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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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 You Should See What You Look Like

Equally Offensive


Mad Men
creator Matthew Weiner

This is war. If the reference to Dickens' novel didn't tip you off, the frantic trench-digging in Sunday's episode should have. It's a battle between men and women, between peaceful protesters and the police, between the two factions at the newly-named Sterling Cooper & Partners, between the East Coast and West Coast. 

On radios and television sets, the 1968 Democratic National Convention drones in the background. While Don, Roger and Harry fly off to California to have a meeting with Carnation over instant breakfast, Ginsberg and Cutler break into a political dispute in the creative department. Cutler has the upper hand from the beginning, but only because Ginsberg gets too fired up and calls his boss a Nazi. 

Joan has what begins as a date and ends as a business dinner with Avon's new head of marketing, when she sees an opportunity to stick her foot in the door in accounts. "What makes a good agency?" he asks her. Joan bullshits her way through the initial pitch, picks up the bill and charms the man's socks off. Feminists across America yelled in ecstasy.

But Joan's victory is short-lived when Ted wants to send Pete and Peggy to meet with Avon without her. "You'll get all the credit," assures Pete, but from the look on Joan and Peggy's faces, we know that's not how it's going to happen   even if Pete wasn't, well, Pete. Joan decides to take matters into her own hands and schedules a lunch with Avon, to which Peggy is invited while Pete is not. Peggy warns Joan that she's walking on thin ice, but it's too late: Joan's rocking her powder blue suit and ordering coffee for the whole table. 

Nobody's rooting for Joan or Ginsberg more than I am, but this week both of them underestimated what they were dealing with. While Ginsberg put up a good fight, calling Cutler a Nazi was just uncalled for. In general Ginsberg seems a little bit overwrought. I'm not sure what's happening, but his usual neurosis is being replaced by a sort of mental distress. Like Pete, he's the thermometer measuring the general atmosphere in the agency, predicting where the wind will blow next. His breakdown before the meeting with Manischewitz is troubling.

It's high time that Joan got to show off her skills over the table rather than under it, but she failed to take into account the fact that although she's been working in the business for a good number of years, she hasn't acquired all the know-how she needs in order to connect with clients. Joan has poise and confidence, and is immediately ten times more likable than any of SC&P's account reps, especially Pete. Yet the lunch with Avon is halting and awkward, especially when she swoops in and steals the limelight from the more-experienced Peggy and makes cringeworthy generalizations about the cosmetics business.

Peggy is right to be irked, especially when Joan accuses her of not being supportive and then (ugh) of having slept her way to the top. It's not the double standard that bothers me here (after all, Joan did sleep with the Jaguar client in exchange for a partnership) but rather the fact that Joan doesn't understand that you've got to start at the bottom and work your way up, even if you've been in the business for a long time or you've slept with Roger Sterling or you're a partner at the agency.

Not only did Joan jeopardize her chances of being trusted with future opportunities, but she might have lost SC&P's opportunity with Avon. In the end, as much as I (and everybody else) want to make this about womenz issuez, it's more about good business practices and understanding your own professional limits. Not everyone is cut out for every job. That is, unless you're Bob Benson, in which case you're being promoted for making mistakes and also becoming a sort of scary den mother to the unruly creatives. While I don't think Pete, Ted or Cutler were right in any of these incidents, I know that Joan and Ginsberg and pretty much every other old SCDPer need to watch their backs if they're going to make the inevitable cut. 

It seems like Don's been able to keep it in his pants since Megan's tearful injunction that "something must change" between them, and the two share a couple of cute, flirtatious moments over the course of the episode. But the internet thinks that Megan Draper is going to end like Sharon Tate, and it would seem that something sinister is brewing. Don, Roger and Harry attend a party in California and Don smokes hash; during his high, Megan shows up in a hallucination and leads him out to the pool where he falls in and stops breathing, at least momentarily. Megan's appearance is followed by Dinkins, the soldier Don met in Hawaii way back in the first episode, who has since gone to Vietnam and died. Don wonders at the man's missing arm. 

"Dying doesn't make you whole," replies Dinkins. "You should see what you look like." Don turns around and sees himself floating face-down in the pool. 

The references to death, particularly suicide, and the rampant drug use are what have been holding a rather disparate season together. The two go hand in hand; if the restless abandon of a high or a trip induces more creativity in some, it gives afterlife experiences to others. We've got to wonder what it'll do to Pete, who's so angry with the way things are going at the agency that he steals Stan's joint at the end of the episode. Hopefully he'll chillax, but it is more than likely that his descent into drug use is a sign of the end times; I'm starting to believe that Bob Benson (did I mention that he's a newly-appointed member of the all-important Chevy account team?) is the leader of a suicide cult.

