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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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Tuesday
Mar302010

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

Ed. Note: We're in our PLEDGE DRIVE, where we ask you to donate if you like the site. We will try to keep the virtual spanging to a minimum, but any donations are much appreciated and would go a long way towards keeping This Recording on the cyber airwaves. In conclusion, we need your help.

The World According
to Tara

by ELEANOR MORROW

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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"The Moon Asked The Crow" - CocoRosie (mp3)

"Grey Oceans" - CocoRosie (mp3)

"Undertaker" - CocoRosie (mp3)

Monday
Mar292010

In Which I'm Not Trying To Sound Cocky Or Full Of Myself But I Have The Sneaking Suspicion That I Will Always Be Great

Ed. Note: Today is the first day of our PLEDGE DRIVE, where we ask you to donate if you like the site. We will try to keep the virtual spanging to a minimum, but any donations are much appreciated and would go a long way towards keeping This Recording on the cyber airwaves.

I'M KENNY POWERS

by MOLLY LAMBERT

THIS IS MY KENNY POWERS MIX!!! I'd write this WHOLE BLOG in all caps but I know most of you would find it off-putting. I find PROPER CAPITALIZATION and punctuating to be VERY OFF-PUTTING and that is why I enjoy the internet and KANYE'S BLOG!!!

I identify strongly with Kenny Powers (except for his racism). Maybe the reason we all love cable TV characters like Tony Soprano and Don Draper and Kenny Powers who have such big egos and make such bad choices is because we are all like that deep down at our anonycores. It's just part of being a human being that sometimes you feel like a huge fucking baby who only wants to do whatever the fuck it is you want to do.

So in the spirit of doing whatever the fuck it is you want to do, I made a three volume Kenny Powers themed mix. Three hours and change of seventies rock. I thought about putting some rap in but the playlist kept getting too long anyway so I have restricted it to seventies rock (sometimes early eighties). I'm sorry it doesn't have the Three 6 Mafia song from the steroids doing sequence. I had to make some very tough decisions.

Seventies rock is my favorite genre, and I made this for me. But I also made it for you, and that is why I painstakingly cut up clips of all the best dialogue from Eastbound & Down to thread between songs and make it perfect. There's a lot of Southern rock and yankee/UK takes on Southern rock. There's some random junk too. I do what I want!

This is not the soundtrack of the series, which the MC5's Wayne Kramer put together and you can see a listing of here. This is a narrative mix by me "inspired by" Kenny Powers. Divided into Strikes, the 1st volume is a retrospective of Kenny's baseball career and life leading up to the present, the 2nd deals with Kenny and April's relationship and is love themed, and the 3rd is about Kenny's return to North Carolina.

This is the best thing I have ever done lately. I keep joking that it is my thesis for the last five years, but I am only sort of joking. Is that sad? I no longer care. Certainly when I learned how to use pro tools at the college radio station I did not know my lyfe path would lead me here, to the land of endless blogging and semi-professional online presence having and a horrible recession. There are worse fates than spending your late nights chopping up Ram Jam. Nothing thrills me more than a nice segue.

DON'T YOU DARE COMPLAIN THAT IT IS TOO LONG. THIS IS MY GIFT TO YOU. BASEBALL GAMES REQUIRE A VERY LONG ATTENTION SPAN THAT IS A RELIC OF A DIFFERENT TIME. BRING THAT MINDSET INTO PLAY HERE WHEN YOU ARE LISTENING. IF YOU SAT THROUGH HAVE ONE ON ME YOU WILL SIT THROUGH THIS AND LEARN TO HAVE THE PATIENCE OF A NON-GINGER WHILE I TEACH YOU ALL ABOUT CHOOGLIN.

Eastbound & Down inspired the hell out of me. I dream about making something as fucked up and great someday as Jody Hill and Ben Best and Danny McBride did. If you don't know who Kenny Powers is or don't give a fuck (p.s. if this is you, GET OFF MY BLOG), it's also just a great SPRING AND SUMMERTIME MIX of AM Gold style seventies rock to listen to as you drive/walk/bike around your town or city in coming months. 

