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Mia Nguyen
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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
Nov132014

In Which On The Inside We Are Ascending Glass

Hotel City

by ALEX M.F. QUICHO

The Hyatt Regency, Manila

When I return to Manila, fleeing winter at the age of twenty-three, we drive the main drag looking for the hotel that I grew up in. Josh is ill from something contracted in a previous paradise. He sweats and shivers in the vehicle’s air-conditioned micro-biome, but I’m selfish, and we continue our hunt. We see: the National Theatre, a few casinos, pink high-rises streaked with soot. The ocean is not the blue it ought to be in this weather, but instead a dirty slurry. Trash blows down the grand boulevard. We do not find the Hyatt. Turns out, it had been torn down years ago. I feel this loss as one would a childhood home, despite its existence  as only abstraction.

My memories of the Hyatt are constructed entirely of other places altogether, conflated with murky recollections of the restaurants, casinos, and other hotels our lives circuited around. All these spaces linked in my child-mind to comprise a city-sprawling Grand Hotel. Seeking images of it now, almost none exist. I find four on a blog and see that they’re incongruous with the Viewmaster slides squinted into by my mind’s eye. The cool marble of the nearby Peninsula Manila, where girls in pearl earrings still slurp glasses of rainbow halo-halo, had been subbed for the Hyatt’s capiz shell screens; the Shangri-la’s emerald carpets for the Hyatt’s polished sandstone floors.

Designed by Leandro Locsin, whose modernist leanings gave linear heft to colonial nostalgia, the Hyatt was nine white stripes punched, parkade-like, into the relentlessly blue sky. Its imposing concrete quietude was percussed by the leafy rustle of the coconut palms that flanked each of its blank sides. The lobby was huge in the way that they don’t make them anymore, its treble-height ceilings gridded widely with tropical hardwoods. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in a richness of equatorial light. Guests would leave their sunglasses on to check in. 

Hotels in Manila are the locus of both celebrity and political life. You could say that the health of a city’s hotel culture signifies the health of its wealth. Fran Lebowitz would say, What culture? I would say, What wealth? If anything, the revolving door of politicians, celebrities, and the simpering rich that followed them was indicative of our country’s thriving industry of corruption. It was at the Hyatt where my father would be approached by a certain agency. Not such a big ask, they said, regarding a particularly sensitive task. He closed his eyes and heard the shuffle of millions of pesos being siphoned into dollar bank accounts, typhoon wind through the slat blinds. It was a big ask, he said — and, as far as I know it, refused.

Exiting the elevator, away from the lobby’s sheen, we end up treading the hotel’s neutrality. The ascending warren of closed doors and corridors is an architectural predilection within which anonymity lies latent. Save for the numbers, there’s no telling one room from another. It is privacy by design: secrecy that becomes cliché catalyst to illicit desires. To have been raised in such an environment was to learn, firsthand, the world's duplicitous nature. How else could one approach it, reared in a place where public lives would slide suddenly into private view?

That brutal home was mine and I nearly destroyed it. I can’t remember the fire, though I’ve certainly imagined it into high relief: two stripped wires crossed in an air-conditioner spontaneously combust, thick black smoke a sudden intruder in my room. Mum, in silk nightie, was nearly too modest to descend the fireman’s ladder. Dad mourned the Stones and Beatles records that had surely melted into an unplayable puddle. It was 1991, and the Hyatt Regency was still the centre of the world. Crowds of beautiful mestizas carried on barely eating the famous tempura niblets, dancing until the club closed at 6am — dawn in the tropics, so regular you could set your watch by it, marked by a periwinkling and then a gilding of the sky. And so it came to be that the fire was barely a hiccup in the prelude to the Hyatt’s eventual demolition. But like any defecting Catholics, both parents took this all-consuming conflagration as a sign. If not the end of times, it was the end of a time. And I, with smoke-clogged lungs that I’d never quite recover from, was plucked from the night-dark danger by a vigilant caretaker and delivered, penultimately, to suburbia. Our new house, in its dark woods and shell-tones, reflected Locsin’s Hyatt design.

Hotel de Nevers, Paris

In my memory, architecturally nonsensical, spiralling up around a staircase from the street. A turret into which would be inserted two unlikely princesses, squinting out the arrowslit. The only bathroom was located halfway down the irregular, wall-hugging stairs. It had a dim light and no mirror. There we’d wash up and get ready, seventeen in Paris, not even the slightest bit trepidatious. We ate mostly bread, drank mostly wine, and went dancing at an ex-pat bar where the second boy I’d ever kissed would slice his hand open trying to feel my ass up. I washed his blood out in that lonely bathroom sink and hung the dress to dry there. I expected it to be gone the next morning. When it wasn’t, I was genuinely surprised.

