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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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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Sunday
Oct312010

In Which I Had To Wait 300 Years For A Virgin To Light A Candle  

Brothers and Sisters

by JESSICA FERRI

Binx is a young, sweaty boy living in Salem when his little sister is abducted by the Sanderson sisters, a group of witches living in the woods. Not only does he fail to save her but in the process he’s turned into a cat and forced to live forever with his guilt. The witches are hanged, but Winifred, the eldest, manages to cast in spell — that if a virgin lights the black flame candle they will be brought back from the dead. Fast forward 300 years. Much to the dismay of the 300 year old Binx, hot shot Max Dennison, whose family has just moved to Salem from Los Angeles, lights the candle to impress a girl named Allison (Vinessa Shaw), who has excellent “yaboos." The sisters return; chaos reigns.

When the movie begins, Max’s relationship with his younger sister Dani (Thora Birch) is on the rocks. He hates Salem — he misses his friends in L.A. and he’s become the victim of bullying. Now Dani wants him to take her trick-or-treating. "Take your candy and get out of my life," he tells her. But when they stumble upon Alison’s house (the girl from school who Max has a crush on) Max lights the candle to impress her, and now the three of them, joined by Binx the immortal cat, must bond together to defeat the Sisters.

Winifred, on the other hand, can’t get her sisters to do anything she wants. She’s cursed with them — Sarah Jessica Parker, the hopped up sex bimbo, and Kathy Najimy, the slapstick fat girl. Winifred is an excellent sorceress, and she’s only interested in how she can use her sisters to get what she wants. There’s no love lost here. She’s a witch but she’s also a bad big sister, making her undeniably evil. This is a Disney film.

Hocus Pocus deals very seriously with the trials and tribulations of sibling relationships. Binx embodies the white knight though he’s stuck in the body of the symbol of bad omens, the black cat. His guilt over losing Emily is overwhelming, and he sees Dani as a second chance. If he can help Max and Dani repair their relationship, then together they can defeat the Sanderson sisters, and Binx’s soul will finally be released. It’s easy for Binx to fall in love with Dani, the adorable Thora Birch, who reminds him of the sister he lost so long ago.

In a moment when Max thinks he’s defeated the Sisters, Binx tells him "Take good care of Dani, Max. You’ll never know how precious she is, until you lose her." Binx runs off, but Max tells him “Where do you think you’re going buddy? You’re a Dennison now. You're one of us." Even though Binx is glad the Sanderson sisters are gone, his sorrow over Emily remains. But Binx will have another chance to save Emily — this time, it’s Dani who’s been abducted by the sisters — and now Max and Binx will both have to fight to save her.

Of course Max’s crew is victorious — Winifed can’t get her book full of magic spells back in time (she has until sunrise) and the three sisters are turned to dust. But her real failing is her resentement of her sisters, who she sees as dead weight. She doesn’t love them like Binx and Max love Dani. And so, the good big siblings win. Thackery Binx is finally returned to his boy form, his pilgrim top fluttering in the breeze. Before he leaves, Binx tells Dani "I shall always be with you," and kisses her on the cheek. Emily appears, calling "Thackery, Thackery Binx! What took thee so long?" He famously replies, “Sorry Emily! I had to wait three hundred years for a virgin to light a candle." Max's virgin-status may change as he and Alison smile knowingly at each other. As Binx and Emily walk off into the sunset, Max and Dani’s relationship is also repaired: she tells him "I love you, jerkface." Dani is happy for Binx but sorry to lose him — her tearful smile says it all, as we close with Dani being embraced by her new protector — her big brother.

For all the big brothers and sisters out there who are taking their younger siblings trick or treating, or for those only children who have a Binx in their lives — a very Happy Halloween to you and yours.

Jessica Ferri is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She blogs here.

"El Scorcho" - Weezer (mp3)

"El Scorcho (live acoustic)" - Weezer (mp3)

"El Scorcho (live at y100 sonic session)" - Weezer (mp3)

Friday
Oct292010

In Which You're Listening To The Quiet Storm

The Return

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

We were in the car, most always coming from rather than going to, and no one spoke, which was strange for a family as passionate as mine, and for a child as inquisitive as I was. It was dark except for the street lights which increased in number the closer we go to our home. My sister usually fell asleep as soon as we pulled out of our parking spot, but I felt antsy, and was eager to find sleep in my room, which never seemed as perfect as in those minutes we spent coming from, out on the road. The evening had settled and the only destination after parties and dinners and clubs was the comfort of home. Quiet storm would soundtrack that transition, the in-between of two, successive major events.

