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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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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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Wednesday
May102017

In Which Prioritize Our Own Particular Problems

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.

Hi,

I have a colleague in my workplace who I will call Kevin. Although I have given him zero encouragement of any kind, Kevin feels the need to confide the vast details of his inner life to me at every opportunity.

Since he does so without my permission, I will reveal what he has told me without his. He has a very tumultuous relationship with his fiancee, who seems to be some kind of monster. Or maybe she is wonderful and Kevin is the monster, which seems as likely. The two argue often, and my supervisor has even reprimanded Kevin for raising his voice on his cell phone.

Despite the fact that I never engage with him in conversation, Kevin constantly asks me for advice and coworkers see as a pair. This is counter to all of my aims and probably not great for my career. At the same time, pissing Kevin off is going to make work even more unpleasant and difficult, so I need him happy. Can you help me?

Doug R.

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Dear Doug,

If you attempt to get Kevin to help you with an even more unappealing problem, he will probably be less likely to involve you in his own. This is a very risky road to take however, since there is a possibility he will spin you even more fluidly into his sick web. You can test the waters in this direction and see if this gets him off your back, since many people are as naturally uncomfortable being involved in others' affairs as they are comfortable talking about themselves.

What Kevin may find useful about your presence is that you require nothing from him. If in fact this only draws Kevin closer, you can now take more extreme measures. It is best that you use another coworker, preferably female or male or if you are gay, and bring him or her into your confidence. You can replace Kevin; it is like when Indiana Jones switches out two idols of the same weight on a pressure sensitive podium. Sidenote: why was the treasure sitting on a pressure sensitive podium in the first place?

If you can make Kevin's problems seem insignificant in comparison to the ones your other coworker is suffering through, he may genuinely understand his don't need to be confided to you as often. It is up to you to determine how little emotional intelligence this disturbed creature has before selecting your choice.

Hi,

Recently, it has been bothering me how snobby my girlfriend is. She always has some elaborate explanation for whatever is going on, and it generally places her far, far above whatever is going on, like in the stratosphere. Even though we have a similar education, and I have technical knowledge she can only dream of, she finds a way to talk down to me about it. I have spoken with her somewhat about this, and I am not even sure she understands she is doing it.   

What should I do?

Sarah E.

Sarah,

This behavior most likely masks some basic insecurity developed in this person's life where someone told her that she was stupid. Given how arrogant she is acting, you are probably even more unlikely to praise whatever actual acumen she possesses, so maybe try going overboard in that direction. If she feels you understand and appreciate your intelligence like no one else ever has, she will be less afraid of seeming stupid or foolish. Introduce her to anime.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Tuesday
May092017

In Which We Complete One Vile Task After Another

Human Events

by ETHAN PETERSON

American Gods
creators Bryan Fuller & Michael Green
Starz

Reading Neil Gaiman's writing has always been more of a drag than it is worth. His extended graphic novel The Sandman is the most overrated work in the medium not created by Alan Moore, and his novels are equally fraught with various gimmicks, iimpotent violence, and a bizarre appropriation of black culture meant to be inclusive, but that really comes across as tone deaf. Gaiman's chief literary technique is overwriting, and his questionable command of various cobbled together mythologies, a subject Gaiman is fascinated by because writing about human beings is beyond his capabilities, emerges onto television in American Gods.

Are you prepared to be alternately excited and tremendously bored for long stretches? American Gods will probably be your favorite show now that Hannibal has been canceled. Bryan Fuller is fresh off completing the abominable achievement of making a Hannibal Lecter series boring. Even a serial killer who eats his victims could not be kept entertaining on that graphic and dreadful show that made real life into some bizarre fantasy whirlwind, just because people were dying. Occasionally in Hannibal, Mads Mikkelsen would kill someone. The rest of the time he spent giving extensive lectures on god-knows-what before dramatically not taking someone's life. Fuller's sometimes enthralling aesthetic sense demanded that blood be evoked in nearly every scene, along with a hokey slow-mo used so often it was simply the key signal to fast-forward the show on DVR.

American Gods gives him a larger canvas and possibly a larger budget for the one thing he excels at in this medium: special effects and dream sequences. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released from prison three years early on a six year term for assault. He finds out his wife and friend were killed in an automobile crashed while she was giving the fellow oral sex. This is the kind of over-the-top schtick Gaiman loves in lieu of actual characterization and scene work. It is like watching the bullet points in a character sketch read on screen. (American Gods even features more than one different voiceover.) On his way to bury his wife, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who is reprising his character from Deadwood in virtually every aspect.

Whittle has about three or four facial expressions of which he is capable. His most recent acting performance in The 100 showed about as much range as a tin can. Watching him try to emote is physically painful, as are the awkward and lame scenes where a Russian god played by Peter Stormare asks him if he is black. There is really no reason Orlando Jones, an actor of considerable talent and range, couldn't have played Shadow much better. Instead he, along with Gillian Anderson, Cloris Leachman, Yetide Badaki and Crispin Glover, are gods who have relocated to America for some reason, I guess to give extended monologues or have sex with mortals, since this is all they really do.

