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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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Monday
May022011

In Which We Taste The Balls Of The Bear

A Whole New World

by DICK CHENEY

Game of Thrones
creators David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

Peter Beinart ended the war on terror yesterday, which was nice of him to do. Does he have a solution for the White Walkers of the North? He should just ask Marty Peretz whether the war on terror is over; the response he receives will be something along the lines of "PALESTINIANS?!?!"

If I have to hear one more person talk about the death of the big guy, I am going to walk around pouting everywhere like Ned Stark. You didn't know him the way I did.

Pocahontas saved John Smith by throwing herself on the very rocks that would have been used to dice his face. She got her way and was renamed Rebecca for her trouble. Catelyn Stark is into bold moves like that. She possesses so much faith in her husband that she secretly follows him to King's Landing, and let's face it, doesn't appear to be very interested in meeting up with him or even visiting her kids. This makes her later behavior at Robb Stark's wedding all the more unsettling.

Should we really let a weaselly-looking particle accelerator like Peter Beinart end the war on terror? Ask Khal Drogo if the war on terror is over; he will likely answer by grunting and having newly consensual sex with his wife Daenarys. Poor Cersei Lannister. There's a mounting army to destroy her husband rounding up adherents across the Narrow Sea, the Starks think she tried to kill paralyzed Bran, and a bunch of wild direwolves are constantly biting her children. Cersei Lannister isn't paranoid - she has more enemies  than Julian Assange, which is no coincidence seeing as they use the same wigmaker.

ask the forest people for a new weave

I view Daenarys Targaryen as something of a feminist pioneer along the lines of Audre Lorde, Susan B. Anthony, or Kat Dennings. It makes sense that she doesn't want to eat horse anymore, given that her husband goes by the Great Stallion, which I suppose opens up a paternity question of some sort. With their steely albino countenances, the Targaryens look more likely to be schtupping each other's siblings than the Lannisters, but perhaps all such tendencies were scrambled during the tyrannical reign of the Mad King Aerys.

Game of Thrones is a veritable fountain of wisened, crackly wisdom. Someone is constantly advising someone else of something, although the resulting lesson isn't as good as those of my TR colleague. Here is basically what I have learned so far: 

- Always check your bowl first before packing a new one in case there's something left

- Jon Snow is an extremely forgiving swordsman

- It is a capital crime that Matthew Broderick was not cast as Littlefinger as God demanded of Moses, although I guess theoretically he could still play Samwell Tarly

- Howie Rose really needs to grow up

- Do not greet your plumber with the phrase "hello giggles" and even "aloha giggles" is pushing it

- Despite living in a wintry castle with them for the past decade, Ned Stark is only surface-level familiar with his daughters' names or likes/dislikes 

"can someone get my daughter a fucking barbie doll? varys?!?"

- Congratulations to BO, but who needs friends when you have the NYT?

- Dornish women are known for the spiky teeth that emerge from their nether regions

- Varys uses children as spies

Were you in the mood for seventy older men suggestively telling Tyrion Lannister about the threat from the north? That's basically what the little guy's trip to the Wall amounted to. Trust me, you don't want to walk into the Pentagon and start quizzing generals about the odds against the enemy. They always want more money to fight him, just as Yoren wants more men to fight whatever's worse than the wildlings.

The only group of people more clueless than a karass of generals are Khal Drogo's people. Game of Thrones posits that people are just not as smart in a desert climate, which makes sense if you've ever been to San Diego. I'm too tired to find all the articles about Game of Thrones being racist. The world is racist, have you examined the voting on American Idol lately or watched TBS in the last three years? Why should Westeros be any different?

Having a communal television experience is all very well and good, but it's hard to imagine Game of Thrones appealing to an older demographic. They were on that wall! I still feel young at heart, though just like Robert Baratheon, I get a little flimsy after my second keg of wine.

Ned Stark's idea of bonding with his daughter is admiring her sword, which is a metaphor too disturbing to contemplate in a recession. He gets her a Braavo swordfighting instructor who is perhaps also there to watch his daughter's back and may be more than a simple teacher. We have no idea how Ned either purchased a doll for Sansa or found an instructor for Arya, which makes sense because he spent most of the episode tearing down Jaime Lannister for saving King's Landing from a fiery death, and a shopping montage didn't fit with that.

He thinks heart-to-heart talks with his daughter are tough? Let me provide the rough transcript of when my wonderful daughter Mary chose a particularly busy moment during GWB's first presidential campaign to inform me she was gay:

MARY: Ellen DeGeneres -

ME: I know, why isn't With Friends Like These on DVD? I was almost a hundred percent that Jeremy Piven was gay after watching that show. He was always skipping everywhere.

