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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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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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Thursday
Oct062011

In Which It Is A City Of Neighborhoods

Most Mornings

by BRITT JULIOUS

The lot is empty. It was empty the last time we were here, driving to or from the city. Sometimes a gate is erected, but a hole is soon cut in the metal, letting the trash that accumulates on the crumbling pavement filter into the vast, domineering space. The lot is empty anytime we are here. It has been like this since the late 60s and even though the clothes folks wear and the cars they drive and the music they listen to continue to change, the space remains as overdone as the day the riots tore through this city like many others. Our cars were nothing special, but they stood out on our few rides home down Lake Street. We took the long way back, the way that curves and bends and rumbles underneath the old Green Line train tracks that look out on the land of the Others.

The break in neighborhoods happens suddenly, but every few months another block gets cleaned. More of the trash is swept into metal garbage cans. Across a major avenue, that same trash sits in black garbage bags on the sidewalk. There is nowhere for it to go, but it must go somewhere. The space is not acceptable, but people still live and breathe and exist there, so they must claim the land as their own. They take care of their grass and their windows and when the broken bottles and grimy containers become too much, they will take care of that as well.

"Our home was our escape," my mother once said about the small house my grandparents finally purchased in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. After moving here from Alabama in the early 60s, the family bounced from space to space, trying to make a home of a city in decline. Their house was "it," a formal recognition of a life accomplished, of a step into a newer, better, and unfamiliar class. Make no mistake, their wealth was not bountiful, but a home? With a lawn and shade and warmth? These things mean something.

The neighborhood has its charms: the wide yards, the long porches, the deep lots. It reminds me of the town next door, Oak Park, with its handsome residences. But the differences of race and class further polarize the sides of Austin Boulevard that separates the two. Most mornings as a young girl, I walked from my grandparents' house in Chicago to my elementary school in Oak Park.

Eventually I was old enough to stay at my home in Oak Park alone without adult supervision in the mornings, but those same blocks became a literal battleground of turf and pride. I came home one day from my school and my mother talked about the shooting on my grandparents' block. This was on the blocks I walked, the sidewalks I played on, the trees I hid under.

“Is she all right?” I asked.

“Mentally?” my mother responded.

In high school, my mother drove me to and from doctor's appointments in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. She had other, quicker options but she chose to exit the expressway rather than wrap around the city for another 5 minutes. We drove through the West Loop, a former home. Back then, my mother walked to school and conversed with the prostitutes on the corners.

"You try-na take what's mine?" one would ask her.

She was twelve.

The streets are cleaner, brisker, but she still recognizes how the doublewide sidewalks are unlike the rest of the city. They stick out and create an empty space. This is where one realizes how small they are, how much more there is out there, how they'll never get to see it all.

Past Bridgeport, the South Side is indistinct. The residents may say something different, but if you live above 35th street, your chances of understanding everything after the divide diminishes the farther north you live. Chicago is a massive city of broad scope and scale, but the desire to explore or understand that scope is finite. This is a city of neighborhoods for a reason.

On a recent Friday night at a bar near my apartment in West Town, I was reminded of my newness, my cog in the machine of change. At one point, this bar was the place among a string of repurposed spaces, but now it is a bar like other bars, brimming with the kitsch of a pop cultural world I'll never inhabit: KISS posters, plastic play things, heavy knick knacks.

We arrived before the crowds and sat at the bar where the bartender gave a certain look of confusion. My friend, in jeans and a backpack. Myself, in heels, despite the heavy rain and broken sidewalks outside. The conversation began. I noticed he only ordered Pabst Blue Ribbon and I felt disappointed by his choices. The night before, we had sat in a booth at Estelle's and he ordered rich craft beers. He talked about their origins, their flavor profiles.

"Why only that?" I said, pointing to my drink that Friday.

I exist inside a vacuum. Peripherally, I touch numerous cultures but none exist as my own. Trying to take ownership of something that is not fully, truly mine feels wasteful of my time.

"I don't know. I just always get it. I always have," he said.

Sometimes my thoughts get the best of me, and that evening my mind and mouth ran freely around ideas of livelihood, of race, of ownership and possession. No one will at first admit to colonizing the land, but eventually, the crowds move in and the neighborhood exists with two identities: What Was and What Will.

