Video of the Day


Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

In Which The Beetles Will Feed On Your Eyes

Don't Let Me Down


Everything tends towards catastrophe and collapse. I am interested, geared up and happy. Is it not horrible to be made like this?

- Winston Churchill

There is nothing like the throes of war. When I first heard about the attacks on our country almost ten years ago, I made love to my wife, as I recalled last week. But that is not everything I did. I also told the secret service to get the president into a limousine and load it up with more alcohol than Katy Perry demands backstage at her concerts. (She hates carnations almost as much as I do.) When President Bush found me curled up in a fetal position inside the vehicle, smelling of Pop Tarts and gin, the first thing he said was, "You're pissing me off." Then he smiled and sucked grain alcohol from my belly-button.

HBO recently greenlit a BBC co-production of a World War I drama where the protagonist will be played by one Benedict Cumberbatch. (Scrootenjew Meeperschmidt wasn't available.) If this miniseries also ends up starring Rebecca Hall, I suggest we send the Storm Crows to ravage the BBC offices and demand satisfaction. The British always have funny ideas about war, they always think it's about falling in love like in The English Patient. They're like, "awesome war guys, let's go have consensual sex with the local populace." No. War is more about falling out of love with life and embracing death.

My first White House was Gerald Ford's and whenever we were addressing an overseas conflict he demanded we slip our dicks out into the open air. Don't get me started on my years with President Ford, controlling him was like trying to swordfight with yellow straw. The day we lost to Jimmy Carter I murdered a Canadian black bear. Sure, things went bad, but the below photograph depicts my first Oval Office orgasm.

I can only compare those initial moments of war, the look on the face of your adversary as he considers the prospect of his own demise, to waiting in a doctor's office with the best magazines in the world. Since the only good magazine left in the world is National Geographic and I never see that at my grandkids' pediatrician, it's better to imagine peeling open a shopping catalogue and discovering that anything can be purchased. During the initial phases of the first Gulf War, I demanded a lightsaber one morning and I had it by the afternoon. Carved in a grip of human bone were the words "Dick Maul."

We tore down statues in Iraq because it made a good image for television. I have no idea why Khal Drogo does it when he enslaves entire towns, killing and raping women and children. He already proved his point. There have been great men who enjoy war as much as Khal Drogo seems to, but there is no one who has ever enjoyed saying the word stallion as much as he does. From the looks of it, the populace Drogo enslaves is also quite religious, and their gods resemble the Old Gods of Westeros, perhaps some starfaring race that colonized the planet.

About his experience managing war, Churchill wrote "I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can't help it — I enjoy every second of it." Every delusional warrior demands an adversary as mighty as he imagines himself. Ned Stark may not have the same affection for war as the Lannisters did during Robert's Rebellion, but you can't blame Cersei Lannister for not tying up her loose ends.

Even thousands of pages after the first visit from the King that opens A Game of Thrones, I am not entirely sure why Robert Baratheon goes to visit Winterfell. He had never done it before; he does not recognize the children of his best friend, and he can't look into the face of his friend's wife, who resembled the woman he lost.

The death of Jon Arryn must have guided his actions to some extent, but it is impossible to believe that King Robert lived his entire life siring bastards of brown hair and it never occurred to him to find it strange that none of his children by Cersei Lannister shared that characteristic. If Robert wanted a man loyal to him running the empire, he had better candidates in King's Landing. It seems more likely to me now, given my encyclopedic knowledge of warcraft, that he went to Winterfell to start the war he felt was coming.

The Lannisters hate the North. They hated it during that long overdue visit. They hated it so much they did not bother to be sure of Bran's death before they left. The very chill of winter must have upset them greatly.