MARY: Speaking of gay -

ME: Don't start criticizing Lost again! I can't fucking take it!

MARY: If it turns out that Jacob's power comes from a yellow light in a cave, will you admit I'm right?

ME: DAMN YOU!

I never had a chance to have one of those "When you sit on the Iron Throne..." talks with my keeds. Although the other day I did stop by The Potomac School to see my grandkids and take a shit on Al Gore's old front lawn. He knows what I did. Whenever children ask me what to do, I simply tell them to fuck off.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find last week's Game of Thrones recap here. You can find the rest of his work on This Recording here.

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"Long Nights" - Eddie Vedder (mp3)

"End of the Road" - Eddie Vedder (mp3)

"Rise" - Eddie Vedder (mp3)


Monday
May022011

In Which Communism Was Just A Red Herring

What You Need To Do

by ALMIE ROSE

Have you ever thrown a party and then realized that you didn't know what to do? Let the cast of Clue be your guide.

What you need to do is to make your guests comfortable. You want to introduce them to each other and make them feel at ease. Point out things they have in common. For example, "Mrs. White, this is Wadsworth; Wadsworth, meet Mrs. White. You both are from New England and are victims of blackmail." Things like that.

What you need to do is decorate your party appropriately. Remove all clutter, trash, dead bodies, and so forth, so that your guests feel they are at a hospitable place and not your messy house. Pick a theme. If your theme is the 1960s, maybe put up a Kennedy poster and leave out your records. If your theme is dead animals in the woods, then perhaps animal heads on your wall are a good idea after all. But make sure that your guests know the theme. Clearly someone thought this was a "maids and butlers" party. How embarrassing!

What you need to do is accessorize, girlfriend! Jewelry, manicures, weapons; they all add that little touch that helps people remember you. "Oh, I remember Sally from Abernathy's party. She was the girl with the black hair and the noose!" And so forth.

What you need to do is not shoot the messenger.

Photobucket

What you need to do is have a list of prepared party-appropriate conversation starters. Politics, sex, and religion are not good things to discuss at a dinner party. Stick to topics like the weather, fashion, monkeys' brains, music, and other such pleasant topics.

What you need to do is control your temper. A guest may aggravate you. Perhaps they root against your favorite sports team or have fucked your wife. This does not give you permission to resort to violence. Kindly excuse yourself and take a minute to compose yourself. Have some brandy. It isn't poisoned. That we know of. If you must go home, thank your host, and leave quietly.

What you need to do is be discreet with about your indiscretions. Perhaps you've been in this situation: you're at a party, you and a lovely gentleman/woman catch eyes, you flirt, you talk, you fuck in the bathroom, you share stories about your childhoods - hold on there, professor! Before you fuck in the bathroom stop to yourself and try not fucking in the bathroom. Put yourself in the hosts' place. What if you were the host and someone had fucked in your bathroom?

Here's what you need to do: you need to keep frisky party activies to ABOVE CLOTHES ONLY. You may excuse yourselves to fool around in one of your respective cars. If your partner does not have a car, and you live in Los Angeles, that shit is most unacceptable you should dump his ass forthwith.

What you need to do is work on your "The police are here" face. The police might come if you're playing music too loudly, or if there are reports of dead people in your house. When they show up to answer the door, you need to make sure you have an innocent face on. Then again, why should the police come? Nobody's called them.

Almie Rose is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is the creator of Apocalypstick, and she twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about her favorite novels.

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"Hurry Up Pronto" - Madeline (mp3)

"Johnny Cash (live)" - Madeline (mp3)

"Dollar Beer (live)" - Madeline (mp3)

her new album Black Velvet comes out in June

Sunday
May012011

In Which Everything Has The Same Use Including Food

The Consumption of J.D. Salinger

by ELIZABETH GUMPORT

J.D. Salinger provokes the personal turn. When we write about his work, we write about him, his private life – or our own. What is public becomes private; criticism creeps towards memoir. Salinger is the JFK assassination, Salinger is 9/11: where were you when you read The Catcher in the Rye? Aleksandar Hemon was in Sarajevo, Aimee Bender in Southern California. Both of them were teenagers, as were Joshua Ferris’s waiter and Adam Gopnik’s son. Joanna Smith Rakoff was working for his agent in New York, where she answered letters from fans who wrote in with their own Salinger stories.

