Fey’s Bossypants stands apart from the tales of child neglect and drug abuse with what is essentially one part suburban barbecue, one part frat party, and one part episode of Sex In The City that ended up on the cutting room floor. Which all means to say that it is light, funny (“By nineteen, I had found my look. Oversize T-shirts, bike shorts, and wrestling shoes.”), and rife with insecurities. Tina at a photo shoot:

When you inevitably can’t fit into a garment, the stylist’s assistant will be sent in to help you. The stylist’s assistant will be a chic twenty-year-old Asian girl named Esther or Agnes or Lot’s Wife.

In a few years she’ll be running the editorial staff, but at this point in time her job is to stuff a middle-aged woman’s bare ass crack into a Prada dress and zip it up. In my case, Esther and I are always mutually frustrated when zipping up the tiny dress. Esther is disgusted by my dimply flesh and her low status. I’m annoyed that her tiny hands lack the strength to get Pandora’s plague back into the box. “How’s it going in there?” calls the stylist passive-aggressively. Reinforcements are called in to push on both sides of my ribcage until the zipper goes up. To avoid conflict, we all blame a third party. “It’s these damn invisible zippers!” we say in unison. “I don’t know why designers use them!"

The book also makes you want to get drunk and inappropriately touch someone.

Bossypants may afford you some bemused and/or disgusted looks should you choose to read it in public — the photo on its jacket (Fey posing sweetly with the arms of a hairy, overweight man) is as unsettling as mistaking your uncle’s cutlery drawer for his dildo drawer, an effect that Fey employs often in her writing. "I knew from commercials that one’s menstrual period was a blue liquid that you poured like laundry detergent onto maxi pads to test their absorbency," she says in describing her entry into womanhood. "This wasn’t blue, so . . . I ignored it for a few hours." Her sense of humor is easy and relatable in context (Oh, of course Uncle Norm would have a dildo drawer — he's a free spirit), but honest in a way that we don’t necessarily want to admit to (I can never make eye contact with Uncle Norm again). Tina Fey, the memoirist, is just as much of a character as Liz Lemon, the slob.

Bossypants came under fire from Jezebel.com founder Anna Holmes, who claimed it doesn't take enough of a stance on "contemporary feminism and female representations in pop culture." Fey writes reluctantly about making definitive claims in almost everything, to the point of denouncing a call at home from former president Bill Clinton. But the truth is, just because Fey is a well-respected, influential woman who empowers women simply by existing, she's a celebrity, and her book isn't called The Struggle of Women in Comedy and the Battle We Must Fight for Enlightenment. It's called Bossypants and it's a memoir. I don't agree that we should expect her or any famous person to take a stance, mostly because I want to be famous and the only issue I care about is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s.

It is bothersome, however, that Fey chooses to consistently devalue her intellect, appearance, and work. It becomes a tired act less than halfway through the book. Though Fey is consistently praised for being both winsome and accessible while remaining sharp and in charge, she rarely acknowledges the latter qualities in Bossypants, and it is positively infuriating. Why can't Fey take a moment off from the homely girl routine and write with pride about her numerous accomplishments?

Even when she brings up 30 Rock — the wildly popular TV show of Fey’s creation — her remarks are diminishing: "We premiered on Wednesday, October 11, 2006, at 8:00 p.m. and we were an instant hit — like figs for dessert or bringing your guitar out at a party." If Dane Cook (guh) were to write a memoir (if he could write) exposing even the slightest insecurity, it would elicit confusion similar to when a fitness trainer tells you to "soften your knees." (Does anyone actually know what that means?) Meekness in male comedians is preposterous to expect.

Tina was a product of a cozy suburban upbringing in which she was encouraged to pursue her creative passion, much like a lot of people I know, including myself. She has seamlessly melded her public image into a hybrid of slovenly wimp who enjoys cable TV and closed-toe shoes with a high-power, hard-working businesswoman who looks great in formal wear. Though she has an enormous following and success beyond our wildest dreams, Fey is entitled to create a persona because that is what writers do. However, it is disquieting to imagine that if she chose to channel the overconfident douchebaggery of Alec Baldwin instead of your 13-year-old cousin Kristen, she'd be lambasted for acting like a snobby bitch that takes all the credit. By writing her memoir as she has, Fey is able to establish some vague opinions on feminism without sacrificing the humor in stories about pee jars and breast milk. I only wish she had done it with more conviction and less downplaying; that way we would be able to distinguish the writer from the character, the human from the comic, and the boss from the bossypants.

Dayna Evans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She tumbls here.

