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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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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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Thursday
Oct172013

In Which We Possess A Blacklist Of Our Own

Sex, Lies & Gchat Transcripts

by DICK CHENEY

The Blacklist
creator Jon Bokenkamp

For years I kept a list of sorts, of the people who offended me the most. I even bought a voodoo doll from a lovely Asian woman that gave Joan Walsh stomach cramps for over a decade. I am also the reason that Selena Gomez will never be happy.

Anger comes quickly to me, a burning rage that begins at the top of my anus and at some point later, reaches my temples. Many people believe that what they say in the bowels of the internet or the New York Times editorial pages harms no one who is attacked there, or never reaches my ears. (When Gail Collins called me a "dessicated spook" in the one column she wrote that didn't sound like Andy Rooney ghostwrote it, I cried for a fortnight.)

looks like my doctor's appointment every month

I must be used to it, these scribes think to themselves, because I am Dick Cheney. Since in 2002 I could have easily given an order to have Nicholas Kristof imprisoned in a cage meant for a large rabbit, they believe I am either not bothered by their vindictive words, or in no position to do anything about what they say.

But this is not true. I could as easily destroy their puny lives as order the cold cut combo at Subway. I don't know why they said these things about me. Difficult tasks, such as torture or murder, must be done by good men. Tongue-in-cheek critiques of NBC dramas must be accomplished by the most moral of us.

coincidentally, this is also how george h.w. bush got his job with the CIA

Raymond Reddington (James Spader) is a bald criminal mastermind who turns himself into the FBI in the opening scene of NBC's The Blacklist. He explains that a dangerous terrorist has entered the country and plans to abduct a young girl. Later we learn that the terrorist's motivation is completely and entirely appropriate - he's taking revenge on the people who dropped chemical weapons on his village. He puts a timer on his bomb for no reason I can imagine, and straps it to the girl.

In order to stop him, Spader escapes from FBI custody. (Moments before, you'll recall, he had voluntarily entered it.) Spader has lost many follicles and aged many years since his last featured performance, as Steve Carell's show-killing replacement on The Office. Both roles, that of a career criminal and that of an office manager, share a crucial commonality: they require him to seem all-knowing.

just a reminder that every man with hair like that should make a wig while he still can

Admittedly, omnipotence is well within James Spader's range. As Dorothy learned when she pulled back the curtain to reveal the wizard, any poor schlub can pretend to be God and be convincing in the role. 

Spader's true talents lie elsewhere. He has shown, in his best roles, that he can extol a frenetic impotence better than almost any actor besides Bryan Cranston. Here he explains to the government that there are a great many evil individuals about whom they know nothing, criminals who walk the world anonymous. The long-nostriled bureaucrat who answers him has the perplexed look in his face, what we're all thinking - why would we want to know the existence of the death eaters, if we could spend our entire lives innocent of that knowledge?

the why? song "banana mae" was written about this woman, i suggest you youtube it immediately

Spader's arrangment with the FBI hinges on a key condition. He will only speak to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a middle-aged FBI profiler. She lives in a small apartment in Georgetown with her goofy husband. Her feet look like hands. She wants to adopt a child instead of having one herself, despite the fact she is more than capable of bearing the kid - it's half a slight on her husband, half an acknowledgment of her own genetic defects.

In any case, the chemistry between Spader and Ms. Keen is not at all lascivious. "Everything you know about yourself is a lie," he tells her. She has no follow-up questions, not even, "How's that?" She just watches him escape FBI custody for the fifth time in three episodes. It's a wonder the bureau approved this show, because it makes them look like incompetent, well-meaning fools. In reality, they are neither of those things.

it's plain to see/you're the reason that God made a girlThere is absolutely no eroticism in The Blacklist. The producers are palpably aware of this, because why else would they cast Isabella Rossellini as a guest star? The reason this lack of a sexual aspect is important is because that tension adds an additional layer to everything. The release, the lack of control shows us how difficult it is for these people to keep doing their jobs. There must, at long last, be something fun about the world. Unless you're Maureen Dowd, then it's all pretty much shit.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the former vice president of the United States. He last wrote in these pages about the end of Breaking Bad.

