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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 We Forget An Important Ingredient

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.


My friend Davia broke up with her last boyfriend over two years ago. (He cheated on her with prostitutes.) Since then, she has compared every new possible mate with him, and usually found the new prospect unfavorable. She finds the littlest things to fixate on in order to dismiss me — they don't text her enough, they text her too much, they use emojis, she doesn't like their smell (ok that's possibly valid). Often she says she they don't share the same values, although I am a loss as to what that means since Davia doesn't seem to have extraordinary values, and I say that as a friend. She is a good person though, and I want her to find happiness. Is there any way I can snap her out of this funk?

Ellen C.


Often men and women will think of reasons to reject potential mates that don't necessarily strike at the core of why they are not pursuing the relationship. The fact that it has been two years of this on Davia's part, however, indicates a greater problem. It is not simply that she is not finding anyone that she likes well enough to get serious, it is that she is in no position to have a committed relationship with someone to begin with.

For some people, cheating is a deeply troubling act that strikes at the core of how they value themselves and the opposite sex. This might come across as sexist, but I'm going to say it anyway. The reasons men cheat are sometimes, but not always, different from the reasons women cheat. I tend to have more sympathy for women who cheat on their partners. Maybe this is fucking stupid, but it's what I feel inside.

If this guy was really stepping out just for sex, maybe Davia has some problems thinking she is decent in the bedroom. You can alleviate some of her concerns for her. Ask what her particular techniques are. What school of sex did she study at? Does she know all the most sensitive and erogenous zones on a man's body? What about a woman's body? Getting over whatever hangup is holding her back should end the nitpicking.


I have been trying without success to meet people on various online sites. I think I'm an attractive guy, but I tend to stumble when I'm introducing myself and who I am. I just end up saying a "hi" or a "hello I'm Evan" since I can't think of anything better. More often than not I get no response. How can I get better at initiating these troubling conversations?

Evan S.

Dear Evan,

It's not my job to tell you what specifically you should say to meet women. Maybe the type of woman you should be with is the kind who responds to a simple "Hello." She hears your cry in the dark and she reaches out for the echo of how boring you are.

Don't be discouraged by the lack of replies. The fact that you are not receiving any replies is a warning sign you need to change things up, but think of all the possible reasons a woman is not replying to your message:

- she gets a million messages

- she's not even single and likes the idea of getting messages from strange

- she forgot to delete her account

- she's deeply bored by the fact you are the seven hundreth person she has seen on top of an elephant. Like, why would we care that you rode an elephant or touched a snake? Get over yourself.

- she matched with you by accident

- she's upset with you and has chosen the silent treatment as her delicate revenge

With that said, a bare hello is never going to get the job done. When you're writing something, throw out an introduction that can't help but make her reply, and she'll reply. Comedy is usually best, so hire ghostwriters. I'm not paid enough for that.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which We Turn The Long Hand Of The Clock


My Own Experience


The last train out swings low. The feeling of you sleeping on the marble seat diminishes. "Don't misunderstand," someone nearby coughs while I move through time, like Hugh Jackman or someone very drunk.

Lately, I listen to the police scanner a lot. You can learn very much about what people believe is around them. A homeless woman wakes up to a SWAT team; a man with no hands drops off a package at my doorstep.


I brought the capstone higher, sliding it on the tops of stairs. The hand turns at the start. The difference smells immaculate.

I brought the capstone higher, cuticles massaging small stones, inlaid. "A situation absorbed," he says, touching his face with a longer finger. Echoes of flight causal or direct, a way of saying, "How do you like to enervate, where and whence?"


The long memory stated broadly: upside down rigid not opaque. A crushed mandolin of stars. Think of the matter.

I could measure a portion of light and shape it into fingernails. Damage — inevitable — riding a coterie of magazines. Canyon size or shape, vulnerable at dusk.


Floor-beaten earth. Stand on the clock, break it with a draft or any divestment from an express reality. Faith as a proxy for knowledge, a charged rotating system.

"Your carapace shone golden," or some other discarded compliment. Wet hair. Noon.


Nurse of the palm, hands ribald and unkempt. Much more than simple rejoinder: a tallying of benefits, of scarlet, red mezites and hoatzin, against the gloam. You only missed her for so long.

Mark Arturo 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.



In Which We Drive Around For Some Time

Driver's Manual


Mr. Mercedes
creator David E. Kelley

Retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) is absolutely disgusting. In the first episode of Mr. Mercedes, he starts to eat a slice of rum cake before he has even begun his lunch. This kind of cursory character-building detail is the bread and butter of Stephen King, who has written a novel on every single subject. This approach means that more talented people can adapt them at their leisure depending on when the subject becomes relevant in the contemporary social discourse.

The relevant subject in this relentlessly dull adaptation of the similarly boring source material is the dissociation of young white men from reality. A murderer named Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) works at an electronics store and has an incestuous relationship with his mother (an unrecognizable Kelly Lynch). In the first twenty minutes of Mr. Mercedes, Brady has run over a bunch of job-seekers lining up for an employment fair, gawked at his mother's ample cleavage, and been dressed-down by his not-so-inspirational manager.

Without meaning to, I think, King and showrunner David E. Kelley are giving some kind of bizarre justification for racism, bigotry and hatred. Even The Silence of Lambs did not go to extensive lengths to humanize the behavior of Hannibal Lecter, and god knows that was a possible direction since most of his victims were incredibly annoying.

Let me change the topic since it seems like the right moment for that. I recently attended an event seeking to explain the phenomenon of various neo-Nazi gatherings that caused some branches of the ACLU to completely abandon their principles. The panelists mostly focused on structural racism, wisely staying away from identifying the motives of the actual people involved.

Why are some people full of hatred? There is no justification or excuse that will render this subject operable in the mind of a normal, non-bigoted person. Mr. Mercedes is proof of this, since there are plenty of great writers (Dennis Lehane, A.M. Homes, Sophie Owens-Bender) working on this project, and throughout this series, which is exclusive to the Direct TV channel Audience for now, nothing much is accomplished when it comes to knowing who or what Brady Hartsfield is.

Since that inquiry fails either because it is the wrong question, or because the answer is unknowable to non-sociopaths, we seek to learn what we can from Brady Hartsfield's counterpart in Mr. Mercedes. To his credit, King has always been willing to take risks with his protagonists that other writers generally eschew. Sometimes that makes those protagonists rather unlikable, rendering their stories impotent, but this is of no concern to Stephen, since there is always another novel if you are not liking the one you've got.

Gleeson really throws everything into this alcoholic, near-suicidal retiree. Hodges' general crankiness is actual charming when administered in bits and pieces, even if we acknowledge we are witnessing the slow death of a dinosaur being purged from his natural habitat. Far less forgivable is the fact that Hodges is not really much of a detective -- in fact he relies upon a teenager named Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) to fix his computer, mow his lawn, and generally discover what is relevant to the investigation. "You have to find a purpose," his good-natured neighbor Ida (Holland Taylor) tells him.

It is impossible not to read this as an oblique commentary on Brady Hartsfield, who is portrayed by one of the most talented English actors at imitating an American we have seen in some time. If we would simply give our racists some other purpose, David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal) seems to be saying, they would forget about their true nature. I don't know whether this is true, but I do know that goodwill towards those unwilling to help themselves rarely goes unpunished.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.