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In Which We Buckle Down For Some Hard Lost

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You Have Some Plot On Your Shirt


"Don't confuse hope with a plan." I believe either Jack Bauer or Vince Lombardi came up with this bon mot, and it ended the War of 1812 if my college history class was accurate. Jack Shepard's plan is to fly a plane off the island with all his closest friends on it. This isn't the first time a white guy tried to save an Asian couple, and it sure won't be the last.

you can never apologize to me for my character arc, sun, never!In light of recent episodes of Lost which the mainstream media felt was good, the ending of Lost has finally come into view. Are you allowed to bail on a show eight short episodes from its conclusion? I did it to Newhart, and look how well that turned out.

It's weird how our society has collectively decided to pretend Bob Newhart never existed, which is sort of like Sun magically losing her ability to speak English for no real reason. I believe we're now on octoginta ex machina.

Sorry I missed last week's recap - once Richard Alpert started crying over some busted girl he lost to malaria in the 1800s and crying "Isabella! Isabella!" into the night, I sort of lost my reason to live. We did finally get the story of the Black Rock, which on some level reminded me of when I savaged the New World as Columbus and/or Colin Farrell's right hand man.

As you probably imagined, I have been around during a lot of historical events. Here are a few I am directly or indirectly responsible for, and let me generally say, preemptively, my bad:

- The Spanish Civil War (not only did I cause this, but my whiny complaining about the war being boring inspired Orwell's Homage to Catalonia)

- The assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand (I'm really cranky before I eat in the morning)

- Big apologies to Medgar Evers

- Me, not Scar, killed that lion cub's parents and I also wrote the lyrics to Hakuna Matata

livin' off my evil deeds all these years  - The destruction of the Roanoke colony (I just had to see what would happen if everyone got super-AIDS)

- I convinced Kevin Pritchard to draft Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant

- I really negged Jesus about the whole crossing the Red Sea thing. "You can't part this fucking desert!?!?!"

- Amy Irving's magical romance Crossing Delancey

- The appeasement of Hitler (I baked all these pies that made everyone really sleepy and Hitler-compliant)

- I was sitting around with Jesse James' white power mistress, watching the Oscars, and I was like, "Didn't you let that guy do you in the ass last week? I thought he told you he wasn't seeing Sandra Bullock anymore. White Power!"

- The formation of Israel (David Ben-Gurion and I had a not quite consensual sexual-political relash) 

Also, once James Cameron showed me a movie he made, and I happened to be really distracted that day, and he was like, "So what did you think?" and I was like, "That was great, James, really fabulous," and everyone, I'm so sorry that I encouraged him. I accidentally did the same thing to Ke$ha and look how well that's turned out.

In the 200+ years Richard Alpert has been on the island, he hasn't done a single thing. He just listens to gods lie to him in the jungle, and then he runs around crying and getting his ass-kicked. That episode was barely drama, it was more like watching a Pac Man game in an island setting. The only thing that sucked more than Richard's biopic was the annoying white girl on American Idol covering Chaka Khan without asking me first.

I'd like to institute a moratorium on "I want to go to there" jokes. thank you for your time As a way to compensate and improve the show, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof went through a severly exhausting casting call to hire the geophysicist Tina Fey. Lost is so devoid of sex appeal that Kate literally never moves from right besides the fire so that she has a light sweat whenever the camera deigns to focus on her blimpies.

"the last guy i did was the silver surfer, and the look you see on my face is relief" Charles Widmore did give me an idea for a sweet April Fools trick I can play on Rahm Emanuel for sticking a matzoh spoon into one of my colleague's anuses to force him to vote for health care, and then telling him the resultant chafing was a pre-existing condition. I'm going to kidnap Rahm and then show him some camera phone pictures of Obama children that don't exist yet. And then I'll be like, "I understand that you've never seen Obama's son before."

