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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

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In Which We Destroy The Myth Of Living Abroad

Live Tigers


We were trying to find a place called Fairy Hill, but no one knew where it was. I bought six hangers from a man on the street, who was standing next to several other men also selling hangers in groups of six. I paid roughly 75 cents for six hangers and was acutely aware that I was being ripped off. After I had stuffed the hangers into my bag, we carried onward in the direction we thought would take us to Fairy Hill. Several hundred yards later, we held a meeting in the street.

"Are we sure we’re going the right way?" I asked my friend, keeper of the guidebook.

"I think so. I can’t tell if we were supposed to turn back there or not."

"That didn't look like it'd take us anywhere."

"We could keep walking."

I have a friend at the grocery store now. His name is Abloo (though this is questionable as I still have trouble with his accent). We have met three days in a row because on each of those days, I was bored enough with my own company to walk to the grocery store and buy more food. I bought a broom from Abloo and it was broken so I went back to ask for a new one. Instead, we talked about Sri Lanka.

"The people there, they are very fat."

"Is that so?” I asked. "You didn't like it there."

"No, the people are too fat. But you, you are very slim."

"Thanks," I said. I thought about the nine pounds of chicken biryani I had eaten the night before. I grabbed an operable broom from the shelf and he swung it like a light saber.

A man wearing a dark gray t-shirt, dress pants and leather slip-on sandals, and carrying a black leather briefcase came up to us and asked if we needed help.

"We're trying to find Fairy Hill. Do you know it?" my friend asked the man.

"The hill? Which hill? Near? Is it near?"

I gestured for her to show the man our map. He began reading about Fairy Hill. "Fairy Hill is said to be named for the fairies and genies that were believed to occupy it when the Sufi saint Badar Shah first came to Chittagong. Legend says that he made a number of requests . . .”

We found his desire to impress us with his English charming at first. But he continued.

". . . to the fairies before they would allow him to build a place of worship. It's behind the main post office and New Market — climb the path leading off Jubilee Road just north of the pedestrian bridge near New Market. Ask directions for the High Court, the building on top of the hill. Fairy Hill was the common name during the Raj era and is rapidly being forgotten."

When the man had reached the end of the Lonely Planet description, we’d amassed a crowd, a common occurrence for us in Chittagong. To my right was an elderly, toothless man with a threadbare cloth covering the bottom half of his body. He had his hand held out to me and was mumbling. Behind and beyond our group of five girls were rickshaw drivers pausing mid-pedal as they watched.

One adolescent boy stood near, but not too near, regarding us with an obvious genuine interest that betrayed his attempt to seem aloof. Our guide didn’t say anything when he finished reading. Instead, he intently studied the book’s tiny and poorly labeled map.

"So . . . do you know where that is?" my friend asked, slightly impatient now.

"Ah, it is near D.C. Hill. I live there. Near D.C. Hill." The man then began to read the section on D.C. Hill. The five of us exchanged tired glances. "I take you, I know where it is. It is near where I live." We followed.

When friends complain about my lack of blog posts, I send them photos. Here. This is me with a funny-looking sign. And look, a photo of a poorly translated menu item. Finally, some friends and I sitting on a roof at sunset.

My apartment has a large window at its south end and it looks out over a trash pit with wild dogs and one goat. There is also a cliff where several cows graze perilously. I went to the roof of my apartment building to see how close they get to the edge. I determined that they get really close, reminding me of the time my brother’s dog walked into our pool. Cows aren't very smart. Neither are dogs.

The walk ended up being much longer than we had anticipated, and several times my friends and I looked at one another with discontent. Should we be following a strange man to a strange hill in a strange city? Not to mention, the teenage boy from earlier who’d pretended to not care had been trailing us since our map conference, staring intently at each of our faces for prolonged portions of the walk. We tried to speak to him to garner information about where we were.

“How old are you?”

Coy smile.

“Do you know where we are going?”

“Fairy Hill.”

“Is that man your dad?”

Coy smile.

We were told by the man leading us that the hill to our right was D.C. Hill and that Fairy Hill was coming up.

"No, no, that’s okay, we’ll just check this out instead." We had all telepathically decided to get out now. Despite his pleas to allow him to take us farther, we were avoiding potentially getting ourselves into trouble by disembarking then. The man walked off, while the teenager lingered. All six of us stood in front of D.C. Hill, our second choice for hill visits in the city of Chittagong.