Last night we got the first of many chapters in the relationship between Tyrion and his father, and it restored me from the anger I felt during last week's dwarfless episode. There is always a halfman in the middle of a war. He survives longer than his brethren because killing him would be an act of cruelty rather than an act of war. In order to accentuate his weakness, Tyrion uses the full thrust of his vocabulary and diminishes his true capabilities whenever possible, reminding me of how I ensured George W. Bush would be elected by a majority of Americans twice.

The problem with centering a television show around the excitement of war, is that real war is too confusing and complex to portray as anything except riotious, hilarious murder. For over three decades, that fraud Roger Ebert would begin every single review of a Vietnam movie by meaningfully citing Francois Truffaut's maxim that you can't make an anti-war movie because films about that subject make war seem like fantastic fun. He would just reuse this opening whenever a Vietnam movie came out, it started to get kind of weird after awhile, like he had just forgotten and we were supposed to pretend we didn't notice.

As in my own case, Truffaut's early years in the French armed forces consisted of him trying to escape his service. Unlike Jon Snow, the reason for escape from his enlistment was not because he wanted to go off and serve in a different war. He had experienced the first excitement of fighting, but once that passed, he realized that nothing else about the experience would be so great.

The first part of anything is the only part worth holding onto. The first time you ask Francis Fukuyama to lie for the sake of his country is the best time. The first minutes of eating a Frosty is a decadent pleasure, the rest recycles past guilt and shame with each wet bite. The first time keying David Frum's Oldsmobile and telling him you saw Puerto Ricans do it is the only time that matters. A chess move only counts with a victim.

I can't even feel bad for Sansa Stark. Arya, at least, is abandoned to the King's Highway. Ned Stark rots in a dungeon. Syrio Forel never dies. Renley Baratheon forces another guy to shave his chest with butter. Robert Baratheon hunts a boar, somewhere. Sansa is held up as an ideal in a time without any, and to watch her naivete fade stirs a warm excretion in my heart. She will never be higher than before she is forced to fall. 

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find last week's Game of Thrones recap here.

"Dead Or In Serious Trouble" - Kaiser Chiefs (mp3)

"Heard It Break" - Kaiser Chiefs (mp3)

"I Dare You" - Kaiser Chiefs (mp3)


In Which We Are Back In Nigeria Now

photo by Femi Adagunodo

Return to Lagos


I have come back to Nigeria many times, but not like this. Usually it's after a month or two away after a summer in somewhere, bracing myself for the blast of heat as I exit the plane. One time, I boarded a bus from Accra to Lagos at seven in the morning; I slept my way until Togo, but woke up at each border to eat the local street food and see, just beyond, the deep, shining blue of ocean just off the beach.

That was my easiest return; during my internship at a microfinance organization, I had three months of Accra sun and nightlife to reacclimatize myself to life in West Africa, to remind myself of life before farmers' market brunches and hour-long hang-outs at coffeeshops, of the pointlessness of wiping the sweat of my forehead, of the heat of hot peppers and roasted sweet potatoes after work, of how much I liked the music of languages I did not understand, and of my distaste for instant coffee.

This last return, however, was a one-way ticket. I crammed my last five years into suitcases and cardboard boxes. I left for London a day before my visa expired, before pushing my way into a humid Lagos evening. As the fact of my leaving slowly dawned on me with the crawling past of days and weeks, everything began to look like an image of itself taken from afar. I watched everything, from dinners and long walks to bellini brunches, turn from its vivid blue to a dreamy sepia, as though I was looking at myself in an old photograph that I had only just taken, and wondering how quickly this picture was aging and fraying at its edges. I had spent four years in college, and a year after that working in the U.S. I have traveled and made friends there. This return was more permanent.

Back in Lagos now, I have an older pair of eyes. Nigeria is no longer a place of childhood imagination and birthday parties. Though I do not see this as where I came of age, the fact that it is my home has become more true than at any other time in my life.