My Personal Blacklist Besides Paul Krugman And Any Descendants/Demon Spawn He May Have

The guy who plays Jon Snow

Matt Taibbi

Professor Xavier

Harry Reid's mother (for having him)

Ashley Judd

The Black-Eyed Peas

Stephen Hawking (arrogant prick)

Jeremy Piven

Jim Fucking Lehrer

Carlton Cuse

Post-Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls Jim Carrey

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Stalin

Dan Houser

Damon Lindelof

Matthew Yglesias

Amanda Knox (more of a love/hate thing now that I think about it tho)

white people/the British

"Citizens" - Alice Russell (mp3)

"State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)" - Jim James (mp3)

Wednesday
Oct162013

In Which We Listen To Miley's Breakup Album Extensively

Dancing with Miley

by ALICE BOLIN

Driving into Hollywood this August, I listened to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” on repeat, the perfect soundtrack for a girl moving to Los Angeles with “a dream and her cardigan.” “Look to my left and I see the Hollywood Sign,” Cyrus sang, and I looked to my left, and there it was. Everything was shiny and exciting, fancy cars raced by on the freeway, and there were palm trees.

If I tell you how less than two months later I would be listening to Cyrus’ new album Bangerz on a packed LA city bus at six in the morning, clutching my backpack and trying not to fall asleep on the hour-long trip to my food service job, implicitly making a connection between the reality of my move to Los Angeles and the debaucherous turn Cyrus’ music has taken, well, that parallel would be an oversimplification.

For one thing, we’ve got to remember that after “Party in the USA” became her biggest hit, Cyrus commented that she had nothing to do with writing the song and hadn’t wanted to release it as a single, and furthermore, despite what the song’s chorus said, that she had never heard a Jay-Z song. In an interview promoting her film The Last Song, seventeen-year-old Cyrus said that she hadn’t finished the novel The Last Song was based on and that her favorite book was The Catcher in the Rye. I should mention that The Last Song’s author, Nicholas Sparks, was present at the interview. And are we forgetting the time when Cyrus had The Smiths lyrics as her twitter bio (“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does,” of course)? Because I’ll never forget.

Cyrus has always had not only a rebellious but a trollish streak. So we’re all so surprised when the video for her song “Wrecking Ball” makes use of the most literal possible image, a wrecking ball, and is as overtly, humorously sexual as possible, with Cyrus, directed by famous perv Terry Richardson, swinging around naked on the wrecking ball and sensually licking construction equipment? Without its outrage-baiting video, “Wrecking Ball” is just another of the generic power ballads that Dr. Luke probably produces in his sleep. Cyrus’ singing on the track mimics Britney Spears and Rihanna’s robotic vocals, which are so abrasive that their ballads can be physically painful to listen to. I mean, no offense.

The extent that Cyrus has modeled her career on Spears’ cannot be overstated. Both were child actors on the Disney Channel who had “America’s Sweetheart” personas to get out from under. It doesn’t take a genius to free associate on the phrase “shocking VMAs performance”; thanks to Spears and Madonna, simulating masturbation on the VMAs stage is a time-honored way to shake a virginal public image. And Spears and Cyrus are both from the dirty south — in Vanessa Grigoriadis’ 2008 Rolling Stone cover story, “The Tragedy of Britney Spears,” chronicling what she calls “the most public downfall of any star in history,” she reports that Spears’ drink of choice was “the Southern rap scene’s ‘Purple Monster,’” a mix of “vodka, Red Bull, and NyQuil.” On “SMS (Bangerz),” a song on which Spears makes a guest appearance, Cyrus sings, “Must be the purple/Got up in my brain.”