There was an ice cream seller, several homeless men, and an armed guard. There were some scattered leaves and a pile of garbage. We tried to walk to the top of the hill, but the armed guard turned us away. My head hurt.

"Can we go home?"

"Yeah." So much for hills.

None of the clothes fit me in Bangladesh. My friend said it was because "you have a large chest." I didn’t like hearing that very much, so I walked away, leaving her near the saris while I went to buy a mug.

The myth of living abroad, particularly in a developing country, is that you must show the impact the country is having on you and impact you are having on the country. Last night I watched four episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and made a cucumber salad.

From the moment I arrived in Chittagong, there was the notion among my loved ones that what I am doing at any given moment is far more interesting than what they are doing. They perceive that I am living the life of an intrepid traveler, that I sleep in my hiking boots and drink water out of a Camelbak or anorak or whatever the hell gallant adventurers drink water out of (a gourd?). The truth is that I don’t own hiking boots and I drink water from a glass. I don't like granola. I feel that I have little to report.

When we travel, we’re predisposed to feel unusual and to like it. We want to find the newness in everything because we know that our warm beds and close friends are waiting at home for us with cold beers and their undivided attentions. It is living that I am getting used to. That is what causes me to feel so empty-handed in my correspondence — living is an entirely different monster. Even in the things that are different and strange, I look for similarity and comfort. It would exhaust me to feel genuinely shocked by every new cultural element. I want the neighborhood Shwapno to be my new 7-11. I want to convince myself that rice is bread, rickshaws are taxis.

We saw the Bay of Bengal. We had taken a short trip down to Patenga Beach, where they sell puka shell necklaces at beachside stands, just like at the Jersey shore.

G.E.C. Circle is a roundabout in the center of Chittagong, where crossing the street is more dangerous than triple bypass heart surgery performed by a randomly selected attendee at a Hannah Montana concert. There are no traffic lights and the crosswalks are a joke played on any tourist who takes them seriously. CNGs and buses will barrel confidently ahead despite seeing a crowd of ten or more people about to be decimated at their hands. At night, a bizarre metal fountain structure is lit with green lights and sprays thin lines of water into the air while the madness carries on around it; billboards and signs are illuminated in neon colors, as well. I’ve taken to calling this area Times Square, but even that isn’t an accurate representation of its life-threatening insanity.

We found an ice cream parlor on G.E.C. Circle recently, which seems like a relatively benign discovery unless you’re in a group of twelve women with a dangerous need for satiation and shelter. Everything about the parlor felt familiar, from the selections (cookies 'n' cream, pistachio) to the highly decadent sundae options. There was even soft serve. It was disgusting how quickly we found indescribable joy in what was in front of us. We had, in so many ways, walked through a warped door to our old worlds where frozen yogurt and chocolate syrup were as available as Netflix and H&M. When we were inside, eating ice cream silently around a little table, we forgot what madness existed outside of the doors. We were working on raising our life expectancy rates by staying within the parlor.

At the table next to us were three late-20s men in business suits. It was nearing six o’clock — they must have come straight from work. They were socializing loudly and playing around on their smartphones. They had ordered multi-layer sundaes with syrups, nuts, the whole bit. Before I could even stop myself from thinking it, my brain was translating this activity from a casual post-work treat to Bangladeshi happy hour. Attempting to live in a new culture on my old culture’s terms was proving to be occasionally inadequate.

Tonight we gather together at a friend's apartment. We will walk home a few hours later with our heads covered and our wits about us. Tomorrow we will be visiting Jobra, the village birthplace of the Grameen Bank. Our Bangladeshi friend is taking us fabric shopping this weekend so that we might get our own shalwar kameezs tailored. This is happy news for my large chest. In the future there are plans for visiting Dhaka (the capital), the Sundarbans (where live tigers crush skulls), and the tea plantations of Sylhet. We have trips on the horizon to Nepal, India and Thailand, most of which are as yet unplanned and complicated. I have asked if I will have to drink out of a gourd while hiking in Nepal. The answer is no.

Dayna Evans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Bangladesh. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

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"Chloe in the Afternoon" - St. Vincent (mp3)

"Surgeon" - St. Vincent (mp3)

"Cruel" - St. Vincent (mp3)

The new album from St. Vincent is titled Strange Mercy. It will be released on September 13th and you can preorder it here.