An uneasy truce settles over the agency as the new name, Sterling, Cooper & Partners is chosen; everyone except for Roger Sterling and Cooper fall under the umbrella term "Partners". Seems a strange word for a group of people whose interests really only align when it comes to Chevy. At least that part of the business is going well. Chevy has finally signed off on creative, but so far, only Ted has been permitted to see the car that the agency must try to sell. It is as illusory as their future.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Mad Men. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"Oh, Look At Me Now" - Jo Stafford (mp3)

"I'll Never Smile Again" - Jo Stafford (mp3)


In Which We Show Them How It Feels To Lose What They Love

Guys That's My Wife


Thrones. If Bran can take the form of any human being, why not embody his enemies? The answer is that to think like those who wish us harm is an ugly business. It's bad enough to just be Bran, I mean he sent his brother into the wilderness under the watchful eye of some crazy ex-wilding. I got the exact same feeling watching Rickon walk away as when my best friend in college married a Jehovah's Witness. Every time I open the door, I think it's going to be him.

"guys settle down. I'm trying to possess melisandre's vibrator. especially you hodor, shut your mouth."

But onto the good news. Not spoiling the Red Wedding for my wife Lynne was tremendously hard; I kept giving her weird clues like if we were in the grocery store or at the dry cleaner, I'd slyly pull up my sleeve and I'd be wearing mail underneath. The satisfaction when she finally got this joke after tonight's episode was worth the chafing feeling on my thighs. There is no armor that does not weigh you down.

who wears mail to a slaughter anyway?

Enough circling. Watching Bran's mother get put down was crazy great. I mean, I could go on for hours listing all the things Catelyn Stark has done wrong. In fact:

1) She was kind of a dick to her husband, children, and Jon Snow.

b) That hairstyle dated back to the time of the old gods. Melisandre could have given her a perm; perhaps that would have been for the best.

14) She led Littlefinger on for like two decades

22) She made Stannis Baratheon's wife look like Barbie.

god the show will be so much better now, thank you George

31a) Instead of going to King's Landing to support her husband, she was all, "Oh, he'll be fiiiiiiine"

31b) Instead of going to King's Landing to support her Sansa, she was all, "Joffrey's a sweet boy"

31c) Instead of going to King's Landing to support her Arya, she was all, "New Hot Pie will protect her."

37) No eyeshadow

45) I once heard her make a dismissive remark about Barbra Streisand's nose that struck me as borderline anti-Semitic.

this is what you get for refusing to show when your daughter marries a little person

But really, Catelyn's worst crime was not her hair or her lack of military expertise or general uncleanliness. It was that she was always by her son's side, when she had children who needed her a lot more. Parents always play favorites, especially when some of their children are totally useless, like Bran. A daughter is always a lot less welcome than a son; GRRM's trenchant commentary on contemporary China is preferable to another speech by Tyrion about prostitutes, don't you think?

every direwolf dies. not every direwolf really lives, especially if you belong to bran. god i hate you bran.

As for Robb's direwolf, that was pretty sad guys. I sort of felt like Arya could have done something... I mean, she could have done a lot of things. She could have ensured Tywin Lannister never lived to deliver that order; in effect, she caused the death of her mother and her brother, and I respect her all the more for that.

Making a lot less sense was the overall behavior of Jon Snow. This was heartbreakingly weaselly stuff. One of the toughest men ever on the night's watch died so you could be where you were, guy. And instead of slaughtering some old dude who were mere moments away from being eaten whole by a white walker, you gave up the Ghost and started running ppl through with your sword? Ugh times one million.

chin up, as least you weren't on the receiving end of a womb-stabbing

I have an equal crit for Ygritte. Your plan was this, unkempt woman: commit the murder your boyfriend had promised to do, and thereby...save him? Do you even have the slightest idea of how easily infections are transmitted through a human bite? My wife is still convinced that is how Michael Douglas got cancer, since no woman in her right mind would allow him near her pelvis.

You've got to circle the Red Wedding. You can't come too close to it.

can't unsee

It's complete insanity to break up the dragon queen's story like this. She should have dedicated episodes, maybe just an ABC Family movie where Daario Naharis gets a paunch belly and won't do anything but watch Storage Wars and chew on beef jerky. The real problem with the dragon queen right now is that the beginning of her story is a lot more interesting than her rise to power and every time they actually use those CGI dragons it probably costs a fortune, so they don't. It's kinda strange when the show's production values suddenly drop from this:

to Jason and the Argonauts-type bad with Grey Worm, Daario and Sir Jorah Mormont on the most transparently ugly studio in the world. Poor Grey Worm; his queen is sounding more like Dr. Laura every day:

Signing off from the Red Wedding in total silence reminded me of something. I used to work with a certain person who always felt that less is more, that most meaningless of phrases. When you consider this pathetic expression more closely, anyone can think of nothing. We desire instead a rich world, and that is what Game of Thrones provides. Even a small pause of remembrance undermines its point these deaths, while shocking and incredibly graphic to those of us who do not spend our time writing Jon Snow-Daenerys Targaryen fanfiction ("I'm fascinated by your white privilege, Jon Snow" "My medium sized dragon ate your wolf Jon" etc) lack any real meaning. They are just something that happened to this one:

while she is on her way to get where she is going.