Imagine how crazy it would be if Obama had a son, and every single BM the son had was recorded by the newsmedia. We can't really say what's in store for Barack's daughters Shaniqua and LaKisha, but take it from me, Barack: if one of them turns out to be a lesbian and starts reading a lot of bell hooks, it's going to be a tremendous pain in the ass.

goddamnit bell, I really hate how you don't capitalize your name
Imposing your worldview on other people is wrong, and yet it is what Matthew Yglesias and Glen Greenwald do everyday before sending each other nude photos of Robert Gibbs. Liberals love to tell people what to do, and there is no more liberal character on television than Jack Shepard. He's tried to do Kate to fix her; it didn't work. He tried to blow up the island to fix everyone; it didn't work. He tried to pretend Nancy Pelosi was some kind of feminist hero; we all realized she's a disgusting ghoul. He tried to save an Asian couple by selling the wife time-share seats on a plane off the island; the result is as yet undetermined.

Since Cuse and Lindelof have no actual idea where Lost is going, they will live with the infamy of their disastrous decision to go back to "the castaways should try to leave the island but someone will stop them" plot that has ended every post-Hatch season. Now that a black man and an unattractive woman have turned my native land into Canada, I have nothing better to do but to imagine a more interesting ending to Lost:

The smoke monster is actually Daniel Faraday. When he became unstuck in time in a season of Lost we're all trying really hard to forget, he became a candidate and lost to Jacob. Since Desmond is the poor guy's constant, they go back and time and prevent Faraday from being killed by his mother while she's pregnant with him. Jacob and Faraday head to Wyoming for a vacation and after some light-horsing around in their tent, they have sex. A child is conceived named Jack Shepard.

Do you feel more satisfied with Lost now that I've ended it for you? What long-running show ever had a satisfying ending? I'm still waiting for them to wrap up The X-Files and I continue to wake up in the middle of the nights searching for the truth about Mulder's sister. The Sopranos ended with them all chowing down on some food in a diner, Freaks and Geeks ended with Lindsay Weir going topless in a broadcast first, The Wire ended with everyone getting fired and realizing that crime is forever.

What uplifting conclusion is really out there that is going to make us say the previous 150 hours of television were worth the considerable debate over why Richard can't age? Does it make us happier to know he can't age because Jacob told him so? If that was the answer you were looking for...we're going to need a bigger boat.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He begs you to consider donating to the This Recording pledge drive. Where else can you find screencaps like this?

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"A Woman's Face" - Rufus Wainwright (mp3)

"The Dream" - Rufus Wainwright (mp3)

"What Would I Ever Do With A Rose?" - Rufus Wainwright (mp3)


In Which You Let Me In The Dark

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'Any Way I Tell This Story Is A Lie'


The deeper I got into Lit, Mary Karr’s memoir about getting sober and becoming a Catholic, the more I was drinking. The irony of this was not lost on me. There I’d be, home alone, my second glass of wine/whiskey/beer at hand, noticing distantly that the lines on the page were starting to bend together. Meanwhile, what I was reading detailed exactly the kind of damage excessive drinking can inflict. I am impressionable like this. A few nights after reading how Karr’s nightmares regularly woke her up screaming, I woke myself up screaming from a particularly wretched dream. This was at a friend’s house, too, which was awkward.

Unfortunately, I was not as impressionable when it came to sobriety, at least not at first. Karr and I parted ways right around the time she started drying up. I kept drinking through the rest of the book, and my (comparatively negligible) mini-bender only gave way by the time I got about halfway through her first memoir, The Liar’s Club, a few weeks later.

from here

Really, what was going on is that the book was making me jealous, and in a deep down insidious sort of way. This was true of my response to all of Karr’s memoirs, which I read in entirely the wrong order, by the way, from the back to the front to the middle, sort of like an Oreo cookie. Her writing is just so beautiful, and she has done so well by it.

One often noted fact about Karr is that the career path she planned as a little girl involved writing, half-poetry and half-autobiography. Her ability to so exactly achieve her childhood aims feels almost freakish, especially considering where she grew up (an oil refinery town deep in the dirty south of East Texas in the 1950s), and that this aim, in that town, made her even more ridiculously alien than she already was.

This only further stoked my envy of Karr. I, on the other hand, am invariably bad at this. I aim for California and end up in Venezuela. Really. This happened to me once.

