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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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In Which We Despise Time Travel As A First Principle

Stop Time


Despite being a noted historian and a professor at a major university, Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) has the following reaction to the news that time travel exists and is possible: "Who would be foolish enough to invent something so dangerous?" When she thinks about it for slightly longer, she bails and heads out to her car. Ten minutes later she is heading straight back in time without signing any kind of contract or talking to her lawyer. It is the middle of the night.

Timeless was created by Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan. Given the events of the past fifteen years, I think we can look back in time and realize that maybe The Shield was substantially worse than anyone actually thought. The handcam aesthetic was pretty stupid, and Shawn Ryan probably has no talent at all given the awful shows he has been working on since then. When Lucy and her buddies, a scientist and soldier, head off to the location of the Hindenburg disaster, the camera shakes like they're going through a tunnel on a train.

Abigail Spencer attempts to save this utter disaster entirely through her own charisma. On the completely weird, boring, pointless and brilliant telethon the Sundance Channel called Rectify, she played the sister of a man exonerated of a murder he may or may not have committed. She slept with his lawyer, and was generally an imperfect person that reminded us all of someone we might know.

I can't help but feel bad for Spencer as she utters lines like, "Having President Lincoln as a father...what is that like for you?" In every single scene, Spencer brings the whole of her self into this thankless role, and she turns what should be a canceled pilot into something semi-watchable by selling absolutely everything as the most significant historical thing she has ever had the privilege to witness.

Let me get back to time travel, because it is the fucking drizzling shits. There have been one or two semi-decent novels about time travel. In the end, they were all magnificent disappointments, because their conclusion was, someone changed history. Whoop-de-doo. Is history so wonderful that the slightest alteration is going to make a difference to anyone? Maybe we can go back in time and allow Obama to run for a third term. Anything we do is going to be an improvement.

But no, Lucy's handlers explain, try not to change anything! We don't know what will happen. Like three people in a day could somehow alter the entire direction of the world. Admittedly, Lucy's knowledge of the Hindenburg disaster is impressive given that this seems like a minor historical episode. By the end of the show's pilot, Lucy is whining about fate like a Sunday School student and apologizing that her companion, a soldier named Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) lost his wife.

When she returns home after her first time travel excursion, Lucy finds out that her mother no longer has cancer and that her sister never existed. Instead of celebrating, she whines briefly before heading back to the time of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Jack Finney wrote Time and Again in 1970. I am sorry if you liked this book, but read it again today, because god is it dreadful. At least there was some serious historical versimilitude in there. Timeless all takes place on a soundstage.

One scene really transcended the line from dull to seriously offensive. The scientist that Lucy and Wyatt have as their companion is an African-American man named Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett). In post-Civil War America he exhorts all the other black people he meets to "head North" (they presumably did not know there was slavery in the South) and that "it gets better." Yes, those wonderful years after the Civil War.

How tone deaf do you have to be to write something with this much garbage? You wrote a series about American history without knowing a single  thing about it. More to the point, Timeless concerns itself exclusively with American history — like there is no other existence outside of the one in this country which could possibly matter to the world. This USA-centrism is not only narratively impotent, it is immoral and dangerous for children and adults.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which Tim Burton Never Gave Us A Chance

I Know Why The Caged Bird


Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
dir. Tim Burton
127 minutes

When asked why all of the children in his new film Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children were white, Tim Burton answered that he finds it more insulting when diversity is needlessly shoehorned in. After all, the main villain here is Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), although he is a shapeshifter. Given that time travel is possible here through "loops" which are locations that enable passage to a specific time in the 20th century, it is likely Mr. Barron just found out about Samuel L. Jackson and wanted to look like him. So no worries – no actual individuals of color had to be inserted into this pale ménage.

Joseph Epstein had a essay earlier this year about the lunatic of one idea – how some people see the world through one lense which distinguishes everything they do. These simple-minded folk are led by Tim Burton, who is the lunatic of one aesthetic. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children builds to a climactic battle at a carnival, where monsters called Hollows attack the white children. To defend themselves, a boy named Enoch (Finley MacMillan), animates a group of skeletons to battle them. It looked almost exactly like a scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which Burton did not even direct. Everything else in the production design of this movie seems remarkably familiar.

Earlier, Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), or as he is referred to about 700 times in the movie by the gentile children, "Jake", finds his grandfather (Terence Stamp) dead, his eyes torn out. Instead of being horrified or even mildly disturbed by what he has found, Jake decides to solve the murder. About twenty minutes of flashbacks follows with young Jake learning about his grandfather's adventures during World War II. When he presents this information to his class at school, everyone laughs in his face and his parents tell him that his grandfather is a liar. He feels very alone.

Jake and his father Franklin (Chris O'Dowd) journey to Wales so that the boy can prove to himself that his grandfather's stories were hot bullshit. Despite the fact that this movie cost $110 million, none of it was actually shot in Wales. You can tell, because this part of the movie looks far from glorious; more like a depressing beach town in the Tampa area.