I WILL SEE YALL AT SHABOOMS! DJ SHE-BEAR AKA MOLLY LAMBERT

STRIKE 1: SPRING TRAINING

The Joker - Snail

Shakedown Cruise - Jay Ferguson

Sign Of The Gypsy Queen - April Wine

Homesick - Atlanta Rhythm Section

Freeborn Man - Outlaws

Remember The Good Times - Paice, Ashton, & Lord

404 - Ram Jam

Take A Little Word - Hudson Ford

If You Want To Get To Heaven - Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Found Out The Hard Way - Ace

Couldn't Get It Right - Climax Blues Band

Lonesome Loser - Little River Band

Saddletramp - Charlie Daniels Band

(part one alternate link)

STRIKE 2: REGULAR SEASON

Lonely One - Dave Mason

Southern Girls - Cheap Trick

Don't You Know What Love Is - Touch

Jackie Blue - Ozark Mountain Daredevils

She's A Stranger - Mama's Pride

Quite Like You - Nantucket

I Could Be Good For You - 707

Nicole - Point Blank

Feel Like Makin' Love - Bad Company

Fooled Around And Fell In Love - Elvin Bishop

Amie - Pure Prairie League

Sweet City Woman - The Stampeders

Visions Of You - Bandit

Lady Of My Heart - Loggins & Messina

Magnet & Steel - Walter Egan

Keep On Trying - Poco

Outlaw Women - Hank Williams Jr.

(part two alternate link)

STRIKE 3: WORLD SERIES

Going Down - Freddie King

Cheap Sunglasses - ZZ Top

Commotion - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Funk #48 - James Gang

I Got Kinda Lost (Demo) - Big Star

Flirtin' With Disaster - Molly Hatchet

Keep It Warm - Flo & Eddie

Isn't It Time - The Babys

Ain't Wastin' Time No More - Allman Brothers Band

Last Kiss - Fandango

Shambala - Three Dog Night

East Bound and Down - Jerry Reed

Crying in the Night - Buckingham/Nicks

Hold On - Ian Gomm

Fire On The Mountain - Marshall Tucker Band

April Love - Stillwater

Those Shoes (Chopped & Screwed) - The Eagles

(part three alternate link)

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She does a bunch of fucking dumb shit on the internet besides making you awesome Kenny Powers themed mixes. 

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Sunday
Mar282010

In Which The Underdog Is Weakly Barking

Less Is Gilmore

by QICHEN ZHANG

People remember two types of TV shows long after they're gone for two reasons and two reasons only - a) those that are hilarious and b) those starring David Hasselhoff as a lifeguard. But one gem possibly eludes this rigid set of rules. Even though it's been a few years now since the Gilmore Girls series finale aired, recalling its place in the chronology of the CW-née-WB uncovers a sharp distinction between this show and its precedents that remains relevant.

gilmoregirls480.jpg (480×294)

The very first episode of Gilmore Girls did not win me over immediately. Granted, during that lackluster season of television, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's script possessed enough charm to start bandaging the still-raw wound that Felicity left behind when she cut off her curls. But despite the rapid-fire banter between the two Lorelais in a schmucky breakfast hangout that somehow made a conversation about lip gloss flavors semi-fascinating, I was unconvinced that this show would remain anything worth watching after repetitive episodes of two women blaming each other for borrowing cut-off shorts without asking.

"Girl, I know you have my Bangles concert t-shirt too, so HAND IT OVER."

And yet I would flip past Judge Judy and forgo doses of completely sound legal advice to return to podunk Stars Hallow on a weekly basis. One would be logical to assume that watching a woman subconsciously pine for a diner owner who refuses to buy a razor - not even when his customers start confusing him for a bear - isn't entertaining. And it isn't. Until diner man speaks.

LukeLorelai003.jpg (320×240)

Lorelai: [Luke enters] Oh, thank god. Hey, I desperately need a maaassive cup of coffee to go, and--what happened to your face?  

Luke Danes: What do you mean? 

Lorelai: It's... visible. 

