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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
Aug022011

In Which We Turn And Face The Strange

Heart of Chambers

by DAYNA EVANS

The Future
dir. Miranda July
91 min

Staring at Miranda July's pleading, childlike face for an hour and a half can be a daunting task. There's something about it — much like those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA advertisements — that elicits unnatural levels of sympathy within my cold, cynical heart. I want to give her hand-crocheted tea cozies, make her a key lime pie, or just tell her it's okay, everything's going to be okay. July is all sweetness, humility, and youthful confusion, but without an obnoxious giggle or noted affectation. Her earnestness seems to breed only further earnestness, which has caused many to repel her work.

The host of haters claim that lines like, “Hi, person” spoken between girlfriend and boyfriend are unrealistic and contrived. They take issue with dancing pink shoes in her first feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, with her title choices and her outfits and that doe-eyed, bashful face. Despite how polarizing July can be, she feels authentic even if you're the kind of person who can't stand her.

The Future is a film about two mid-30s creative-types Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) who are waiting for their big moment, but are having trouble enabling it to happen. They want stability and familiarity (which leads them to adopting a cat), but they aren't certain for how long (the cat is dying). Matching MacBooks, gauzey curtains, and flea-market kitsch overrun their apartment.

The pair use the countdown to adopting their new cat as a time to shut off their internet, begin new projects (Sophie a series of dance videos, Jason a foray in environmental solicitation), and, to Jason's dismay, experiment with infidelity. While Sophie starts an affair with a wealthy suburban dad, Jason learns he can make time stand still and has conversations with old men and the moon (yes, the moon).

Paw-Paw the gray cat narrates the story, touching sagely on the range of warmth, possession, and loss we see the couple experience. Sophie moves in with her new boyfriend (David Warshofsky). She admires the 1,000 thread count sheets, walks around in a nightie, and abandons dancing. After her boyfriend’s daughter buries herself to the neck in their backyard with the plan to sleep, Sophie puts her in the bath. It is then that we see Sophie’s face betray what we’ve already concluded: there is suffocation in the comfort of luxury.

Not much later, she returns to Jason, who is cold but accepting. In their time apart, they have both unsuccessfully tried to pick up the cat — the cat has been euthanized because they were a day late in retrieving him, and everything about it is a poignantly written tragedy. The film closes as it began: two mid-30s creative-types in pajamas, quietly absorbed in their own thoughts. But they are absorbed together.

The Future isn't Away We Go, it isn't The Squid and the Whale. Unlike the many Grizzly Bear-soundtracked films that sound similar, this is not a compendium of white people problems and whining — it's a film of generous sentimentality and melancholy. It resonates so deeply that an ethereal yet honest mood exists, a mood that is only enhanced by the wonderful score of Jon Brion. The music creates caverns in which Sophie and Jason’s loneliness can nestle. At once warm and wide, Brion’s soundtrack is also disconsolate in its use of droney keyboards, which makes the score feel like a constant tribute to the film’s theme, “Master of None” by Beach House. The choice to use “Master of None” as a thread throughout the film could not have been more deliberate — it is exact in its replication of what we feel through The Future: hollow, somber, but not alone. The vast richness of The Future is in its ability to ask us what we look for at a certain age, and it does so without making generalizations and conclusions on our behalf. 

Movies like The Future merely present quandaries its intended audience already recognizes: variations of the “Where do we go/what do we do?” myth of young adulthood. Unfortunately, it is too easy to absorb-then-ignore these impasses as we watch them played out in independent films while the flood of thoughts about how we're going to be the next Basquiat, next DeLillo, or next July never ceases. It’s apparently what we do as part of a generation bound to narcissism. Sophie characterizes this self-involvement astutely when she says she'd like to start reading the news but because she's already so far behind, why should she bother?