What makes envy a particularly inappropriate response is that all three of Karr’s memoirs involve a not insubstantial amount of suffering. The Liars' Club, which came out in 1995 (she has said she did it “for the money,” and I believe her, because she seems honest like that), details her childhood in that little Texas town (except for a miserable interlude in Colorado), a period that almost every profile of Karr describes as “hardscrabble.” Karr herself in these profiles is invariably described as “scrappy,” which seems appropriate enough — she once sat in a tree with a BB gun and calmly took down a childhood enemy.

I lifted the BB gun and sighted through its little V as close as I could to the white glare of Rickey’s glasses. I fully intended to pop him between the eyes. I repeated Daddy’s injunction to pull any trigger slow: “Don’t jerk it, Pokey,” he always said. I didn’t, and after the satisfying little zing, a miracle happened. I saw Rickey Carter slap his neck, like he thought a wasp had stung him.

(Her response to the Rickey’s dad when he caught sight of her and yelled at her to stop: “Eat me raw, mister.”)

Personally, though, I don’t like the term hardscrabble. It gives everything such a Norman Rockwell sheen. So instead I will just say her childhood certainly sounded hard. Her father was a good-hearted drunk (or at least he started out that way, once he more fully descended into alcoholism he became increasingly cruel) while her mother was a pill-popping drunk with the occasional terrifying psychotic fit. As one might imagine, these people did not always make for the most capable parents. In one interview Karr describes her mother treating her “like a terrarium lizard you checked out from time to time with distracted curiosity.” Unluckily, Karr also had two horrifying and nonconsensual run-ins with the opposite sex, the second of which was so disturbing it turned my stomach.

The whole rash of terrible decisions Karr makes in her next memoir, Cherry, which is about her adolescence, is not exactly surprising after The Liars' Club, since people don’t generally walk out of a childhood like that unscathed. There is the inevitable suicide attempt, the boys, the drugs, the messed up friends, and the idea that suffering sets one apart and makes one special. (People who remember being teenagers, even if they didn’t have wretched childhoods, may also relate to aspects of this.)

The narrative sometimes skips large chunks of time, but Cherry has an internal driving force that keeps you reading no matter that you’re never quite sure where it’s going. Honestly, I really didn’t care, because along the way Karr describes aspects of female adolescence so vividly that it was able to transport me back not just to her experiences, but also to my own. Karr quite exactly evokes that period of life when you want something from a boy but don’t exactly know what, and when your newly developing fantasies consist of a chivalrous move at recess and holding hands but not yet anything involving bodily fluids:

Despite what Nabokov’s Humbert wanted to think, I’ve never met a girl as young as I was then who craved a bona fide boning. But glowing nonspecifically from my solar plexus was this forceful light. I wanted John Cleary or Corey or some other boy to see that light, to admire it, not to feed off it for his own hungers. When I closed my eyes at night, I did not manufacture naked bodies entwined. Mostly I didn’t even venture into kissing. Rather my fantasies at the time were all in the courtly mode. I pictured John Cleary/Corey taking my hand for the couples’ skate at the rink, how we’d cut a slow circle together in a spotlight, with his gaze inventing me in the stares of those we passed.

By the end of Cherry, though, Karr has grown from an awkward 11-year-old desperate for titties (her word) who one day has the bad idea to bike shirtless around town to a screwed up hippied-out teenager who spends seven nights in a row jacked up on meth. That a book told in the first person manages to keep this transition fairly seamless is both mysterious and impressive. (In this respect my envy was slightly eased by the fact that apparently this at least did not come easy — in one interview Karr mentions that the book went through 87 drafts.) There are also many accounts of disturbing acid-induced hallucinations, including a particularly concerning one where Karr ends up in a terribly sketchy bar filled with heroin junkies. While these rang true I did wonder, just a little bit, how Karr managed to remember everything quite so well if she was that messed up.

Eventually, as you learn in Lit, Karr replaces hallucinogens with straight up booze, and loads of it. Clearly, no one does walk out of a childhood like that unscathed, even when you’re ridiculously talented and smart (or even “whip smart,” another term people can’t seem to resist using about Karr) and end up married, like Karr, to a blueblood of the highest order.