Last I was in Paris, I stayed in an apartment. I texted a man whose mouth was late enough in my makeout lineage that I’d already lost count. “Last I was in Paris, I hardly left my hotel,” he said, and I thought suddenly of the moldy room where Michelle and I shared our sleepover bed. Drowsily, I looked up the Hotel de Nevers on google images. Renovations had made it unrecognizable — the only familiar thing being its block-lettered sign. 

If a hotel is already transportative, why name it after another place? In my Anglo-ignorance I read ‘nevers’ as a multiplicity of refusal; a dream of a hundred neverlands; a fantasy of escape. In truth, Nevers was a separate city that made history around 55 B.C.E., when it was, primarily, Julius Caesar’s war-loot depository. Archaeologists were still pulling medals out of the ground well into our own century. I wondered if the hotel’s proprietors hailed from there, and if in naming their business they had committed themselves to longing for a home they no longer lived in.

When the weather turned on us, we took a train down to Marseilles. Michelle and I skirted the city to get our bearings from a higher point. Squinting through our cheap sunglasses in the dry, flat heat, we watched as sun-bleached ferries to Algeria came and went in the bay. I never found love in the city of lovers, only Jӓger-sticky kisses and a kind of longing I’d come to know so intimately I had no choice but to call it my own. Many years later, watching Hiroshima Mon Amour, I saw one lover mouth to the other: “You are Nevers.” By then, I knew for certain that if I loved someone from somewhere else enough, they’d become the place I lived in.

The Park Lane, Hong Kong

At this point I felt so content in the city that being lost in it felt just like navigating it. Old friends, Ted and Pat, hosted us sweetly in their sky-high hotel. The Park Lane, deep in Causeway Bay, was surrounded by shops so absorbed in vibratory neon it never quite felt like night. My room overlooked a second, lesser building swarmed by air-conditioners; I could get a glimpse of the harbour if I stood at the window’s edge and craned my neck. Kept up by jet-lag, my brother and I would wander this not-night, covet mink coats on mannequins and sliced watermelons under blacklight. There it was: Hong Kong, a chandelier density, infinite credit and a sun-pure playground in the sky. Bodies were conspicuously absent on billboards but French models populated the SoHo streets. The sky fell in ribbons between residences. In certain compositions, one believed their own arrival at a wealthy and limitless future. In others, it all seemed distant; impossibly so. 

The Park Lane served noodle soup well past midnight and the steam rising off it warmed cheeks chilled by a winter we never quite expected. Like any dumb tourists we went to see the giant buddha and lucked out because it was sundown, and we were alone. The trams were threatening to close. We have only one picture from this trip, and it’s of my hair whipped over my face in the wind, the dusk just a gradient behind me. Upon returning, we thought ourselves hopelessly lost until we recognized our hotel, spying the driveway crowded with black Bentleys, their surfaces smooth and new enough to suggest a small stoppage in time.

Ted died the next winter in the hotel room that he lived in. I thought about how we were raised in a paradise so absolutely occupied that finding solitude was a wonder alone. His voice was already shorn raw by the time we had met — a lifetime of shouting over the city’s din — and his laugh, a British cackle, was a garrulous encapsulation of his entire personality. Through him, I learned how a city could become the only measure of itself.

The Vancouver House, Vancouver

Speculative new futures for Vancouver have been hologrammed up for as long as I can remember, for whoever will look. 126 years young, the city is still startlingly new, with mostly-untapped potential beyond its persevering reputation as a haven for extreme-sportsmen and well-heeled retirees. In Massive Change, the 2003 exhibition curated by industrial designer Bruce Mau, models for hyper-density were drafted up in Hong Kong’s shadow, a transmogrified counter to the anti-Chinese xenophobia that stretches from British Columbia’s racist nascence to present-day rallies against too much “foreign investment.” The logic was that Hong Kong, also bounded by the Pacific on one side and a ridge of mountains on another, shared enough with Vancouver to be its premonitory mirror across a gulf of culture and time.

A full decade has passed since that initial optimism. Vancouver has not densified so much as it has diamondized, all ascending glass with nothing in it. One could swear that that, from the right angle, you could see clean through the whole city. A sharp contrast to Hong Kong, which brims with human life at all hours of day or night. (“Forget nature,” said a friend. “Being able to bike down a street with no one on it is what’s bliss.”)

Vancouver’s Vancouver House is the newest development for the super-rich. An exercise in excess, a publicity campaign that excuses the extravagance of its luxury by linking up with the art world: it’s a “living sculpture,” a “gesamtkunstwerk,” a condo development ludicrous enough to stick a Rodney Graham under an overpass. Having lived here for so long, I know the city well enough to guiltlessly witness a common gripe. A new city faithfully entraps itself in wanting to become the kind of place around which culture is realized. It exerts itself in trying to make landmarks where before there were only lowlands, concocting new visions as soon as old ones — in which history has already been latent — are destroyed.