The movie begins to feel like reality TV — a reflection of what people in their 20s and 30s go through — and it plays out like a fable without a moral. This creates disquiet in the theater. Can one take comfort or glean knowledge from a film that glimmers like a mirror? Due in full to July's astounding technique for writing human emotion in all its complicated forms, The Future shines in its use of what people can find insufferable about Miranda July's work: portraying sullen, adult truths through a lens of childlike surrealism.

Why would an adult woman call up a perfect stranger whose number is written on the back of a drawing and ask him where he lives? Why would her boyfriend have sandwiches with an old man who writes filthy limericks and then imagine the man was the voice of the moon? Who talks like that? Who dresses like that? Who makes a movie with a three-minute dance scene in which a woman writhes about completely enrobed in a T-shirt that moves on its own? Without context, all of this can appear juvenile and inchoate.

When these elements are strung together a deeper and much darker film emerges. And even if it didn’t, heaven forbid film or writing be intimate and uninhibited, for self-exposure as ripe as July's is considered shameful, perhaps even veers on appearing too feminine.

What detractors fail to identify is the overwhelming maturity in July's insistence on submitting to a tender, childlike sensibility in her work. In The Future, Sophie and Jason struggle with moving forward and becoming real people, but their recognition and gentle understanding of this problem is actually quite adult. Although a talking cat named Paw-Paw may be a hindrance for Werner Herzog disciples, perhaps it's time to find the gravity in lightness.

Dayna Evans is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about coming to America.

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"Galaxy Plateau" - Twin Sister (mp3)

"All Around And Away We Go" - Twin Sister (mp3)

"The Other Side of Your Face" - Twin Sister (mp3)


Monday
Aug012011

In Which We Finger Plush Towels

How To Be An Anthro Girl

by KARA VANDERBIJL

It is the query on the tip of everybody’s tongue these days: how can I become an Anthropologie girl? This boutique is Urban Outfitters’ older sister, eating disorder outgrown and T-shirts intact; she wears makeup, has a job, and travels the world instead of riding around the block on her seven hundred dollar bicycle. The business supposedly caters to 30 and 40-year-old professional women who can afford their sky-high prices, but their catalogue has become the holy scriptures of every self-proclaimed “twentysomething” woman who is trying to make her way in this world. Admit it, ladies: Anthropologie is your happy place, and if you make more than $20 a week you have probably spent more within their four walls than necessary.

For those of us who can only walk past their doors with longing or browse their endless mazes of delightful fashions and home goods until we are asphyxiated by the stench of their exotic candles, here are a few tips on how to become a little bit more like Ms. Anthro:

* Shun modernity. No e-readers, Helvetica, non-whistling teapots, or mp3 players for you. You bask in the glow of a million candles at your desk while you write with a delightfully scratchy fountain pen. You will paw anything that looks like it was made circa 1960. In your most vulnerable moments, you pull an iPhone out of your Katherine Hepburn-style wide-leg pants, and pay $300 for a pair of oxfords that you will claim belonged to your grandmother.

* Use the word ‘culture’ a lot. As an Anthro girl, you are in touch with all the peoples of the world. You wear the fabrics that they made with their hands, and although the average blouse on the rack will cost you half your week’s wages and only return about a dollar to its original makers, you feel as if you are one with them. You are Elizabeth Gilbert, reveling in your spiritual transformation, your connection with the world. You might be able to say, “I got this tunic on my recent voyage to Bali.” There, you played soccer with the natives and sat silent around a campfire while they grasped your hands in peace. Your mere white presence makes their lives more tolerable, and you give them meaning by blogging about them.

* Take up eerily attractive hobbies. Nothing comes to you more naturally than riding a bicycle or the study of ancient textiles. People flock to you like moths to a flame when you mention a proclivity towards interpretive dance routines of Out of Africa. You offer workshops on flower arrangement in wind instruments at a local coffee shop.

* Talk about how much you love your city. Waxing poetic about the cramped train, the humid concrete, and the skyline you observed at sunset while standing barefoot on your fire escape in a chiffon dress constitutes the average weekday post on your blog. On the weekends, a few obscure poems delineate your emotions about an unnamed and possibly non-existent male. You show up at neighborhood bars wearing organic cotton in colors that have never before been seen in bars, and when you ask for gin, nobody cards you.