It is always understood when you leave Nigeria as a Nigerian that you will return at some point. There is family, after all, probably weddings or, worse still, funerals. And it's not like every minute you are away you aren't wondering what new club has opened, what new slang people are using, what new artist is making waves. Diaspora Nigerians fresh from weeks of partying in Lagos return to regale you with stories of change and mobile phones, of parties that could make Fitzgerald dizzy with jetsetters and entrepreneurs. Nigeria is an escalator of a country, forever moving upwards towards another level that is shinier, more luxurious than the one we left behind. We are a people in transit, living our lives as though forever stuck in the London-to-Lagos terminal in Heathrow. We always seem to be going somewhere, always seem to be moving.

But you have to have been gone for about twenty years to fall for this trick.

What strikes me most about Nigeria is not what's changed, but what's stayed the same. More precisely, how much has stayed the same. It is this constant state of movement that makes what stays the same so poignant.

photo by Femi Adagunodo

Nigerian films are actually a very good example of this. No matter how much nicer the houses used for the films are, how much more money the actors make, how much more popular the films get, the films are and always have been cautionary tales, one-dimensional portrayals on marriage and the dangers of living an ungodly, heathenish life. Europe has its monsters and folk tales. America has its superheroes. Nigeria has Jesus. Religion has shown itself to be the length and breadth of our collective imagination, providing answers to questions that we seem to have. That has always been the case. It has not changed. Not one bit.

Clerks in offices gather round the television set when they should be working during the day; that's just what happens. I was watching a Yoruba film the other day while doing some printing. A woman decided to flee from the home she shared with her husband because she was tired of enduring his beatings and incessant cheating. Nollywood films tend to take to heart the notion the passage somewhere in the Book of Matthew where Jesus praises the righteous, the children, and the suffering "for theirs in the kingdom of heaven."

Perhaps Nigerians collectively so approve of the portrait of the long-suffering wife because we see ourselves in it. If a leadership and its people are a sort of marriage in which a nation is born, the home in which Nigeria inhabits has not been a happy one for a long time. The Nigeria of my mother's youth, with its top-class universities and good, clean buses and roads and lending money to England with currency worth more than the U.S. dollar is unrecognizable when compared what we see now.

She used to go to Tafawa Balewa Square and Kingsway Mall to shop on weekends. She took buses – clean ones, with uniformed conductors, even tickets! When she was younger, she would say, her voice low and the corners of her mouth turned down in the opposite of a smile, Ile dun. Literally, "home was sweet." But my generation was spared the slow decaying of our home. We did not have to watch the paint chip off the walls, the growth of moss in green streaks along the fences, the bats swooping their way in at night and splattering our floors with shit. We never had to see it happened. I have not known Nigeria any other way. I have no idea if that's a good thing or not.

Indeed, so much has changed between then and now. Military regimes that cared more about stripping the Niger-Delta for its oil than catering to the needs of its people; people silenced to death by one military despot and another; people fleeing from Lagos to London; people crossing the Sahara desert to be treated like shit in North Africa or Spain or Netherlands; people trading their bodies for money in brothels in Scandinavian Europe and Italy; people trading in their advanced degrees for taxi cabs in NY.

Five minutes after arriving in New York, I met Niyi, a cab driver with, as he put it, a sixth sense about fishing out Nigerians in a crowd. He was pleased to finally be able to speak to someone in Yoruba, and happily told me about his moving to New York from Lagos six years before. He could take care of his mother and brother back home much better in New York as a cab driver, even if he had to trade in his chemical engineering degree from the University of Lagos to do it. It's a familiar story in Nigeria. A lot of us do resettle and make our own happy endings. Some of us do travel abroad and make lives for ourselves that we couldn't dream of in our own homes. Who knew that you could sustain a coffee addiction and a gym membership on a taxi drivers' salary? Niyi joked to me. He'd like to one day move back home to his family. Of course he does.