Maybe this is why much of Bangerz is synth pop that is, to my ears, “so 2010.” Cyrus set out to make an album of explicitly sexy club bangers similar to those on Spears’ albums post-Blackout. Some of the songs on Bangerz sound like they could have been written for Spears, especially “Do My Thang,” a house anthem with a heavy 808 beat featuring Cyrus rapping about being a Southern belle. But the only song on Bangerz that is actually about sex is the fun “#GETITRIGHT,” a creative and playful track in which Cyrus sings, “I’ve been laying in this bed all night long/Don’t you think it’s time to get it on.” I assume “#GETITRIGHT” will be a single because of that bullshit hashtag, and it will probably be a hit.

But the real problem with the Bangerz concept is not that it’s derivative. It’s that Cyrus’ heart isn’t in it. You would expect an album of club music to be jubilant, but other than “#GETITRIGHT” and the album’s lead single “We Can’t Stop,” Bangerz is pretty depressing. The actual bangers on Bangerz feel rote, with their obligatory lame guest verses from rappers like Big Sean and Nelly — it is like Cyrus’ mind is elsewhere. And in the album’s angsty ballads you get a sense of what’s distracting her. In September 2013 Cyrus broke off her engagement to Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, and Bangerz ends up telling the story of the rise and fall of their relationship. Cyrus set out to make a party album and made a breakup album.

Bangerz begins with “Adore You,” an extremely mushy ode to Cyrus and Hemsworth’s love, on which Cyrus auto-tunes, “You and me were meant to be in holy matrimony.” A twenty-year-old former child superstar in a high profile celebrity engagement — what could go wrong? Cue: “We Can’t Stop,” a truly awesome party song about “dancing with molly” and “trying to get a line in the bathroom,” all of that post-adolescent experimentation and wild-oat-sowing that can sound the death knell for teenage love.

On the rest of the album Cyrus tries to hold on to a relationship that’s failing. “Don’t you ever say/I just walked away/I will always want you,” she sings on “Wrecking Ball.” On “Drive,” a great, Rihanna-esque track, she sings with real heartbreak, “You said you wanted this,/I told you it was all yours./If you were done with it/Then what’d you say forever for?” These raw moments are some of the highlights of the album — they recall Robyn, our cultural poster girl for acceptable pop, and her sad dance jams. But ultimately, the opposition of the album’s provocative dance pop packaging and its sad, vulnerable content leaves Bangerz feeling all over the place.

Some of the best parts of the album are its bonus tracks, where Cyrus is less in banger-mode — its hidden triumph is the bonus “Rooting for my Baby,” a 90s acoustic dream-pop track, like some kind of Cardigans shit. Songs like this make me certain that Cyrus will not just be a scandalous footnote in the history of pop music. She can hit the notes without auto-tune, which she very intentionally demonstrated in her acoustic performance of “We Can’t Stop” on Saturday Night Live. On Bangerz it seems like she was too married to her initial Spears-pop idea, but she is an artist who has ideas and influences and is not afraid to make big, ostentatious mistakes. And she can’t stop. And she won’t stop.

Alice Bolin is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She last wrote in these pages about Lorde. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. You can find her twitter here and her tumblr here.

"Now Navigate!" - Kevin Devine (mp3)

"You Brushed Her Breath Aside" - Kevin Devine (mp3)

Kevin Devine's double album Bubblegum/Bulldozer was released yesterday. You can find information about Kevin's fall tour here.

Tuesday
Oct152013

In Which We Know You By Your Hands Too Well

by john dubrow

The Angel

by DAN CARVILLE

I saw her at a stoplight, through the window of my car, long afterwards. Early morning. The first inches of dawn touched her shoulders. I had a passenger in my car, a friend of mine who I have not seen since he moved to Salinas. He sang along with what was on the radio. As we passed her, trailing a suitcase with a long handle, my friend stopped his singing. He said, "Can there be a single hour left in this night?"