Luke Danes: Oh, I shaved. 

Nothing about the plot itself drew significant attention initially. At first, it appeared as formulaic filler that networks usually whip up last minute to take up space in that awkward time slot between 8 and 10, between the hit drama of the season and the local nightly news, when the tots have been tucked in but it's still too early for Letterman to be making jokes about Lady Gaga's ta-tas.

Fortunately, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, even with their completely harmonious and laughably unrealistic relationship in which the biggest issue consisted of fighting over the new Macy Gray CD, never became too irritating. At least not so much so that I could veg on the loveseat in a heap, watching the WB for one straight hour. THE WB, PEOPLE.

Not saying that Gilmore Girls didn't include, at times, some of those moments of predictable vapidity that defined a channel catering specifically to teenagers living in cookie-cutter developments who probably thought Macy Gray was, "like, super alternative!" In the pilot episode, Lorelai swoops in to save her daughter after a man begins hitting on her at the local diner. (Let's not even talk about the 1950's, Nick-at-Nite-esque reference.) She starts sassing the guy, but only, you know, in that self-gratifying, self-righteous, "I'm a hip mom!" way. Eventually, she manages to pull off the telling off, but not before the script writers decide to imply incestuous group sex when the creepy cradle robber suggests that Lorelai and Rory pair up with him and his buddy sitting at the counter. NSFW, y'all!

"You think we look like sisters? Oh, just SHUT. UP."

And yet I was willing to overlook certain sappy aspects of the show. Set in the midst of a rural backdrop in middle-of-nowhere Connecticut, the mother-daughter dramedy exhibited a carefree tone unlike anything else on television at the time. It spat in the face of twisted plot lines that involved tangles of lies, tangles of bed head after a night out gone awry--not to mention people time traveling

The show's effervescence bubbled up to puncture its superficial veneer to simultaneously entertain and nonchalantly flip its hair at life's problems. "Who cares that I got knocked up at 16? Who cares that my daughter and I are closer in age than Woody Allen is to his most recent wife? Who cares that we might be cancelled soon?" Well, at least problems as seen on TV. Naturally, I wanted to root for it. The show's nondescript attitude was its strength. Its underdog status perpetuated its appeal. Without the tawdry references to "modern" sexuality and the nauseating angst that complemented those references in now-defunct WB shows, Gilmore Girls provided a simple respite from the complicated web of unreasonably volatile relationships. An hour per week of good ol' mother-daughter bonding, with the occasional flirty exchange with hairy diner man thrown in for variety. The show seemed made for television for people to escape television.

 

For countless weeks, I would opt for a night in Stars Hollow and would dwell on another episode without, surprisingly, wanting to pull a Dawson-post-Joey-breakup and slit my wrists. To be honest, the show became phenomenal. After a few seasons, Sherman-Palladino probably built up enough credibility with the network to begin creatively experimenting with writing, especially by melding an abundance of pop culture references with the characters' daily banter.

The moment of perfection for me came at the height of the velour tracksuit trend. Lorelai, hip mom that she is, prances into her living room wearing the trendiest sweatpants in 2003, only to meet her sour-faced WASP of a mother who thinks anything that's not sold at Saks Fifth Avenue should be outlawed. Television reached its peak when the following exchange aired:

Emily: You have the word "Juicy" on your rear end.   

Lorelai: Well, if I knew you were coming over, I would've changed. 

Emily: Into what? A brassiere with the word "Tasty" on it?

Just luv me 4 who I am~

Like all shows worth watching, they must come to a premature end. Gilmore Girls couldn't evade its fate. But no regrets, because I stuck with it long enough to let the charm of it get to me, even if it took me a couple of seasons to warm up to it. Not to mention that expecting the masses to appreciate a show without a complex love triangle that results in this screenshot:

 

... is probably unreasonable. Never forget.

Qichen Zhang is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Boston. She tumbls here. You can find her previous work on This Recording here.

"I Remember" - Yeasayer (mp3)

"Rome" - Yeasayer (mp3)

"Love Me Girl" - Yeasayer (mp3)