When Jake meets all of these children, they each demonstrate their powers for him. Leading this white menagerie is Miss Peregrine herself (Eva Green). Disappointingly, Miss Peregrine declines the opportunity to become a romantic option for Jake, and turns into a falcon at times. Despite being a magnificent bird of prey, she only uses this form to hide.

Jake seems vaguely upset about the rejection, and sets his sights on a woman more his own age. Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell) most recently dated Jake's grandfather which is pretty screwed up if you ask me. Perhaps understandably, she is very reluctant to kiss him.

Emma's powers are massive: not only is her lithe body lighter than air, but she can also swim for hours just by manipulating air bubbles. The rest of the group feature powers of differing utility. One is strong, another likes bees, another is invisible. Another girl can start fires (hint: anyone can), while two of the children are Gorgons who wear masks to prevent turning everyone to stone. The moment when they take them off still makes me want to cry.

Burton is great at this kind of casual horror. Thank God for that, since he seems terribly bored with every other aspect of this script by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass). All of the children are kept pre-adolescent with no more agency than five year-olds. Miss Peregrine has had no adults in the vicinity for the half-century she has been reliving the same day, waiting for Jake to arrive. I suppose she is asexual, but maybe in her bird form she meets other falcons. I chose not to input the words "how do falcons have sex?" into google, but it is good to know it is there.

In many ways, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children feels woefully dated. Its character development is sub-Avatar level, and boy does it take its sweet time. Ultimately, in a film that should contain a lot of mystery and wonder for its magical world, everything about the fantasy aspects of the film seems woefully normal.

The most wild elements are actually the moments when the narrative interacts with historical truth. Burton specifically doesn't want to go there — the Nazis bomb the home into oblivion, which is why Miss Peregrine keeps reliving that one day before the violence. But unlike in Pan's Labyrinth, for example, no one talks about the war, or the world around them in the movie. It is all just background noise for magic tricks.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.


In Which We Are Completely Honest With Everyone

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.


I recently got out of a nine month relationship that was really intense and satisfying. Unfortunately she had to move to Seattle for work, and my own job and my family are keeping me here in Boston. We decided we don't want to ruin what we have by trying to make it work at such a long distance. 

A month or two has passed since my ex moved, and she has now been contacting me (we said we wouldn't do this). She is having some trouble making friends in her new city so she frequently calls or texts if she finds herself alone. I don't know how to deal with this: I do still have feelings for her, but I was a bit upset she would want to stop seeing me in the first place - she had a good job here and I wouldn't have done the same thing. 

She is locked into her contract until mid-2017, and I don't know if I really want to go through this until then. There was a reason we decided long distance wouldn't work, right? How should I handle her apparent change of heart?

Joe P.


We all make mistakes, although some people are more prone to making them than others. The fact that she put her career before you is no big whoop, since it's not like you sound particularly committed to this woman. If you were, believe me you would be ecstatic, not disappointed to hear from her. 

On the other hand, it sounds like you were hurt in this process and you should take some time to get over that pain before arriving at a firm decision about how you should react to your ex's current behavior. But how to create the space you desperately need to evaluate things dispassionately? Just tell her you lost your phone. 

I am kidding, this is the rare time you will ever hear me advising anyone to tell the truth, which is usually painful and nuncupatory. You will have to expose your true feelings and it is best to request a discrete period of time before reporting your findings. 

In the end, you will probably find that this angry decision is what is best: you can't hang around and be the outlet for your ex's predictable sadsies for the next year. If you want, visit her at some point, have sex, and see if you want to flee back to Boston on the next train. If you don't, maybe it is worth the occasional drunk dial to keep this person in your life.

NB: The intercourse during your reunion should be tender yet opaque. Afterwards, light incense that smells of rosemary and penitent coquettishness.


I have been dating my girlfriend Kelly for about five months. When she is at home in Georgia, Kelly attends a conservative church with her family. She is new to the city that I live in, and she recently found a church that she is comfortable with here. 

At first it was, "Please come to church with me." If I did, she was happy. Now, if I say that I don't feel like or even if I have a plausible excuse, she is very disappointed. I don't want to make her unhappy but I'm not a believer and I don't see myself in church every Sunday. Once in awhile it's fine. 

Is there any way to ameliorate this problem?

 Jean R.

Dear Jean,

Yes. First, start going to church every Sunday. Explain it is not as bad as you thought, and express how much you are enjoying it. Maybe attend a social function; Christians love pot roast as well as a number of vegetarian options. 

Next, you'll want to firm up an ironclad obligation that will suddenly prevent you from going to church 90 percent of the time. Here are some possible reasons you aren't available on Sunday mornings for this special time with Kelly: professional development, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, you're training for a marathon and it's the only time your team can practice, your mother is in town that day... You see how flimsy these excuses are starting to seem?

You better have a damn good reason. Your next best option is to find a church with a shorter service.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.