* Be wealthy, but not the kind of wealthy that makes anybody feel bad. Rather, just chuckle softly whenever you mention your latest trip to Europe or the top of the Empire State Building. “Oh, we rode camels out to Petra,” is the phrase most often uttered at the end of your summer vacations. You justify long periods of inactivity on white-sanded beaches by making sure they took place in third world countries, and you donate a dollar or so to whatever charity is currently advertising on Tumblr.

* Speak to your house plants. No comment.

* Deserve take-out. Nobody understands your depth of soul or your unique suffering. The love you experience, which you calmly and resolutely reveal by missing a button on your blouse or by weeping softly in your local subway, undeniably entitles you to eat any sort of fried food of dubious origin in the porcelain abyss of your claw-foot bathtub.

* Be a ‘natural’ woman. Nothing about you is put on; nothing about you is askance. You are at all times completely genuine and completely within your element (earth or water). You respond to crises by lighting a candle, by fingering plush towels. Plucking is out of the question. You crochet on demand, but only in penumbra.

* Never match. Yellow shoes are always acceptable. Plain black? Never.

* Always have the right dish. You have bowls specifically for walnuts, hats for afternoons spent indoors, and cups crafted for lemonade. They are charmingly chipped in all the right places. The Upholstered Chaise Lounge represents you as a person, like it did for proto-Anthro girl Betty Draper. You search high and low for ampersand-shaped coat hooks, and live in rooms comprised completely of ottomans.

* Spontaneously sleep outside. That’s what your outdoor bed is for.

* Say things like, “We’ll honeymoon in Mexico.” “I’ll put her in an immersion school when she’s born.” “Oh, I don’t eat frozen vegetables.” “This? This is the child I’m sponsoring in Nepal.” “I made these earrings from turquoise I found in the Arizona desert.” “I’d like to illustrate children’s books.”

* Become a selective eater. Refuse to eat anything not dubbed ‘organic’ OR anything that was not made whilst wearing a frilly apron OR anything that cannot be eaten with a grapefruit spoon. Revel in food groups generally embraced by the average rabbit. When asked what you ate for breakfast, your eyes glaze over and you mention tea and great gulps of oxygen. Your friends rave about your spread, but they generally mean the tablecloth underneath.

* Store things in glass jars. For some reason people still use plastic?

* Embrace the occult. Your superstitions—such as which sweater to wear while reading the morning newspaper — extend to your unguarded preference of zodiac-inspired dishtowels. You practice food augury, which you understand to mean eat as little as possible so as not to hide the design of the dish. When your favorite tea saucer breaks, you buy a new one.

* Become too knowledgeable about something. When asked about your favorite Stendhal book, your effervescent enthusiasm borders on hysteria. Medieval Italian music, multi-volume science fiction novels, and alternatives to name-brand cleaning products cause you to spasm in delight. Your eccentricity borders on social-unawareness just as your backyard borders on a virginal forest preserve. When asked your thoughts on any subject you retreat to an adjoining room moodily wearing too many scarves. “Years from now,” acquaintances whisper of you, “people will say we knew her.”

* Never be in a picture with a man, ever. You roam alone, from room to room, lit golden by the chandeliers in your lacy nightgown. Your wallpaper is peeling at the corners near the ceiling. You like the culture it creates. Another living being would upset the balance, put the brightly colored throws in disarray.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. You can find her website here.

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"I Want To Get High But I Don't Want Brain Damage" - The Flaming Lips & Lightning Bolt (mp3)

"The Spark That Bled" - The Flaming Lips (mp3)

"I Want To Get Damaged But I Won't Say Hi" - The Flaming Lips & Lightning Bolt (mp3)

Friday
Jul292011

In Which We Only Have Sex In Montage

The Boyfriend Experience

by JESSICA RIONERO

Friends With Benefits
dir. Will Gluck
109 minutes

I used to think men and women could be friends. Growing up, I thought I was a tomboy because I had lots of boy friends. Not boyfriends but friends that were boys. Looking back, I ended up hooking up with half of them and the other half came out gay after we hooked up. This is obviously a pressing issue since two films were released this year on the subject: Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached and now Friends With Benefits directed by Will Gluck (Easy A).