There were others, I'd imagine, but I most remember Ramsey Lewis' voice on the radio — all honey-drenched and welcoming — and how it resonates with me now after all of these years. I wish I could remember what he spoke of, but back then what I focused on was not particular. His voice was a complement to the expressways of Chicago, coming North and West, and the main boulevards that divide Oak Park from the parts of Chicago that my grandparents live in, and that I called my own whenever I sought authenticity among my peers.

At 23, I am re-discovering this music that I grew up with, but I could never call my own. I listened to it as it lulled me to peace in the car, or at night during the end of a barbecue as we prepared our plates of my grandmother's macaroni and cheese or my father's ribs. It was music to bookend our festivities, to find respite after salutations. 

A part of me still believes that my parents own quiet storm. Back then, when I was a little girl, they certainly did. The believed that we were asleep drink those trips back home. I sat quietly in the back seat watching my mother sing along, occasionally off-time. I liked the way my father snapped his fingers to a song with a most perfect groove.

I didn't ask my parents about their music until I got to the age where I wanted it to define me. And then, I scoured their collections for proto-House and mutant disco — sounds that were already aligned with my burgeoning tastes. Attempting to describe the songs now seems misplaced an effort. I hate to admit that to me, each one has a homogeneous aesthetic that blends from one song to the next. But my memories of that time are shaped less by specific incidences and more by the ideas and themes that shape how I remember the past. To attempt to talk about the past is to frame the events of my childhood and adolescence as stories with a narrative arc that is resolved. Every piece is continuous. The things that happened then continue now. My stories of the past are sculpted glimpses of what once was. And quiet storm was full of adjectives of aesthetics: warm and then icy, sparse and heavy.

Sade was my favorite. In my mind, Sade did not exist, for even now it is impossible to imagine a voice like that — endlessly haunting, deep, provocative — could have been born into this world. I performed in choir, where my voice was trained for the sort of staid clarity and elegance that couples well with classic arias and Broadway showtunes. Her voice whispered in my ear as if she and I were alone. It is still difficult for me to discern the reality of her music. It was made — is made — for a variety of different audiences who want to cherish her as his or her own. Sometimes she sings and the words seem more personal than incidental. Back then, I would look out the window and "Smooth Operator" would play and I would resist turning my head away from the passing scenery of the urban and suburban environments I called home. To turn away from the window would mean recognizing that Sade was not — despite my hopes — wedged between my sleeping sister and I, providing a live, personal soundtrack for our ride to our house.

My mother cherished Luther Vandross similar to how she cherished Marvin Gaye. I can't remember my childhood without remembering his music. My mother used to grip the steering wheel and stare straight ahead while singing Vandross' songs. She sang as if in a trance, connected to Luther with an invisible bond. I stayed quiet while observing her listening to him. His music seemed “above” everything else we listened to during quiet storm. I didn't mind.

The day Luther Vandross died, my mother picked me up at night from my sales associate job at the Marshall Field's in Oakbrook, Illinois. Unlike my peers, I did not obtain a driver's license until I was seventeen years old, on the day before my senior prom, and even then, only because I was forced to do so. My parents never added me to their insurance that summer before freshman year of college and I did not question their reasoning. Despite my initial hopes, the prospect of starting over again, without the comfort of the suburb that I loved but openly claimed to loathe, became a daunting reality I would inevitably not be able to handle. So those summers we rode together.

That evening she gripped the wheel real tight, and then she shook her hands as if flicking off excess water. I hadn't realized what happened until three of Luther's songs played on the radio in a row - a sure sign that a musician was ill or had passed.

"He's gone?" I asked.

"Yep," she said, with more anger than sadness. It was not just that he would no longer make any more music. Something changed fundamentally in the way she could and would listen to this music. Something sad and heavy would cloud his work, at least temporarily. For her, and eventually for me, the must was not just about the transition from activities outside of the home. There was a musicality beyond the visceral, lyricism built on more than the incidental.

After graduation, I moved back to Oak Park where I spend more time in cars than I do walking. And before coming home, I couldn't discern that my interest in quiet storm music was not just nostalgia for nostalgia sake. As I get older, I more and more idolize the memories of my childhood. The experiences are so rare now — the freedom to do nothing all day and feel no guilt and shame, the constant feeling of love and warmth, the near-insatiable hunger for sugar cereal and sweet taffy — that my memories of back then are greater in emotion than in detail. Before moving home, my memories of quiet storm focused on the sense of relief I felt leaving my father's side of the family who, even then, began to recognize that I would grow up to be a little more inquisitive, a little self-righteous, a little different. It was the conclusion of the evening, the moment of winding down, of unloading the experiences of the hours before the car ride. During college, my CTA or cab rides home at 3 in the morning were similar, but there was an element of weariness stemming from the presence of strangers that made listening to any sort of music at that time more like a defense mechanism. In Oak Park, my mother and I can bond over the cadence in Luther Vandross' voice or the weight in Anita Baker's intonation.