The space one inhabits is unique. What I live and where I live is part choice, part circumstance. Because I am a young woman alone, I live where I feel safe. But because I am Black, I can exist in other places and still blend in. My blackness is my awareness. My skin affords me something beyond the new, the hip, the here. Even if my life were only Oak Park, I would be able to fake the life and land I’ve never possessed. There is an underlying assumption there. But also, I take on these stories and lives and neighborhoods as if they are my own. They give me something perhaps caché that makes my life feel authentic in a way that I didn’t realize I craved.

“I never really venture past Augusta or Kedzie or Armitage,” my friend said. “I’ve been here for three years. That’s my space.”

"I hate," I began, "how people move in to a neighborhood, a culture, a lifestyle and claim it as their own. It's that possession, that ownership, that disregard."

When I finished, he had little to say. He was looking at the back of the bar lined with bottles of vodka and gin. He was rubbing his hands against his legs. He was sighing.

"You've...given me a lot to think about," he said.

I smiled.

And then he said, “Well, what about you?”

Britt Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about a hundred other things and the divine. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here. You can find her website here.

Photographs by the author.

"Out Getting Ribs" - Zoo Kid (mp3)

"How Come You Never Go There" - Feist (mp3)

"Not Long Now" - James Blake (mp3)

"Keeping Up" - Arthur Russell (mp3)

"Houstatlantavegas" - Sonnymoon (mp3)

Wednesday
Oct052011

In Which We Examine The Funniest Of Girls

Known in Flatbush

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Manny Streisand was her father, known in Flatbush as the instructor of troubled men at the Brooklyn High School for Specialty Trades. The E. 7th street tenement he was born into charged a rent of $15 a month. Heading into Manhattan for the only honeymoon he could afford, Manny Streisand banged his head against the windshield when the car in front of him stopped short. Five years later, he began to suffer the first of many seizures. On August 4th, 1943, he was dead.

His daughter Barbara was almost a year and a half. She was not yet Barbra, she was still Barbara. She did not cry as a child, despite the fact that her grandfather was a malicious tyrant. Her mother Diane, unable to cope with her husband's early passing, was keen to drop the girl off with a caretaker whenever she could.

When she was old enough for school, she was old enough to experience its displeasure. Her peers called her Big Beak and drew attention to her lazy left eye. The Yiddish word for an ungainly misfit was "mieskeit," and everyone knew that was her.

Her mother was attractive enough to find a second husband, and young Barbara did not care for her suitors. Barbara tried to turn them away like Penelope. When these strange men kissed her mother, Barbara thought they were trying to take Diane from her.

A neighbor in her Brooklyn building knit the young girl a sweater to wrap around her only toy: a hot water bottle. Her mother became concerned by Barbara's lack of interest in eating. The only time she paid attention to the girl was when she was force-feeding her something or other, possibly a knish.

She sang for the first time at the age of seven. She rushed breathlessly into her mother's embrace afterwards, eager for her approval. Her mother told her, "Your arms are too thin."

Her mother found another man, one in the garment business. He impregnated her but refused to get married for some time. Diane Streisand moved into a one-bedroom on the corner of Nostrand Avenue. The rent was $105 per month.

Barbara's new father Louis Kind hated her, would criticize her clothes in front of her friends, brought no money to the family, beat his new wife. When one of her friends asked why Kind owned a different last name, she told the girl, "Oh, he uses that name for business."

On the plus side, her new father possessed the only television set she had ever had. She imitated everything she saw, showing her mother the correct way to hold a cigarette for the first time at the age of ten. Lucille Ball was generally regarded as the best.

Her first band in elementary school was Bobbie and the Bernsteins. She was Bobbie, backed by twin sisters, her closest friends at school. She never invited them over to her house out of fear. One of her classmates told her, "Barbara, please don't sing anymore."

For her fourteenth birthday, her mother nixed the idea of going to see My Fair Lady. Instead, her and her friend Anita Sussman saw The Diary of Anne Frank. At first she cried at the bracing similarities of her own existence, but afterwards it occurred to her as if there had never been a question: that part was made for her.

With her family in tatters, she sought a second home and found it in Jimmy and Muriel Choy, a Chinese couple who owned a restaurant on Nostrand Avenue. Kosher food had the disadvantage of being associated with her awful parents; Chinese food meant magnificent life in comparison. She schlepped from table to table as a waitress, the only Jewish one they had.