It is selfish but honest for those surrounding death to speak of its effect on them. They are only the victims. Robb Stark planned to assault Tywin Lannister's home, slaying his servants and his army. Knowing this, Tywin made sure he struck first. There was nothing more to it than that, no menace beyond those carried out by the Frey men who stood to benefit from this betrayal. Robb and his ferociously bad looking mother made a military mistake and nothing more.

What Game of Thrones does best, and why it is finer when it does not take itself seriously at all, is show us the irony of any celebration. Things are just not going to work out for any of these people in the way they hope. (The Hound knows this best eventually someone is just going to burn his face again.) It does drive us mad to be close to something wonderful, whether it be a particularly musical woman or a parent who we have not seen since a time in our childhood that appears impossibly distant in retrospect. It is equally as comic that we can never achieve our heart's desire as it is sad.

Next week on the Thrones season finale: Ned Stark returns as a white walker, Tyrion Lannister has a wet dream and impregnates his leather jerkin, Joffrey starts ignoring his bethrothed and focuses on playing Black Ops II full time, Melisandre gives birth to a spectral Mary Tyler Moore, Theon Greyjoy is tortured for a solid twenty minutes, Cersei goes on a tragic late night QVC ordering binge, Sansa Stark gets implants and Samwell Tarly finally shows off the depth of his wizardry by proving he is the only man in the seven kingdoms able to make it through A Dance with Dragons without falling asleep more than once.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. He would like to send his condolences to all living members of the Stark family, including Ted Stark, Red Stark, Don Stark, Mike Stark, Tiffany Stark and Bed Stark. Your cousin Ned should probably not have married that ginger woman. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

by conor campbell

"Passerby" - Allie Moss (mp3)

"Corner" - Allie Moss (mp3)

protected by a senior citizen and a supermodel, what could go wrong?



In Which We Are Rather Sorry She Is Weak

The Artist


Here are all the things I did not say. I admit I do not want you to read them, but others may know them in time, and if not from me, from you. They probably know that you lie, but they may not realize how much.

Your hair and general dress are not all that appealing. I saw you with a friend's cat once; an unfamiliar animal. She loathed you, sensing as she did that you did not even have the curiosity to learn her name. 

photo by lise sarfati

The advantage of thinking before speaking is also a detriment. I miss those manic betrayals, when I had this mistaken idea that there was something worth preserving. I recall once standing before a massive model of a stegosaurus. When I went inside, the structure itself held nothing but stale air.

Last week I ran into someone who also knew you. Before I did. I feigned to describe another person, never referencing your name or the specifics of your personality. When I was finished, she said, "It sounds as if you are describing a child." She bought me a mango sorbet. Her long dark hair swayed back and forth like a curtain.

photo by lise sarfati

I read some of your writing today. Parts came across bracingly sentimental; other moments verged on ridiculousness so severe I assumed it was satire. Before I knew you I met a woman who could never identify satire. Do you know how many times I spoke to her after I realized this?

You mispronounced words, all the time. I can't believe you never heard them said before. I witnessed other people judging you for it, and tried to think I was not among them, but now I face the truth.

photo by lise sarfati

On the street a woman approached you with your child. I could see you had no idea how to react. It was callous in a way to put her in your art, but at least you apologized; if not to her, then to me. The sky at that time of day remained molten red. I recall writing in my diary that evening. What I wrote was, "She thought it was happening to her, but it was not."

Oh I don't know, have you ever looked at something beautiful and wanted it to be completely destroyed?

photo by lise sarfati

I know I will forget you. I never really saw us as intellectually compatible. A hill can seem like a mountain once you traverse it, but before long you see the top. Like that.

Sometimes I remember hearing you reach a conclusion (it was usually entirely at odds with reality). The words you used to detail your new knowledge reminded me of a Phosphorescent song and I do not mean that as any kind of a compliment. Whatever I gave to you or put inside you I want back.

It was a rhetorical question. I never spoke to her again.

photo by lise sarfati

As a child, single adults completely bewildered me. There existed no context for their presence, they seemed impossibly alone. The woman I'm seeing now is not like that at all.

Once you didn't see me watching but you shone.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about what he is composed of.

Photographs by Lise Sarfati. You can find more of her work here.

"Slow It Down" - The Dream ft. Fabulous (mp3)

"High Art" - The Dream ft. Jay-Z (mp3)