I drove cars many times after that. But I did not enjoy it anymore. How could I, when the possibility remained of passing by another person I know better than myself, moving so fast momentum alone might take me miles beyond her?

I dislike rhetorical questions intensely, but I have to admit the world is filled with them.

I never understood the intimacy of others, or could see myself taking part in it, until I met her. Since she left, I lost whatever understanding she gave me. A key frame, redrawn on paper. One conversation I had with her keeps recurring in my mind.

Flashing her blue eyes, she said, "Dan, you have to stop." I asked what she meant.

"You know, of course, the story of the acolyte?"

I said I did not. She told the fable. It was about a student who invested nearly everything in his instructor, until he heard himself referred to by his teacher as a slave. The student was despondent and suicidal until the master explained that he had done it on purpose in order to shatter the student's imperfect view of him. 

I did not ask the relevance of this tale, both because I dreaded the answer, and because there is no real way to make a woman tell you anything she does not want to. I explained this to her. Her face wrinkled, like she was about to spit something disgusting out of her mouth. She was silent for a few moments.

Then she shouted, "But did you ask me? But did you ask me? But did you ask me?" She forgave me in minutes.

She would not let me touch her for the first month. The anticipation was a monkish ritual to be enjoyed and loathed in equal part. I wondered aloud why she chose this. Did she not want to be with me the way I wanted to be with her?

She laughed and said, "What are you thinking now?" She repeated herself a lot, usually to be silly. I could not help loving that aspect of her, and when she was gone it was the first thing I mocked, quietly to myself. I was at the airport, flying back to New York. I watched a woman repair a wheelchair with one hand. Families and couples criss-crossed each other, alternately wiping off and enclosing their hands in soft, white, slightly damp paper. I said to myself, "What are you thinking now, Dan?" and I said it more than once, more than enough.

I first met her when she was dating a TA I knew from college named Mark. Even though I rarely kept up with my college friends, I would catch up with Mark from time to time. In those days he had a marvelous mind: vindictive, forceful and empathetic all at once. I remember us both walking out of some seminar on the Palestinian situation once we saw the syllabus.

Mark saw the world as an ancient husk. I will not say he hated it. He felt that the idea of improving it was completely in vain, and self-important besides. It was difficult but not impossible to reconcile this idea with the little goatee I never saw him without.

Mark had told me his girlfriend was a musician long before I met them for drinks, and even sent me a few of her songs. I never planned to listen to those mp3s, but I did find it very sweet and maybe a little childish that he wanted my approval. I am not sure what he saw in me, really. It only occurs to me now that he may simply not have had many friends in the husk.

I remember coming home from a Greenwich Village bar at the end of that night. I see myself then as a flame shaped like a man, so excited was I at being able to hear her music; somewhat upset that I had possessed this kind of treasure days prior without knowing it. (But it was not just that. It was also the idea that I might also have, within the walls of the apartment I shared with a computer science PhD named Amil, so many other secret delights waiting to be found.)

She took a job at Columbia and now lived uptown. Mark visited and wrote her from Ann Arbor. I knew I had to break them up somehow, but my options were limited. If she would willingly deceive Mark to be with me, I could not respect her; if something trivial could cleanse her feelings, then I could not really trust her.

After a few days, I just called her. I did not really care at that point, so many times had I given myself over to her voice, her fey discretion, the blush in her face. (I would have also been similarly thrilled by the girl in Willy Wonka who turned into a massive blueberry, had she only become a round, shy cherry instead.)

Dumbly I asked if she remembered me.

"Yes, Dan. I am glad you called," she said.

Despite myself, even though every part of me knew I should not say the word, because I am always frowning at good fortune and expecting bad, I asked why.

She said, "Do you know the story of the falcon, the angel and the death adder?" I said I did not. She e-mailed to me.

I read it quickly and asked, "Which one am I?" I already knew which she represented.