The Vancouver House isn’t a hotel, but it follows in the dream of one. Who, with the means, wouldn’t want luxury twinned with convenience? A fleet of black vehicles, a troop of concierges, a room that defaults to spotless each time you return to it, a lobby where you can see and be seen fetching your mail from a mailbox shaped like a giant, cancelling X... The development is advertised as “as a giant curtain at the moment of being pulled back to reveal the world to Vancouver and Vancouver to the world,” but riding past its showroom, headed eastward on my bicycle, I think it looks just like a tornado twisting back into thin air.

Alex M.F. Quicho is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is the editor of Highway Magazine, and a writer living in Vancouver. You can find her twitter here.

Photographs by the author.

"Wasserfall" - Juli (mp3)

"Hallo Hallo" - Juli (mp3)

Wednesday
Nov122014

In Which We Can Handle You The Way You Are

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my best friend's wife is cheating on him with a neighbor of mine. I'm conflicted on whether or not I should intervene. I've been contemplating on telling him, but don't want to be the one to break his heart. Should I tell him or allow things play out on their own?

Jean B.

Dear Jean,

Ah yes, the insoluble dilemma. This is why it's important to sit down with your friends and a box of Mike & Ike's early on and hypothetically hash out whether or not they'd like to know if their partner was cheating on them.

I'd let it play out, at least for a little while longer. Support your friend as much as possible without spilling the beans. If you have any sort of relationship with his partner, gently tell her what you know and give her the opportunity to come clean on her own. Reserve judgment. Unless she is the violent or vengeful type, then emphasize how cool you are with it and suggest she, "Get that ass."

The bottom line is you don't want anyone getting murdered over this, and you really don't know the context of their relationship. So take baby steps, unless there is an actual baby involved, then take no steps.

Hi,

Two years ago I went on a few dates with a great guy. We had a good time, but I was in a weird mental space and told him I wasn't ready for a relationship. I haven't seen him since. Still, I find myself thinking about him all the time and wondering what may have happened if we'd pursued something. Through a mutual friend I recently learned he is single but maybe casually dating someone. I want to give him a call, but I'm not sure it's the right idea. What should I do?

Megan A.

Dear Megan,

A lot can happen over the span of two years. You may find out that he is not exactly the same as you pictured. Imagine the sense of relief you'll get after you hear he's into opera singing. You can spend years wondering the what ifs, which we're all guilty of, but don't let it hinder your confidence to move on.

Even if he is seeing someone, there's no reason you can't just check in and make sure he can never fully commit to a relationship until he has tried things with you. This is how Jennifer Garner manages to stay in the public eye.

It's not okay to keep asking Siri if you should call him or not. If you don't hear back, you know what happened. You shouldn't be slightly surprised if he has rescued a new puppy named Craig with a significant other. Don't be too hard on yourself when you don't get the answer you want. It will be nice to have a sense of closure.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

"Do You Know" - Pieta Brown (mp3)

"No Not Me" - Pieta Brown (mp3)

Tuesday
Nov112014

In Which We Run Cowardly From The Spectre of The 1940s

With Garbo

The diaries of Cecil Beaton span the entire first part of the twentieth century. This bisexual photographer's true talent lay in his writing, but he was also a hell of a picture-taker. His portraits of Churchill at the front and his society snaps of the artists and writers he knew intimately remain masterpieces of composition and setting. Complemented by a talent for written observation that also exceeded most of his peers, Beaton's investigations into the central figures and places of his era, arranged to diminish his grandiosity and verbosity, are cogent windows into individuals of any time. The following excerpts from his writing concern his relationship with the actress Greta Garbo.

When I first arrived in New York in the late twenties, Frances Wellman, a middle-aged woman of singular ugliness and persistence, had become quite well known for giving parties in her hotel suite in which members of "cafe society" mingled with Broadway celebrities. Of all her pet guests, Noel Coward was perhaps the most cherished. The hostess, who had surprisingly distinguished hands, would "ssh" her guests, with her long index finger to her pouting mouth, to signal the coup of the evening: "darling Noel" at the piano.

Neysa McMein, a most delightful person but a very bad painter, and groups of fans and friends, close and otherwise, would sit on or around the piano in ecstasies, while lesser devotees were "sshed" in the background. Twenty years later the same lady was tonight giving a party to honor Noel Coward. Anita Loos said "It's awful. No one seems to be going."

I was being a boor; however much I drank I couldn't get the "party spirit." I found this group of older people, insistent on still behaving like the bright young things that have long since ceased to be, really rather offensive. Surely they were now too old to be quite so silly.