I follow music blogs that occasionally traffic in resurfacing these quiet jams because so many contemporary musicians unsuccessfully attempt to emulate an aesthetic born out of necessity and availability. More likely, I suspect the authors are my age and as they continue to look forward while consuming music, they also look back and discover that the fleeting pleasures of today are no match for the heady joy and memories of the quiet of late nights back then.  

Brittany Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about the tragic Black woman. She tumbls here and twitters here.

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This Quiet Storm-themed playlist includes jams by Roy Ayers, Luther Vandross, Sade, Lenny Williams, The Gap Band, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson's “Quiet Storm,” the song that started it all.

the Quiet Storm playlist (mp3)


Thursday
Oct282010

In Which We Are The One That Got Away

Tomorrow I Am Eight Weeks Off Facebook

by YVONNE GEORGINA PUIG

I no longer spend my morning coffee time clicking through the honeymoon pictures of former classmates I haven’t spoken to in years, or reading statuses from people I vaguely know about where they’re eating breakfast or how much they’re getting paid. I feel a burden lifted. I never again have to look at another post from the pompous screenwriter who introduced his roommate to me as a screenwriter “who hasn’t sold a script.” No more all-caps ramblings from the German girl who incessantly changed her profile picture. Each picture tried to be hotter than the previous picture, but none were actually hot. No more Bible verses from the people who posted Bible verses. No more hipster-celebration of Sofia Coppola movies. No more pronouncements of indifference to good books or the weather. No more!

I have quit Facebook four or five times, but the previous tries didn’t stick. After a few days, I got too curious and yielded to that weird, unfounded impulse that told me I was missing out on something. It took those four or five attempts to realize that I didn’t care if I was missing out, that I actually want to miss out on all that ticket-tape. Spending time on Facebook became a mindless default reaction. It filled in the blanks of time between finishing and starting something — a meal, a conversation, a class — and as it does for so many people, distracted me from the work I should have been doing.

Friends told me I could just delete or hide the people I didn’t want to see, and I did that, but I began to feel misanthropic, like nearly everyone annoyed me. And doing that didn’t solve the problem of how much time I was spending on the site, because sometimes the pictures from the people you don’t like are the pictures you most want to mindlessly click through. A friend e-mailed recently to congratulate me on quitting, and added that Facebook was making her feel like her brains were being sucked out of her ass. I think this is a brilliant description. Many times I asked myself why I was filling my psyche with so much useless babble and posturing. 

Facebook appealed to the weakest crannies in my personality. I’d sign off feeling bad about myself because I’m not married and don’t have a backyard and haven’t visited Africa and didn’t attend an Emmy after-party even though I don’t watch television, ridiculous things that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me had I not logged on. It's unhelpful to compare the state of your own life to the status updates on your newsfeed. It might just be where I live, and the kind of people I know (and sort of know), but according to my newsfeed the world was a cream pie: no one paid rent, or had rent, globe-trotting was commonplace, “project people” always had money for “projects,” the shitty economy seemed not to exist at all. It didn’t add up. Life is challenging enough without knowing what everyone else is doing.

Megham Daum wrote in the LAT recently that not being on Facebook is like being invisible. That may be true, and if it is I don’t mind. There was so much bragging on Facebook, so much rat-racing, so many veiled attempts at validation, self-awareness that was always snarky instead of earnest, it was hard not to feel complicit. I don’t want to be a braggart or a complainer, I don’t want to broadcast my life to feel validated. I wish I wasn’t susceptible to the dark side of Facebook (not everyone is), but I am, and the more I used it, the further from my priorities I felt.

There are things I miss: pictures of babies and kittens, being in the loop of friends’ plays and articles and films, the daily status-update rhythm of the myriad lives I do want to keep up with. And while I admit that I’ve occasionally signed into my sister’s account to look at pictures of my nephews and the various babies of friends, there are other obvious ways to do these things that require only a little more effort. The other day a friend told me she was engaged. I found out after every one else did, but I got the happy surprise in-person.

The takeaway of deactivating my Facebook account has been quiet. I live in Los Angeles, sit in traffic on the 10-freeway at least three times a week, and my apartment is across the street from an Irish pub. None of this noisiness compared, for me, to the toxic white noisiness of Facebook in my brain. Now that it’s gone, I’ve regained a quietude that I might even call calm. I’m stronger for it. It feels good. 

Yvonne Georgina Puig is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about her childhood next door neighbors.

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"Bear and Blitz" - Tall Ships (mp3)

"Snow" - Tall Ships (mp3)

"Ode to Ancestors" - Tall Ships (mp3)