Jezebel was where I read that Easy A could be the next Mean Girls. I enjoyed the literary allusion to The Scarlet Letter as well as the parallel storyline this film shared with 1987's Can’t Buy Me Love, a movie about a teenage nerd who pays a girl to make him seem cool and they fall in love. Mr. McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey, played the lead.

When I see the charming posters for these films I can’t help to think, "but they get together in the end!" Any pre-adolescent sixth grader can tell you that. At the end of the movie, they are going to fall in love and live happily ever after. That’s not my only beef with these movies. These people are also way too good-looking to need fuck buddies. If you took the female leads from both of these films and put them in an Oscar worthy drama they would still hook up.

This is all actually a sensitive subject for me; I am a recovering fuck buddy. I actually had two friends with benefits scenarios. I am a bit embarrassed to admit all of this. Maybe that one year of Catholic school really did screw me up. Fast-forward 12 years later to the booty call and 4th wave feminism, add a shot of Maker’s Mark and we are up to speed.

So there was…let’s call him Boy A. Not Andrew Garfield, just my good friend from college, Boy A. Boy A and I became single at the same time and found ourselves equally horny. We figured we would do it a few times until we found real people to date/sleep with. In our social circles, we urged to keep this quiet. Especially since, okay not proud of this either, he dated a dear girl friend of mine. I was never this kind of girl. I actually had this happen to me once and I was devastated and here I was, repeating the cliché. It’s physically possible, just generally frowned upon. But we didn’t care; he would compare us to a Dave Eggers short story as if we were a literary novelty.

We got more intense. When we hung out it felt like dates. People started finding out, even his ex-girlfriend and my now ex-friend. He told me he loved me and that he wanted to make me his girlfriend. I just did not feel the same way. Everything went sour from there. We were no longer friends. We tried to make one another jealous and fought all the time. He said I was like Summer, rejecting him, fearful that I would probably fall in love before he was able to move on.

This is coming from the guy who took me to go see Meek’s Cutoff at Film Forum. Not only did he admit that he saw (500) Days of Summer but he equated himself with JGL.

We ultimately decided we would never work and that we actually needed to stop talking to one another. No sex and no friendship. Nothing. We haven't spoke since. I was fine! Thinking, "I don’t need a boyfriend! What for? Dates? Oh so we can hit it off, become sexually compatible, date, meet each other’s parents, make it facebook official, move in together, get married, have kids, grow old, and die.” Yeah not for me. But jeez, Ian Curtis wasn’t messing around when he said, "love will tear us apart again" because low and behold, there came Boy B.

Boy B was a new co-worker. He became the talk around the office cooler. All the girls wanted him and I had no idea why. He was good looking but completely not my type. Maybe my initial disinterest was the appeal to him. He wanted me. Me? The same girl who had braces two years ago.

I was in over my head. Texting, "yeah you can come over but you can’t stay over." At first, it was so carefree. I am pretty much nocturnal and he worked late. I was doing my best to keep up and was enjoying doing so physically. Mentally it was excruciating. It was one late night/early morning drunken mess after another and to top it all off, we were co-workers. He finally laid down the law: "I think of you as a friend, you’re hot and we have amazing sex together. That’s it." And that’s when I said, "I can’t anymore." Which meant ignoring texts, five a.m. phone calls and ultimately leaving my job.

With all this free time not working and not fucking, I was able to do some research. I watched a lot of Sex and the City. In the wee early seasons of the franchise, there was an episode titled "The Fuck Buddy." This was worth the 72-minute wait on megaupload. In the episode, Carrie mentions Edith Wharton and Henry James as she romanticizes New York City. Here’s one of my favorite quotes: "Your tits look really great in that thing." I recognized Carrie’s go-to fuck buddy right away. It was Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock.