I was on my couch. The book had once belonged to my father, and on its cover was a partial peace sign, which at the time I thought was part of the design. Later I realized my father had drawn it himself. (I think I am not alone when I say I remember Salinger’s stories as books, as encounters with physical objects. Their content seems embodied in their bindings: Franny and Zooey’s green border, Nine Stories in blue and orange. Salinger himself selected the precise shade of white Little, Brown used for his covers.)

When my mom saw me reading Catcher, she reminisced for a while, and then she asked me: why didn’t Holden just eat something? If he had just had a snack he would have felt fine. Who isn’t crabby when he’s dehydrated? It’s a good point, one both real and fictional people would do well to remember, and one that is particularly relevant in the case of dirty realism: everyone feels lousy when they are hungry or hungover. A headache is not a philosophy of the world. Unless, possibly, that world belongs to Salinger, whose fiction is full of finicky eaters. Holden is hardly unusual: Franny picks at her chicken sandwich, and when the narrator of “For Esmé – With Love and Squalor” offers Esmé a piece of his cinnamon toast, she declines, saying “‘I eat like a bird, actually.’” The narrator himself takes only a single bite.

Although Salinger’s characters are not terribly interested in eating food, it does intrigue them for other reasons. In “Just Before The War With The Eskimos,” Selena’s brother presses a chicken sandwich upon Ginnie, who hides it in her coat. When she leaves their apartment, she takes the sandwich out to throw away – but then returns it to her pocket. “A few years before,” Salinger writes, “it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found dead on the sawdust at the bottom of her wastebasket.”

Salinger’s characters ignore meals and preserve dead chicks because, as Aleksandar Hemon points out in “The Importance of Wax and Olives,” Salinger’s characters are interested in objects only insofar as they are useless. The title of Hemon’s essay comes “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in which Sybil asks Seymour if he likes wax and olives. He says yes: “Olives and wax. I never go any place without ‘em.” What unites olives and wax is their worthlessness: they are pure objects, pre-commodities, neither candle nor garnish. They are just things, things that serve no purpose, like a sandwich you will never eat. The hotel room where Seymour kills himself smells of “new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover” – the odor of officious practicality, of objects bought and used.

In “Seymour: An Introduction,” Buddy reports that his brother admired the kind of poet whose “real forte is knowing a good persimmon or good crab or good mosquito bite on a good arm when he sees one.” Buddy’s analysis serves equally well as a description of Salinger, and of his relationship to objects, or at least the relationship towards which he aspired. His ideal is a kind of categorical imperative of objecthood, Kant’s second formulation applied to Easter chicks. Objects ought to be treated not as means to an ends but ends in themselves. A persimmon, an olive, an arm or the arch of a foot, like Sybil’s, which Seymour kisses: what counts is things as they are, the very pieces of the world.

Buddy’s account also goes a long way towards explaining what it is that makes Salinger’s writing so good. Salinger is acutely aware that we exist in the world – in cities, in apartments, in bodies that rub up against couches and church pews and cabs and other bodies in those cabs – and he is a master of capturing what it feels like, literally feels like, to live.

In Zooey, Seymour’s letter is not just summarized but described: it is a packet of yellow paper, its pages wet with bathwater. It is a real thing Zooey can hold in his hands, like Esmé’s father’s watch, or the red tissue paper that reminds the young Comanche of the Laughing Man’s poppy-petal mask. The richness of Salinger’s fiction comes from his attention to objects, to the physical stuff of life, and from his understanding that the words that describe these things are things themselves. Words are their meanings and more than that: they are themselves, and in Salinger’s hands they are beautiful.

Yet if it is in his treatment of the physical world that Salinger excels, it is also where he eventually gets in trouble. On the New Yorker website, Salinger’s stories are available in their original format, columns of prose bracketed by advertisements for sunscreen and department stores. The offerings are refined, luxury tempered by good taste: madras bathing suits and foundation from Helena Rubinstein for the lady, Yardley shaving cream for “the man who won’t settle for average.”

Unlike wax and olives, these items are valued for reasons beyond themselves. Yardley shaving cream is used to shave one’s face – and to mark oneself as a man who will not settle for average. This is what Hemon calls its “spiritual essence,” which is required for “a commodity to enter the market and attain a value as a thing alienated from human labor.” A commodity, Hemon writes, “cannot be an empty thing... It has to fulfill a need that is not merely material — it must have a spiritual essence that responds to a spiritual need... To possess, to own that essence, that ineffable quality of a commodity that differentiates it from other commodities, one has to buy the thing that contains it, which makes one different from those who buy other commodities. Consumption spiritualizes and individualizes the consumer, as he or she enters a web of imaginary relations between human beings and the world.”