Many British writers have written excellent books about America. Gaiman is not really among them. He has a weird jealousy for this painfully diverse nation, but he also views it as a central hub for the intersections of commercialism and the evil manipulation of various technologies. Stop me if you've heard this dreck before. Mr. Wednesday, along with various other characters, takes predictable shots at low-hanging fruit like gun control, cell phones and the American midwest. These edgy hot takes are somewhat out-of-date, but who cares? Here's a scene where Peter Stormare murders a cow.

The sad thing is that there is a good concept for television buried underneath all these indulgences, but American Gods never brings out any of the considerable pathos involved in viewing how actual deities might react to human events. You see, there are not any human events in American Gods, or at least not any we are driven to care about. Even the historical phenomenon of human enslavement is brought up as if it began only four hundred years ago; apparently Gaiman can only be bothered to think back that long. There is nothing so dull as a worldliness that begins and ends with blaming America.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

Monday
May082017

In Which The News Of The Day Remains Poor

A Lonely Lie

by DICK CHENEY

Great News
creator Tracey Wigfield
NBC

Nothing short of a writer's strike could ever stop the people who work in television from making shows about themselves. These approximations/reflections had various levels of reality built into them until NBC's Great News, which concerns a local New Jersey newscast that does stories about homicides in Texas for some reason. Accepting this level of seriousness is pretty much de rigeur these days – imagine a television show being important to anyone outside of the people who star in it? – but it took me back to 1988.

I argued strongly and with visual aids of Dan Quayle's face on the head of a horse that I should have been the vice president on the 1988 presidential ticket. You see, Dan would spend most of his free time hate-watching Murphy Brown, the seminal CBS sitcom that in a way created all of us. He would post on the show's messageboards begging the creators to give investigative reporter Frank Fontana more screen time, or a spin-off called Fontana.

Candice Bergen did a service to every single person hovering around the age of 40 on this show. She was presented as a recovering alcoholic who later decided to have a baby in 1991, and a situation that was all completely fine. This state of affairs incensed Dan Quayle a lot. "Why would an attractive single woman have a baby?" he screeched, tearing his hair out and jutting his pelvis at me as if I were unsure how children were in fact produced.

Murphy Brown actually had a real job. In those halcyon days, Murphy Brown creator and all-around legend Diane English made it seem like people cared what the news reported. Granted, national newcasts did have a lot more weight when CBS was like one of seven channels you got on the air. Murphy had this beautiful office that had no windows, but it was still very cozy. I still don't understand why she had all these magazine covers on the wall; maybe she had a print background. All her coworkers were for the most part sexist assholes, but she just put them in her place. When she went home, she had this great house where she was sleeping with her cute house painter (Robert Pastorelli, predictably dead of a drug overdose in 2004) who hung around. I never really understood that relationship until my wife explained it to me.

Murphy Brown was actually referenced by Dan Quayle publicly in the 1992 presidential race, because he hated the idea of a woman having a child without a man that much. I guess he thought it was real or maybe just important, and it kind of was. Candice Bergen had just the right amount of toughness and grit to have a baby and keep on working her job. You had to admire her; also she was perfect in every conceivable aspect. She even wore pantsuits at home, even when she was just relaxing comfortably after a tough day.

Briga Heelan plays a producer named Katie in Great News. Her Jewish mother gets a job as an intern on her newscast, which leads to her shouting "Mom!" a lot when her mother screws up which piece of tape they should be running before air. Creator Tracey Wigfield does not really care how actual news is produced. Great News is more going for how it was revealed that the entire run of Newhart was just a dream of the character in The Bob Newhart Show. Despite being evidently Irish, Katie has a Jewish mother named Carol Wendelson, played by the Armenian-American comedian Andrea Martin.

Since the entire show is really about whatever Catholic upbringing Tracey Wigfield suffered through as a child, it would only have been appropriate for her to cast herself in the lead role. (As The Mindy Project showed, she is a fantastic comedic performer.) Looking back at 30 Rock, the insanely verbose show that Wigfield wrote with Tina Fey, I don't understand 60 percent of the jokes that were made in it. Like Great News, the show is about a talented woman who falls in love with her gruff but exasperating boss. This storyline has not aged well after Bill O'Reilly harassed all those women, and yet the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace is treated very lightly in Great News.

Nicole Richie plays one of the show's two anchors. All of her jokes are about what a terrible millennial she is, and most of her sentences end with a hashtag of some sort. An extremely recurring joke is that Richie's character, Portia Scott-Griffith, will say a word that has a double meaning for people of each generation. For young folks, it will mean the name of a rapper, but for older people it will represent a food product. Are you laughing, because if you are not, or if you do not know the name of every single working rapper today, you will not enjoy Great News.

As Dan Quayle feared, none of the women or men in Great News are married or are particularly concerned about their wives, husbands, girlfriends or boyfriends. "I'll never have a real relationship," Katie tells her mother as she goes through the e-mails of a guy who is living in her apartment for a week, even though Briga Heelan herself is married with a kid. This is how you know that Great News is someone's nightmare – there is no chance of any of these fictional characters reproducing or caring for children, which maybe is for the best. They are a lot more invested in topics like a bear rampaging through Central Park or the comfort of hugging your mother in the workplace when you feel sorta down.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing in these pages here.