High school was a different matter. Her desire to sing and perform became a singular force of will, the only one she required. She had never been identified as gifted in school, but a mandatory IQ test quickly revealed the truth. With a quotient of 124, she was quickly shuttled into the honors classes. Still, she did not fit in with the smart students, and she ate alone. One teacher called her "self-centered."

Sex was taboo in her home. Information had to be attained through other avenues. She asked Muriel Choy whether the man was always on top during intercourse. Muriel responded, "Not necessarily."

Her first romance was with the best-looking guy in her theater troupe. She had always been considered the ugliest girl in school. He did more than admit she wasn't: he told her she was attractive, the first person who had ever done so. Her second boyfriend was a black guy named Teddy. People were absolutely flabbergasted.

The pace of things began to pick up, even if the world wasn't exactly to her liking. She auditioned for Otto Preminger's cinematic version of the Joan of Arc story, Saint Joan. They chose a gentile. Her mother separated from her abusive stepfather and had to sue for a measly $37 a week. To make ends meet, her mother sold undergarments in her building's laundry room and asked her daughter to steal milk bottles from where they sat outside their neighbor's doors.

A theater near her home would play Italian films. She did not understand the language. When Jerry Lewis movies filled the theater, she imitated him in the lobby for other patrons. Her mother let her use their college savings ($150) to fund an apprenticeship at an upstate New York playhouse. Her first part was as a Japanese child leading a goat, and the role meant she had to clean up the animal's droppings after every performance.

She continued to lie about her age, hoping she would be accepted into a year-round program at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village. Her mother trashed the clothes that her theater friends gave her out of kindness, and accused them of enslaving her daughter. She adopted a new style: skirt, stockings, shoes, leather bag, all blacker than black.

Some time later on, in her aspiring actress days, another student spotted Barbara and took notice. James Spada's 1995 biography of Barbra, Streisand: Her Life, has him remembering his first vision of the girl: "I remember this funny-looking girl on the stage sitting cross-legged...she had a very small part, she didn't have many lines. But boy, by some magic wave of her wand she was making everybody look at her," Dustin Hoffman said. "Did you ever see those pictures of a mother bird with the worm and there's a bunch of baby birds with their mouths open? Somehow there's one that's straining more than any other to get that worm from their mother. That would be Barbra."

She met Warren Beatty, five years her elder. She rejected him for the moment, put off by his strategy of chasing every tail he saw. Her own early rejections were brutal one casting agent wrote over her photo, "Talented. Who needs another Jewish broad?" When she invited her mother to watch her perform a particularly moving scene in acting class, her mother told her to give up and take a typing job.

Until then, her name had been Barbara. But she decided that there were a million Barbaras, and if she removed the 'a', only one Barbra.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about the childhood of Kurt Cobain.

with Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford

"Woman in Love" - Liz McClarnon (mp3)

"The Way We Were" - Donna Summer (mp3)

"Evergreen" - Luther Vandross (mp3)

Tuesday
Oct042011

In Which She Has Never Heard Of A Thrift Store

The New Destitution

by DAYNA EVANS

2 Broke Girls
creators Michael Patrick King & Whitney Cummings

Not that anybody asked for it, but TV has finally filled an empty hole in the Monday night lineup with a hipster, Ponzi-scheme, young white female buddy comedy for the recession era. 2 Broke Girls stars Kat Dennings as the sarcastic “no funny business” Brooklynite Max, and Beth Behrs as Caroline, a washed-up Sex and the City rich girl.

Caroline is a lively but sharp Wharton grad (yawn) who has been rendered penniless by her father’s Ponzi scheme mistakes and now seeks validation from the only person who will begrudgingly have her. The pair toil as waitresses at a cheesy nondescript diner that Max would never actually work at if she were in fact a hipster Brooklynite. Chanel-baubled Caroline wouldn’t bother hailing a cab over the bridge to make poor-people jokes. Poor Max! As if her eight-packed boyfriend who strangely resembles the lead singer of Maroon 5 and the greasy Russian sex offending line cook didn’t cause her enough trouble, she now has a third nuisance to interrupt her already sorrowful life. Make that four — Caroline comes with a pet horse named Chestnut.

The two end up living together in what will be known in television history as the world’s largest broke-girl New York City apartment with the exception of Rachel and Monica's apartment on Friends. When she isn’t working at the diner, Max bakes cupcakes (sold for $1.50 — a savvy entrepreneur she is not) and nannies for a rich Manhattanite because cupcakes and nannying simply don’t seem to want to die in film and TV executives’ views of young-sassy-hip contemporary culture.