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"Can See Miles" - I'm From Barcelona (mp3)

"Always Spring" - I'm From Barcelona (mp3)

"Battleships" - I'm From Barcelona (mp3)

Saturday
Apr092011

In Which You Didn't Even Pay For Your Burger Sandwich

Great Moments in TV Dubbing

by LAUREN BANS

The network TV office where all things FCC-prohibited meet their vanilla alternatives is obliquely dubbed the Standards & Practices department, in the way Stalin was officially titled General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Censorship Czar: it does not look so nice on a business card. Standards & Practices is where "Jesus!" becomes "Gee Whiz!" and the 300 or so ‘fuck’ utterances in Pulp Fiction become signifying bleeps. It’s where, as one Adult Swim segment put it, "funny goes to die."

And it’s true — for the most part watching delightfully ribald, filth-soaked movies through the sugar-rimmed lens of network TV is like watching a George Carlin special had an Azkaban dementor given him a pre-show soul suck backstage. (That is a Harry Potter joke! I’m 28!)

But on rare occasion, Standards & Practices comes up with a dub so fantastically absurd and terrible it actually adds to the enjoyment of the scene rather than detracting from it. (Ahem, looking at you “Yippe Ki Ay, Mister Falcon.”) Without further ado, may I present the five best inadvertently hilarious dubs in television history.

1. Die Hard With A Vengeance: "I Hate Everybody."

In 1995’s Die Hard With A Vengeance (aka Die Hard 3 aka Die Harder-er) Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is forced to walk around Harlem wearing a huge sign that reads "I Hate Niggers" on the orders of a sadistic criminal mastermind, “Simon,” who threatens to bomb a popular NYC location if McClane doesn’t oblige. In the TV version, McClane’s sign is altered to simply read “I Hate Everybody," which basically packs the same punch as Taco Bell’s “Think Outside the Bun.” To be clear: I’m saying it packeth no punch. But the ensuing reaction around McClane remains unaltered — a woman sees the sign and furiously remarks, “OH NO HE DID NOT... that man is asking for a BULLET in his head” and a group of VABK (very angry black kids) approach McClane intending to beat him into sweetbread parts. I mean, please, white people, do not go into Harlem just throwing around the "I Hate Everyone" bomb. Do you not get how ANGRY black people are, just like, ALL THE TIME?

2. Good Will Hunting: "Give me my burger sandwich!"

Will, Chuckie and Morgan are Boston townies. They say "fuck" a lot. Especially when their fucking double burger is on a fucking car dashboard layaway plan. But apparently Televisual Powers decided that substituting "fucking" with “burger” might pass as a wicked believable Bostonism. You know those people in the suburbs who pull up to the Arby’s drive-through window and order a Panini Sandwich? This is like that.

"Give me my burger sandwich!"

"You didn't even pay for your burger sandwich."

"I don't care! Give me my burger sandwich!"

"Fine! Here's your burger sandwich!"

3. Snakes on a Plane: "Enough is ENOUGH, I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes, on this Monday to Friday plane!"

Oh yes, a Monday to Friday plane, I see.


4. The Big Lebowski: "See what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?"

Like many of you, I too enjoyed The Big Lebowski.

One day we’ll meet at a party and express this shared interest, maybe throw around a few of the money quotes (“You mark that frame an 8, and you're entering a world of pain!”) to demonstrate our cultural likeness, and then become fast friends based on our mutual love of the oversaturated symbols of our cultural demographic, like the kids do these days. And I’ll say, “OMG, have you seen the adapted for TV version?” And we’ll talk about how John Goodman and the Coen brothers came up with the meta-parody solution of "See what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?" for the scene where Walter is bashing Larry’s car screaming, "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass, Larry!" Later that evening we’ll become friends on Facebook and never speak again IRL. Fin.

5. Weird Science: "I’m not talking candle wax on their pimples or anything like that."

Let’s start with this: Weird Science, when you get to the heart of it, is a movie about the full-scale corporeal coup d’etat that is teenage sexual awakening — that terrible phase in life when just watching a bee pollinate a tulip can give you a raging boner and all you can do is wrap your Coed Naked Volleyball sweatshirt around your waist in vain. Just about everything is sexual to both sexes, but neither sex understands the opposite sex, so everything is REALLY FRUSTRATING.

Fittingly, the TV version of Weird Science is edited with the grace of a Puritan minister who realizes that just the word “nipple” can cause a spontaneous orgasm in many members of the viewing audience. Emilio Estevez bragging “we’re studs” in the locker room becomes “we’re stars.” (Stud: a sexually virulent word again!) And “candle wax on their nipples” is changed to "candle wax on their pimples.” Another amateur acne remedy that will scare Mom.

Lauren Bans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about Bradley Cooper. Her website is here and she twitters here.

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"The One In Your Dreams" - Donavon Frankenreiter (mp3)

"All Right" - Donavon Frankenreiter (mp3)

"Dance Like Nobody's Watching" - Donavon Frankenreiter (mp3)