There is a good reason only 37 percent of Americans own passports; nobody if they can help it really wants to leave their home, and even less would do it willingly for particularly long stretches of time. But our leaders are never home, and we as a collective have mastered the art of sitting at home reading bible verses and waiting for Jesus to fly in and save us, Superman-style. Suffering and smiling, Fela once said. Our home has crumbled a long time ago, but we somehow can't find our feet to leave. Even those of us who do leave, like Niyi, find that we are still living in it.

I was done with my printing when the film was finishing. One of the women gathered around the television, a heavyset woman in her thirties with penciled-in eyebrows and ruby red lips, spat orange seeds into her palm and shook her head. 'God knows best, sha." A clerk, after handing me some documents to take to my boss laughed at her, "You mean you will stay if man beat you like that?"

"No!" she exclaimed. "When I haven't forgotten the way to my parent's house, I will go and let somebody come and beat me and bring his girlfriends to our matrimonial bed?” Everybody in the room laughed. The channel had switched to commercials, after which another film would begin. Nobody made any move to leave; they always stayed for both afternoon showings.

That is how to watch Nigerian movies, with a wink and nod, a roll of the eyes. This is how to watch Nigeria.

photo by Femi Adagunodo

I remember listening in on long conversations on Nigeria between family friends in Los Angeles, and laughed at some of the things they would say. The searing heat of Abuja that leaves your body bathed in sweat if you stood outside for more than ten minutes meant our skin always looks fresher. A constant source of irritation for me, like not having 24-hour electricity, would become a source of unpredictability, something that forges strength in Nigerians and fortifies our sense of get-with-it-ness. Ghanaians were pansies, they'd say, for expecting their government to tell them what hours they would not have light, and to abide by the schedule. Nigerians are the best and brightest in the world, they would tell me, and talk about those white people their kids went to school with who did not know left from right, or those black Americans who got pregnant at the age of 16. On some Nigerian websites and platforms, people wax poetic about their Naija Pride and envisioning a country better that it currently is, and how all we have to do is band together. Take initiative. Dream big. Take a stand.

In the eyes of so many Nigerians, I do not see my country at all. Some among us talk like we have never had our heroes, but we have. Gani Fawehinmi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, so many of them. They have lived. They have died. They have been tortured and imprisoned. We were not always so collectively docile. Films about Jesus the Superhero would never have taken root in Nigeria of the 1950s, the 60s, the 70s. Apathy has joined the rapidly declining list of things that poor people can afford; we are the only ones who can afford to hope. This hope makes us overestimate our number and distracts us from the reality that the escalator is not moving up quite as much as we like think. Our progress, so much ours than everyone's, draws attention away from the intractable problems that are the bane of Nigeria.

But I now live here. And I am one of these people. Unapologetically so. To our credit, nobody in Nigeria romanticizes being poor. Being driven in the air-conditioned comfort of my car to school in the mornings, or to a friend's birthday party in swanky Lagos neighborhoods, or to lunch somewhere on the island, or to a hang out with friends on weekends, there were street children or older men with bodies bent over with leprosy begging for money. You hear casually about guys who have had their first sexual experiences with prepubescent housemaids that may not have thought they had the choice to say no. You hear about those girls from villages in central-eastern Nigeria who move to European countries to work as prostitutes. Unlike well-to-do people in developed countries, we all have some foggy idea of what it is like to not live with the luxuries we have.

The triumph of wealth here is how far one can remove oneself from Nigeria while living in Nigeria. People who can afford to run their diesel-powered electric generators round the clock. They make sure to travel out of the country every year. And while internet in Nigeria has its vagaries, you are never without a BlackBerry subscription, iPad, or internet modem for your laptop. It's not like things always run smoothly; the cell phone network may be problematic for hours, maybe even days; you may be living in a place with a petrol scarcity because the government wouldn't pay oil workers; a diesel scarcity could interrupt your near-constant electicity supply. Nigeria's many inefficiencies will find a way to insinuate themselves into your life. Wealth does not change that completely; it just makes Nigeria work harder to get in your way.