On the other end of the line, I heard her laugh again, chalky and solid like her lower half. "That is the right answer, Dan. I only want to know those who cannot immediately tell which they are." That in her delicious accent.

by john dubrow

I met her in the park regularly after that. She would talk to me for hours, never flinching when what I wanted to discuss seemed flimsy even for me. (Once I asked her what she thought about the death penalty and she just rolled her eyes.) We would write when we did not meet, posing each other so many questions. Finally, in Sheep Meadow, I broached the subject that had been on my mind, although I would be lying if I said it was torturing me.

"Have you told Mark about us?" I said. Her first answer would be definitive, final - anything else would be merely apology or confession.

She said, "Dan, what did he tell you? That I am his girlfriend?" I nodded.

She said, "That night we met, do you know what he said to me before we went to you? I can see that you do not, and I am sorry. I thought you knew." Her hair shivered and she touched my body with some blunt instrument. It may have been her hand.

"It was just before we left. He said, 'If you don't like Dan, I will futilely try not to hold it against you.'"

I said that seemed like a nice compliment, but that that I did not fully understand. She watched a group of babies fight over a toy shaped like a fat orange cat and brushed strands of dark hair back from her face. She said, "It may seem like we stop..."

She said, "It may seem like I stopped loving him, but that's not true. I only stopped acknowledging his love."

by John Dubrow

I think about that almost every morning, since she is no longer here, since she will not say something more destructive to replace that original thought. At first I concluded that those who always gave so much of themselves were by their nature also the cruellest. I hope I am not like that, but I think what she was saying is that we all are.

But then, it seemed like she would never stop wanting me. Unlike anyone else, she never made demands on sex, attaching it to no other part of our lives. Amil moved in with his boyfriend in Prospect Heights and she took his room. Because I snore, we often slept in separate beds. The other reason was that she used her sleeping place also as a sort of office, although she would allow me in it if I asked.

(Do you know how hard it is for me to say or hear her name? I know I cannot put it down here, either. For her to recognize me in real life, putting her suitcase aside for one moment, dropping it fully to the ground, would be nothing. She cannot see me in my writing, she must only see herself.)

After I saw her at the stoplight that day, I again started every morning with thoughts of her. I replayed the most eventful of our past conversations constantly. Paranoia enveloped my brain; I tried and failed to distrust her in retrospect. I thought of e-mailing Mark and asking questions I had held close for so long, but if he felt the same way I did, then I would no longer be suffering alone. (Had he given her to me?) I dreaded the idea of not being original.

Here is the story of the falcon, the angel and the death adder:

The falcon always soared as high as she could, and descended as low. One day an angel appeared to her at the top of her flight. The angel told the falcon that she could soar even higher than the sun, but that she might not be able to return to Earth. The falcon asked how she would feed herself. The angel answered that he, the angel, would provide an appropriate source of sustenance. The falcon asked for a day to consider and the angel agreed.

The falcon flew as low as she could, until the sun dropped out of view. There, in the bowels of Earth, she met the death adder. The death adder told her that she could fly even lower, into the world beneath the world, where she could eat and laugh and love forever with others like her. The falcon asked what she would have to do in return. The death adder said nothing, except that she could never again go to the top of the world, but would have to be content with the space between, where other birds flew nearby.

The falcon asked for a day to consider things. The death adder stuck out his long tongue, but agreed.

The falcon dropped to an old man's porch while she considered these two fine offers. The old man came out to give her a few scraps and leftovers such as he had. He asked the falcon where she planned to fly next.

"I don't know," the falcon said, shaking her dark little head. She could not meet the old man's eyes, knowing that if she did, the man might sense an inclination in her twisted face. "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know..."

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the photographer Abelardo Morell.

Paintings by John Dubrow.

by john dubrow

"Gunshotta" - Machinedrum (mp3)

"Stirrin" - Machinedrum (mp3)

The new album from Travis Stewart is entitled Vapor City and it was released on September 30th.

by John Dubrow