The man who buys Yardley’s shaving cream violates the categorical imperative of objecthood, but so does anyone who values anything for any reason beyond it. Zooey says it himself: “treasure’s treasure,” even when that treasure is spiritual. Disgusted by all the savages, with their phoniness and “unskilled laughter” and consumerism and self-serving ambition that mistakes itself for the pursuit of knowledge and knowledge that does not even pretend to be wisdom, Salinger’s characters devote themselves to that final item totally and explicitly. What they want is spiritual enlightenment, and it turns out that to achieve enlightenment all they have to do is look for it everywhere.

Thus Salinger himself not only betrays his own injunction but commands it. Everything you do ought to be done the service of self-perfection. The smallest action ends in enlightenment: this is what it means to shine your shoes for the Fat Lady.

This is also what tempers the soaring generosity of Zooey, what cuts against Zooey’s – and Salinger’s – overwhelming, aching belief in other human beings. Do you not lose sight of the person himself when all you can see when you look at him is Christ? When, more to the point, all you want to see is Christ? It seems you must: people and objects are valued not for themselves but because for the person seeking wisdom they contain it. Every object is holy, every gesture a genuflection, every person the Fat Lady, and in every Fat Lady is Christ Himself. No longer is anything useless; instead, everything has the same use, including food. “How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one,” Zooey asks Franny, “if you don’t even know a consecrated cup of chicken soup when it’s right in front of your nose?”

To a fan, Salinger’s fiction is that “consecrated cup of chicken soup.” He nourishes his reader’s hunger to understand and to be understood, to feel as if Salinger had him in mind when he wrote the way Bessie had Franny in mind when she cooked. To each reader, Salinger says spiritual satisfaction can be achieved through what Joan Didion summarizes as tolerating “television writers and section men” and “looking for Christ in one's date for the Yale game.”

These are what Didion calls Salinger’s “instructions for living,” whose simplicity is the source of their appeal. To ask someone to endure a date is not to ask very much. Ultimately, Didion concludes, Salinger’s books are but “self-help copy. . . Positive Thinking for the upper middle classes, as Double Your Energy and Live Without Fatigue for Sarah Lawrence girls.” We need not change our lives, they tell us, or even necessarily our behavior. All that is required is a good attitude. Enlightenment is as easy as heating up a can of Campbell’s.

If Franny and Zooey is an instruction manual, one of its rules is that it should be read as such. Everything in Salinger’s world has its use, including books: compare Lane’s interest in Madame Bovary with Franny’s in The Way of a Pilgrim. He wants an A, while she wants enlightenment, and it is her way of reading that Salinger celebrates. If Franny is our model reader, what she teaches us is that reading for self-improvement, self-enrichment, self-abasement, self-whatever – reading for the self – is the height of nobility.

She treats The Way of a Pilgrim the way Didion says we treat Franny and Zooey, which is in fact the way many of us do treat Franny and Zooey: as something that can be applied to our own lives, and can change them. Reading for private instruction is not misreading but reading rightly – reading in the manner of Franny. It is for this reason that our first encounters with Salinger loom so large in our memories: his are books about taking books personally.

My father’s copy of The Catcher In The Rye is an artifact, now, so delicate as to be unreadable. Still, I keep it, and if this is taking things personally I will say that is perhaps the way some things should be taken. In fact, part of me is sad that I no longer take Salinger as personally as my younger self took him, and sad that I am a stranger to that girl and the people she once loved.

Elizabeth Gumport is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find her website here. She last wrote in these pages about Maeve Brennan.

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"Ce Jeu (the Twelves remix)" - Yelle (mp3)

"Staring at the Sun (Diplo remix)" - TV on the Radio (mp3)

"Please Stay" - Summer Heart (mp3)

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How & Why To Write

Part One (Joyce Carol Oates, Gene Wolfe, Philip Levine, Thomas Pynchon, Gertrude Stein, Eudora Welty, Don DeLillo, Anton Chekhov, Mavis Gallant, Stanley Elkin)

Part Two (James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Margaret Atwood, Gertrude Stein, Vladimir Nabokov)

Part Three (W. Somerset Maugham, Langston Hughes, Marguerite Duras, George Orwell, John Ashbery, Susan Sontag, Robert Creeley, John Steinbeck)

Part Four (Flannery O'Connor, Charles Baxter, Joan Didion, William Butler Yeats, Lyn Hejinian, Jean Cocteau, Francine du Plessix Gray, Roberto Bolano)