At the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport in Abuja, I overheard two seemingly wealthy businessmen in conversation. One was tall and skinny with his new iPad on his lap, looking around him to see where he could charge his iPhone. The other was dark and pudgy, in an expensive-looking blue suit with a red tie. The man in the suit tells his friend that he voted for the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan. He nods in approval when he realizes that his friend did, too. "It's not like it matters who you vote for. I don't expect Nigeria to change much in the next 5 to 10 years. All I know is that I will make money, and so will you."

I got up to board my flight, feeling slightly disgusted with the sentiment, but finding it true nonetheless. All situations, however dismal, create their own interest groups, people who depend on their existence. These interest groups, however little they number, get stronger the longer the status quo persists. These people, men and women and the children of men like these, number to probably no more than 10 percent of the country, and it is to them, to us, that Nigeria is another country, a much different one than the one most people live in. It's true that nothing monumental might happen in our immediate future. It is true that our current crop of leaders, having established a business friendly-enough atmosphere to satisfy the needs of those who it will be unwise to leave discontent, will probably do no worse than they have done now. But I don't know this for sure. Nobody a few years ago would have predicted the revolutions currently sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, after all.

All I knew, on that day, with my bag strapped over my shoulders, is that I had a flight to catch. I know that when I arrive in Lagos, the traffic between Airport Road and Toyin Street would have eased up considerably. I knew that I had a room in my hotel waiting for me, with a bed with white sheets that I couldn't wait to dive into. I take comfort in these small certainties. They keep me from asking helpless questions, from throwing my hands in despair. I need it, especially I'm reminded of everything that contributes to making a life at home seem so pointless. I spend much of my days like this, not looking too far ahead of me, or much farther behind. Regardless of what happens in a week from now, or a year from now, that much is true. And because I am fortunate, it is enough.

Saratu Abiola is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Lagos. This is her first appearance in these pages. She twitters here and blogs here.

Photographs by Femi Adagunodo.

photo by Femi Adagunodo

"Sorrowing Man" - City and Colour (mp3)

"Hope For Now" - City and Colour (mp3)

"Silver and Gold" - City and Colour (mp3)

The new album from City and Colour, Little Hell, will be released on June 7th and you can purchase it here.


In Which Her Good Skin Says It All

Carriage Ride


Of Manhattan’s 96 minutes, 25 of them swap comedy for candor and the veneer of midlife fitfulness for a snowy and plainspoken 17-year-old Dalton girl named Tracy. While she only occupies a quarter of the film's runtime - thirteen scenes, one cry, one carriage ride, five toppings on her pie, two close-ups, and the line, "Let's do it some strange way that you've always wanted to do it" - Manhattan belongs to Mariel Hemingway.

From the moment we see her sitting at Elaine’s with her 42-year-old lover, Isaac (Woody Allen), and his married friends, Yale and Emily, Hemingway typifies teenage limbo: a discomfort with oneself that for a lucky few, can yield the most luminous glow. As Yale waxes about "the essence of art" with Isaac, and as Emily, on cue, rolls her eyes and apologizes, "We've had this argument for 20 years," Tracy smiles and accepts. Her age and inexperience might keep her on the periphery this time, but her silence and presence, and elbows resting keenly on the table, suggest considerable aplomb.

Tanned and wearing a dark crewneck sweatshirt, teardrop necklace, and her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, Tracy's softness is offset by her sturdiness. She looks like she might have, moments before arriving at Elaine's, practiced her serve and volley in P.E. or finished her lifeguard shift at the local pool. She is incandescent in the summer and dimmed in the winter. She is Coppertone® and Hyannis Port personified.

In a piece titled, "The Littlest Hemingway" in a June 1979 issue of People, Kristin McMurran describes Mariel's first Cannes experience. "It had been a full day — a morning jog, four interviews (her French is serviceable), a TV short and a rich lunch at the three-star Le Moulin de Mougins—all amid the hustlers and hookers, yachts and yes-men that characterize the international film festival. Now "Merts" (her childhood nickname) was preparing for her big night."