Karr’s drinking starts to level off about two thirds of the way through Lit, and then really ends after she starts obsessing about suicide and does a stint in a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, her various attempts at sobriety have led her to AA, where people keep bugging her to find a higher power. This annoys her, at first, but eventually she starts praying regularly and, basically, at this point the heavens open up and start pouring down riches. Seriously. It’s sort of weird. There’s money, and a car is involved, and a book deal, and forgiveness, and sobriety, and damn, it’s enough to make a girl start to think that whole Secret bullshit pretty much has nothing on some old school religion.

This pissed some people off, the idea that “scrappy,” “rebellious,” “whip smart” Karr had succumbed to Catholicism, but honestly I think that’s a silly response. Karr doesn’t pretty things up in some weird way, or make it seem like she drank some Jesus Kool-Aid. Instead, she writes about becoming religious in a way that is real and brutal and funny. Her first prayer, for example, begins: “Higher power, I say snidely. Where the fuck have you been?” And it ends: “And help me. Help. Me. Help me to feel better so I can believe in you, you subtle bastard.”

She makes it seem like becoming religious was actually really, really hard, and is honest about how it went against a lot of strongly held opinions about who she was. Ultimately, though, it just became the only sensible thing to do. Because it was really working for her, and, you know, things are already hard enough, so why make them any harder?

Come March, after I’ve been praying for a solution to our transportation woes, a professor I’ve met once or twice through mutual friends approaches me on the quad. She’s going to Italy and heard I needed a car. Maybe I could keep hers through the summer; she’d consider it a favor.

And that’s how hard that was. Such unearned gifts feed the growing faith that some mystery is carrying me.

This made me even more jealous. Because while I don’t have designs on Catholicism, I certainly wouldn’t turn down serenity, or the sense that someone, somewhere (i.e. God) has a plan for me, and has actually kept me around for some special purpose. I mean, honestly, who would turn that down? It sounds great. Unfortunately, my gut about such things is that while there is certainly something sacred roaming around here on earth (but not in the creepy way that sounds), I don’t really feel like there’s anyone watching out for me in particular. At least not in a “Oh you need a car? Here let me help you with that” sort of way. Although it did just occur to me — maybe this is where faith comes in? Will have to give that more thought.

Anyway, even if reading Karr’s books makes you drink yourself into a stupor of jealousy, this doesn’t matter. What matters is that her memoirs are drastically good. And not just in the literary sense, but as human artifacts. They are brave and honest and look ugliness straight in the face. Also, they tell a story that must have been incredibly difficult to live through in a way that lets everything and everyone get dirtied up and muddied in the process. This, in my view, requires no small amount of generosity. I mean, you try describing the breakup of your marriage, like Karr does in Lit, in a manner that leaves both parties looking equally culpable. In Karr’s version of things, everyone ends up with a little bit of the blame, and therefore everyone is blameless.

This equanimity, to be honest, is really what makes me jealous. My own upbringing had far more run-of-the-mill type problems than Karr’s, but it still ended me up in some of the same places. And she seems to have done such a good job moving on from them. This makes me yearn for whatever she has, whatever she understands that I don’t. But here is what her memoirs left me with: the sense that while some of us are far more damaged than others, not one of us gets through this place unscathed, and what matters in the end is what you do with that. Also, the next time any woman I am close to endures a breakup, I will most definitely be using the line Karr and her sister always share with each other in such circumstances. Which is this: “Remember the pussy goes with you.”

Molly Langmuir is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about New Moon. She blogs here.

"Bottled in Cork" - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (mp3)

"Woke Up Near Chelsea" - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists (mp3)

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In Which Introducing Joey Lauren Adams Into Any Situation Achieves A Good Result

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The World According
to Tara


When I realized that Diablo Cody and John Irving were in fact the same person, I was not totally surprised.

Irving's 1981 epic The Hotel New Hampshire is probably his worst novel. The family dog is named Sorrow, two major characters die for no reason in an airplane crash, and the remaining ham-fisted symbolism is dull at best, insulting at worst. Like in all Irving, bad things are set up to happen and occur with astonishing regularity, especially the laziest of all plot devices: the accidental death. When Irving stops being able to imagine a future for his characters, or if he is bored at how happy they are, he invents another calamity.