Poor Caroline in her new destitution is forced to endure the “smell” of Brooklyn, whatever the hell that could be given the fact that Brooklyn is larger than a square yard and can be as fragrant as a powder room in a townhouse on Gossip Girl, which it is important to note, is filmed in the great big smelly borough. Due to Caroline’s desire to return to wealth and unconvincing need to help Max reduce her level of snark, which she interprets as “bad self-esteem,” a business model is established to sell — but what else? — cupcakes.

The two require only $250,000 and if the viewer can try to make it to the end of each episode, an amount pops up on the screen to notify us of how much startup cash they earned. As it turns out, the curiosity to see this number go up or plummet down bears the weight of the entire show’s intrigue. That and the hopes to see the eight pack of Max's now ex-boyfriend just one more time.

Despite Max’s blazers, lipstick, and vintage t-shirts — such as the oversize Run DMC shirt she wears to bed — the show feels like it is written by people too old to actually “get it” or worse, too Manhattan to have ever set foot in the borough of Brooklyn. One can imagine a conference room and a white board on which buzzwords are splayed in geometric and sharp handwriting: Coldplay, fedoras, tweet, kale, beanies, riding the subway, plaid. I mean, Coldplay? That meeting was already off to a disastrous start if they think that self-identifying Brooklyn hipsters are actually listening to Coldplay.

The humor written for Dennings’ character takes a stab at “edgy” when she drops bombs about masturbating and drug dealing, but it doesn’t work when her counterpart reacts with sheer horror and naivete.

The two have a falling out by the second episode when Max’s boyfriend hits on Caroline. In a moment of sitcom catharsis, they scream what the viewer is supposed to be digesting without scripted help: that all the qualities that make them so wildly different and thus more endearing will magically transform them into besties. It is as annoying as it sounds. Once the two kiss and make up by way of drunken late-night apology, Max is all of a sudden out buying Caroline organic juices and expressing interest in their “business.” Girl fights can all be resolved over a little cleansing pomegranate wheatgrass nu-health blend, you know?

Only five minutes into the third episode of the series, Max and Caroline, counting their tips at the diner after closing, have an extended conversation about facebook. We learn that Max does not check hers because she has no interest in seeing people update their statuses about the weather. Though this joke feels like a natural thing that two young women might talk about, the moment lasts too long and it is ruined. When Max and Caroline go shopping, as newly cemented besties are wont to do, and Max finds a “dope Strokes tee” at Goodwill, this marks both the first time Caroline has been to a thrift store and the first time the words “dope Strokes tee” have been uttered since 2001 or — scratch that — ever.

Physically, the two are mismatched and unnatural together. There is the weird way that Max talks while holding her hand over her belly and Caroline’s tendency to mug and gesture violently about as Max deadpans, unmoving. It's not that the chemistry isn’t there — between them, there is a determinate energy. But it is the energy between two people who simply would never be friends, making the moments when they are being girlfriend-y severely uncomfortable to watch and believe. Caroline enters the living room of their apartment wearing short-shorts and stilettos, booty-dancing to Nelly’s "Hot In Herre," which she sings with an inexplicable Latina lilt. Max makes a face that isn’t so much "Ugh, you're so not like me!" as much as it is registered indifference.

At a bar, we are introduced to JPEG, Max’s bartender/street artist friend who is the variety of attractive man fit for a rodeo in the Midwest, not a bar in New York. To mask this poor casting, he wears a pair of black Buddy Holly frames and a T-shirt with numbers on it. If that man is a street artist, then I am a marine biologist.

After one more catty fight over something more mundane than the last, we see Max’s soul for the first time, which has been glaringly and intentionally absent as a cheap way of showing how totally jaded she is. She slinks into their backyard, finds a shovel, and takes Chestnut for a walk as a favor to Caroline. While they walk, she talks to the horse lovingly and the animal nuzzles her in response. Her hand grips the shovel and the depth of Max’s feelings about her friendship with Caroline is revealed in hushed tones between young woman and quadruped. They reach a vacant lot, brick walls emblazoned with graffiti, and the horse relieves himself while Max waits, taking in the smells of Brooklyn.

Dayna Evans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Bangladesh. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about live tigers.

"Blacklisted" - Neko Case (mp3)

"Rated X" - Neko Case (mp3)

"The Tigers Have Spoken" - Neko Case (mp3)