On the opposite page, a photograph of the back of Hemingway's head topped with "a sprig of flowers in her hair" reveals Cannes' vintage cross of glamour and mania — a cascade of tuxedoed photographers wrestling for room on the red carpet and a shot of the young actress. With frenzy of that kind, one can only imagine that Hemingway's smile was akin to Tracy's: shy and appreciative, as if her cheeks and lips were somehow curtsying. Later, as the film's final moments played, Hemingway nearly fainted in the theater. "A doctor was summoned, and Mariel fell into a deep sleep while the others caroused until dawn at the party in her honor downstairs," McMurran writes. "The next morning Mariel blinked awake. 'Did I ruin everything?'"

Her reaction at Cannes matches Tracy's type of distress — one that she too affects with questions rather than statements. At Ike's apartment while she reads reclined on his couch, looking miniature against his wall of books, she responds to his own doubts about their relationship with, "Well don't you have any feelings for me?," "Well don't you want me to stay over?" The following Sunday night at the pizza parlor, upon receiving a letter in the mail accepting her to the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in London, she asks Ike, "So what happens to us?" Her featherweight voice (with the inflection of a foreigner) — that in some moments squeaks like "the mouse in the Tom & Jerry cartoon" — appears extra shaky when speaking about matters of the heart. For her, nothing is more perilous than those matters.

Tracy is not yet cynical; she hasn't been corrupted. She hasn't begun referring to friends as "geniuses" and art as "derivative." She insists on "fooling around" instead of fighting in bed. She thumbs her earlobes when she's listening and combs her hair until it's soft. She begins sentences with "Well" and "Guess what?" and asks Isaac "to have a little faith in people."

In the film's most devastating scene, the two sit at a soda shop; him with his harmonica and her with her milkshake. Here Hemingway looks especially pure. Her hair is wrapped tight in a french twist, her cardigan is creased on the sleeves (either new or ironed,) and a single ring sits on her pinky finger. Her wide elfin features and thick eyebrows appear holy; the product of one single brushstroke or carved painstakingly out of wax. The moment's melancholy anticipates itself and Isaac breaks up with Tracy. While she dips in and out of adolescence — "Gee, now I don't feel so good" and "I can't believe that you met someone that you like better than me" — her sincerity and logic remain heartbreaking. She lists what they had going for each other and the tally, for any couple, is near perfect.

1. We have laughs together

2. I care about you

3. Your concerns are my concerns

4. We have great sex

While Mariel is no Tracy and Tracy is no Mariel — "I'm different. I'm from Idaho," she told McMurran — their reactions to life are rich and replete with teenage-speak and sage musings. It's no wonder that lines like, "Are you kidding me? You should talk!" came so easily to Hemingway who described her Persian cat to People as "such a nerd" and scoffed at Woody's initial interest in her: "Give me a break." That duality of perceiving oneself and others at a young age while also staying young is incredibly rare and is what freed Manhattan of any precociousness and caprice.

Tracy possesses you like the giant she is, standing five inches taller than Woody, able to cup his head like a basketball or drink it like a coconut with a straw. But her personality compliments and her thoughts are sound: "Maybe we're meant to have a series of relationships at different lengths," or better, "You keep stating [the break up] like it's to my advantage when it's you that wants to get out of it."

In real life too, her words were undisguised: "I feel closer to adulthood now, but it makes me sad. I get excited and depressed. If I have a problem I go to someone or just let it out by screaming and crying. Some people are too young when they become famous. I think I'm old enough to handle it now."

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She twitters here and tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Teen People magazine.

with her sister Margaux

"Red Hunting Jacket" - Little Scream (mp3)

"People Is Place" - Little Scream (mp3)

"The Boatman" - Little Scream (mp3)