Diablo Cody's Showtime series The United States of Tara, which has begun its second season and has already been renewed for a third, takes a similar tact. The worst is going to happen; the best of intentions is bound to end up costing you everything in the end. Although the show's first season was primarily about Tara (the absolutely magical Toni Collette) and the other personalities which inhabit her body, it has now become about her children, which is the introduction to every single fucking John Irving novel.

Two people come together to start a family in The Hotel New Hampshire, and it basically turns into a haunting version of Irving's sickest high school fantasies - with incest to spare! One of the daughters is raped; a black football player saves her. Someone dances around in a bear suit. Like in The United States of Tara, this union results into peripheral accidents, which Irving and Cody say is really the only way life unfolds.

In many ways these two diablos, both legendary for their command of invective, are actually puritanical celebrators of determinism. Everything is fate in Irving, and coincidence takes on the significance of a missive from God. Who can forget Garp's lonely battles with other people's foibles, the petty love of The Cider House Rules, the thinly-veiled super-gross autobiopic A Widow for One Year?

Mere attraction in Irving is accorded the same level of meaning as the deepest love. Sorrow isn't just another name for the family pet, it's the generalization Irving makes about the world.

Cody's show improves upon this by giving her characters some freedom, although we are still wary of the destructive friendships they might foster and the inevitable resulting pain. It is in fact an open debate on how much control anyone has of their own lives in The United States of Tara. Are Tara's disturbing drifts into other personalities not essentially representations of her true self? It is easy to see how Cody finds this appealing.

The show's incredible ensemble has taken what can only be called an important step forward by adding Joey Lauren Adams, in that Chasing Amy is basically what The United States of Tara is going for; bringing a cultural milieu that exists one place into another. This is a lot of drama for Kansas.

Tara's daughter Kate Gregson is played by Brie Larson, one more of the more exciting young talents in acting. (Diablo's advice for her is always, kind of like Ellen Page, but blonder.) This season, she has taken a job with a debt collection agency and every scene she's in is better than Mike Judge's entire career. Kate's job is the finest subplot in American television since George Costanza got engaged, and the best thing Steven Spielberg has ever been involved with.

Tara's son (Keir Gilchrist) is named Marshall, and he's basically the inverted Juno, except he dresses a lot better than she did. Marshall is ostensibly gay or questioning, and after experimenting with unrequited love last season, he's now prepared to explore all the possibilites. Like John Berry in The Hotel New Hampshire, Marshall harbors a strange love of his older sister, which is currently manifested in time spent with a brunette. He used a Ouija board to close, and it worked.

The quirky Kansas presented in The United States of Tara is basically New Hampshire if you think about it hard enough. There is another, saltier America forged from the intersections between its parts. All is exaggerated - the dangers of high school, Rosemarie DeWitt as Tara's sister Charmaine pining for marriage, the weird gay couple next door, Marshall's suave sexual confusion, the way that Tara loathes weakness in herself and others.

In their depictions of gender, Irving and Cody are polar opposites. Women in Cody's imagining are spheres of reciprocity and cultural innovation; they master their men and achieve intellectual superiority through force of mind. Diablo Cody does to what women what Irving, that former wrestler, was so keen to do with boys: make them short, Owen Meany-esque projectiles of enthusiasm, slowed as often as they speed forward into unknowing destruction. Each view of gender is profoundly sexist and aggrandizing, but the broadest of strokes is likely to leave some lasting impression.

Irving's Hollywood career was marked by several missteps; he can also easily be blamed for Tobey Maguire's career as a feckless ciderboy. There has never been a really good adaptation of Irving's books, because they are never-ending repositories of details which by their simple incoherence are expected to assemble together into a whining whole. Characters are neither funny or tragic enough because of the plaintive way they are portrayed.

When Irving wishes to shock or offend, he tries to push a button but never succeeds, like an eight-year old putting forth a dirty joke. Thus he prefers the simplest of dramatic acts over all else: surprise!

Innocence isn't innocence if you take the time to point out how naive it is. Tragedy deserves roughly the same amount of skepticism. The United States of Tara, probably the funniest show to air this season, may not be clear on the difference between the two yet. Tara is not a show about mental illness, it's about how disturbing and painful it is to feel normal, you know, like Diablo and John.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can read her previous work in these pages here.

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"Grey Oceans" - CocoRosie (mp3)

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