My story came full circle when Friends with Benefits came out last weekend. See, I have been completely single for a few months now. With no hook-ups or drunken make-outs. Not even a real date with a guy, like where he pays and I shave my legs. I decided to see the movie all by myself.

I was mildly embarrassed seeing groups of young girls and perky couples walk in. I barely was able to spit out, "One for Friends With Benefits." As I finished a tweet about the uneventful fall line up for movies this year, a young woman sat down right next to me. There were other seats in the theater. Maybe she was embarrassed to be alone. She seemed pretty and normal. I wondered why she didn’t have a group of friends or a significant other. No woman is an island after all!

In Friends With Benefits, Mila Kunis is so New York and Justin Timberlake is so L.A. They are so opposite, how will this ever work! Within the first twenty minutes, Kunis’ character exclaims how she will show her leading man "the real New York," not the tourist stuff. So she shows him the Brooklyn Bridge, a view of the Empire State building, and Times Square. I would have taken him to a rave in Bushwick, spun the cube at Astor Place, and probably split a forty at the closest Papaya King.

Friends With Benefits contains homages to to Nora Ephron, Nicholas Sparks, Pretty Woman and of course Katherine Heigl of The Ugly Truth. I was very impressed with the opening to the film, wherein both Kunis and Timberlake share similar relationship woes as they are dumped by Emma Stone and Andy Samberg. Emma Stone’s caricature breaks up with JT because he was late to a John Mayer concert, thus missing "Your Body Is A Wonderland." But if you are going go to a John Mayer concert in the first place, you go to hear "Your Body Is A Wonderland." It’s like going to the Louvre, you must see the Mona Lisa or in L.A., you must go to an In-N-Out Burger. Is it a reason to break up with someone?

No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits share identical moments. Alcohol fuels an ill-fated relationship. Rules need to be laid down. Something like: thou shall not cuddle for too long. Thou shall not look each other in the eyes, thou shall not have time when you hang out and not have sex, e.g. meals together, movies, you know normal people stuff.

The film teases the idea of JT as a workaholic and Mila Kunis as the quirky girl that will show him a good time. But a lot of these things get lost in a cute but provocative sex montage. It was very similar to No Strings Attached’s sex montage, in that both lacked a doggy-style position.

Friends With Benefits contains a ridiculous amount of exposition, throwaway characters, and pivotal plot points abruptly dropped. But who cares! Better yet, there is a fake romantic comedy that the couple notes stars Rashida Jones and Jason Segel. They make fun of the production value and the stereotypical dialogue. As cheesy as the faux rom-com seems, it serves as the blueprint for JT to win Kunis’ heart.

A great supporting cast eases the pain. NSA: Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, and Ludacris! FWB: Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, and Bryan Greenberg. However, the film did leave out the whole false pregnancy scene and the adderall inspired threesome but seriously who’s counting? And more importantly, spoiler alert: they all get together in the end and live yet again, happily ever after.

As for me? Two fuck buddies and no, I did not end up with either of them. Through my experience and a few pretty bad romantic comedies, I have realized you do not need sex. I looked into it and lack of sex will not cause cancer. Next time around, I am going to have to do this all from scratch. Let’s say I am on a real first date in the near future.

Guy of my dreams: Oh yeah, I mean, I was on again off again with this one chick but then I met you. What about you? Ex-boyfriends?

Me: Funny you should bring that up because I’ve never had a boyfriend before. I’ve never even liked anyone. I’m a virgin and I’m actually saving myself for marriage.

Think he'll buy it?

Jessica Rionero is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer and comedian living in New York. You can find her website here. She tumbls here and twitters here.

photo by drew kaufman

"Vanishing of Time" - Vivian Girls (mp3)

"Lake House" - Vivian Girls (mp3)

"Death" - Vivian Girls (mp3)