+

Greta Garbo has dropped the bombshell that she must return to the coast. Could I join her there? No, from California she would sail almost immediately to her native Sweden. "Could I meet you in Stockholm?" "Oh, no!" The idea of her departure saddened me greatly. For the last weeks I have lived only in terms of her. She filled my days, and I dreamt of her at night.

Suddenly New York seemed pointless without her. Frederick Ashton wired me from Covent Garden that he had a ballet for me to design if I could return at once. It wsa the ballet Les Sirenes with music by Gerald Berners. I might as well go home. When I arrived back in England a telegram arrived, unsigned, from Greta bidding me good morning.

+

Time and again the same mistake is made: nowhere I am immune from the fateful possibility that Greta may be nearby - hidden in the crowd in the theatre or in any surroundings, however unsuitable. Everything I see, every place I go to, brings back to me the times we spent together. Central Park has become an absolute nightmare of memories: each tree has its specific associations, and each mountain and hillock reminds me of that advent of spring when we welcomed the first rays of sun and celebrated the coming warmth by lying full length on the grass.

Now there is only silence.

+

After many further attempts to speak to Greta on the telephone (I would call at all times of day, and I could hear the operator being told by Greta's sad voiced servant that Miss Brown was not at home and she did not know when she was expected back) this morning I was again fortunate enough to gain my quarry.

At first she was exasperated and treated me as a tiresome burden that might as well be disposed of once and for all. "This is no good," she said. "We are too different. By your action you have deprived me of a friend."

"Who is the friend?"

"You were!"

This was pretty near to disaster for me, but by banter and repartee we returned to better terms.

+

Now that I am ostensibly busy, Greta is no longer as busy as she was while I was not busy. At 3:30 pm she would meet me at Sixty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue. She was wearing a mink coat. "Isn't it obnoxious?" she said; "it's so frauen." I must admit it wasn't suitable: it made her appear thick on the bosom with square shoulders. We strode into the park. Soon the lights started to fade and the landscape had no reality. It was like time out of time: a leaden gray sky with scurrying apricot clouds grew dark and tempestuous: it was as if mankind were going to be exterminated in violence for its wickedness.

It was a strange walk and we seemed to have a relaxed feeling that we hadn't enjoyed before. Occasionally we would stop dead in this cold winter landscape to kiss one another, but Greta was worried in case we were being watched, and when it became quite dark she was scared lest we should be "stood-up" and robbed. At one interval for embraces she said, "Are you eaten up with passion?" and then laughed and explained: "Nobody but myself would say that, and yet it's quite feasible and natural."

with Laurence Olivier

+

We were going to a theatre and were late, but luckily Eugene hurried a room service meal through in record time. Eugene is a nice, ugly little man with sad eyes and an nose like a toucan. Perhaps he is sad because he intended to be an electrical engineer, but after eleven years he gave it up for "waitering." He could not resist six dollars a day plus tips. "It's not much of a life," he says, "and I haven't got far, but my son is nine years old, and will do better."

Eugene is helpful and treats me as a favorite, but even he cannot improve the hotel food. We ate lamb that was rather like discarded chewing gum as we talked about ourselves in slightly veiled terms. I was enjoying turning the tables on her. "You are so unreliable," I said, "I couldn't ever marry you. You aren't serious about me."

"What a rebuff! And I adore you, Cecil - I love you - I am in love with you!"

We both laughed.

+

The night descended. It was too late to go into the park: she was scared - quite rightly - of unseen things. So we walked along looking into more windows, although we did once enter a shop to buy some Swedish bread and cakes. Here Greta was served by a young Swedish blonde and, for the first time, I heard her talking her native tongue. It was both delightful and comic to my ears - like birds spitting.

+

Out into the ice-cold night for a dinner at a Brazilian restaurant called Semon. The atmosphere was convivial, the food savory, and we both hungry. Greta's mood was joyful and I was in good spirits. She told comic stories - she has a fount of them - the sort that no matter how many times I hear I can never remember later. If I try to tell a comic story in return, she stops me if the premise is not probable. "Nothing is funny to me that isn't a possibility."

+

After our picnic I set Greta to work drawing with some colored chalks. She started to do a pot of hyacinths, looked very hard at the flowers, and did a quite skillful representation of them. She was rather self-conscious and excited like a ten year old, but soon gave up and perpetrated infantile likenesses of myself with a great number of buttons on my suit. Before throwing the drawing block aside she ruthlessly scratched out her efforts, leaving only a careful drawing of a pink walnut as a relic of her talent.

1948

"North London" - Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood (mp3)

"The Times They Are A-Changin" - Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood (mp3)