In Which John Cassavetes Keeps A Part Of Himself Alive

The Defenseless Thing

John Cassavetes' 1974 production of A Woman Under the Influence represented the pinnacle of his artistic collaboration with Gena Rowlands. He wrote her one of the most complex and dramatic female roles in cinematic history: Mabel Longhetti, a "mentally unstable" wife to a construction worker, mother of three, Los Angeles housewife. The echoes of time have ensured that her performance, ostensibly an alienating portrayal of a "crazy woman", possesses the characteristics of a far more nuanced individual. In his notes about the production of A Woman Under the Influence, Cassavetes muses at length about how his relationship with his wife informed the writing of the role, creating a shadow puppet theater of his own life. He begins by describing the differences between himself and Gena.

I know when I was not working, and Gena was working for me, I was a pretty good housewife and everything else. But I didn't really have the same reactions as a woman would have. Mainly because I didn't have to be a housewife the rest of my life. I didn't have to think into the future of when I'd get older or when my attractiveness would fade, or when the kids would grow up or when the baby would cease to cling to you, and you're not really a mother then, and you have to think, well, should I be the friend or should I be the mother?

Gena and I were speaking about the pictures we were going to make, how the roles are so thin and everything is made so a narrative can work. We were talking about how difficult love was and how tough it could be to make a love story about people who were totally different culturally, coming from two different family groups that were diametrically opposed and yet still regarded each other very highly. I kept thinking about that. Gena and I are absolutely dissimilar in everything we think, do and feel.

Beyond that, men and women are totally different. When I started writing the scripts, I kept these things in mind and didn't want the love story easy. I made a lot of discoveries about my own life.

I absolutely wrote A Woman Under the Influence to try to write a terrific part for my wife. Gena wanted to do a play. She was always complaining we're living in California, she loves the theater and everything. Gena really wanted to do a play on Broadway. And I had always fancied that I would write a play. She wanted something big. She said, "Now look, deal with it from a woman's point of view. I mean deal with it so that I have a part in this thing!" and I said, "OK," and I went off and had been thinking about it for a year anyway. And I had taken seven or eight tries at bad plays and came up with this play, which was not the play the movie was, but it was based on the same characters.

And Gena read it and said, no, she wouldn't do it. And I'm very stubborn so I didn't realize that she liked the part but that on the stage, to play that every night, would kill her. I had no concept of that because we're all obsessed, everyone's obsessed, that is, in this stupid thing. And so I wrote another play on the same subject with the same characters, deepening the characters and making it even more difficult to play. And I gave it to Gena and she said, "I like that tremendously. I like the first one too, but I don't think I could do that on Broadway." So I wrote another play, and now there were three plays! And I took them to New York and I got a producer to produce the plays on Broadway and I thought it was a terrific idea to do these three plays on consecutive nights with matinees, see?

Gena's not a particularly ambitious woman in the trade, as it goes. Although, if she sees a good part, she'll kill herself for it, but I mean kill herself performing it, but not getting it. I mean, it's either given to her, or she'll play with the kids or do something else or go out. When Gena read the plays she said, "No one could do this every night!" She feared they would take her to a sanitarium if she became that keyed up over a long period of time. So then I said, well, all right, let's try to make it a movie.

I can't just go out and make what I want. I have to go through a whole big process of crap, talking to people, proving to them that whatever we are going to do is going to make money. If I can prove to them that my intentions are to make money, then they will let me make any film I want. But it becomes increasingly more difficult to tell them that since I'm not concerned with making money.

You con people and you lie to them. You try to keep a little part of yourself when somebody says to you, "You figure it's the greatest picture ever made?" You try to keep a little part of yourself alive.


So I went through all the processes of calling people in Wisconsin and Idaho and, you know, big industrialists, and trying to find out how to raise the money. And we couldn't raise anything, not anything!

Gena tells everyone it's hard to live with me because there is nothing she can say that I don't write down. I see Gena around the house and with the kids and I tape record what I see. I do tape record things and exaggerate them and blow them up and the incidents are not the same. I mean, I'm not a writer at all! I just record what I hear. As prattle. What people are concerned with in a day's living. I have a good ear for prattle. Every line in your life is eaten up by the movies you do.

The preparations for the scripts I've written are really long, hard intense studies. I don't just enter into a film and say, "That's the film we're going to do." I think, "Why make it?" For a long time. I think, "Well, could the people be themselves, does this really happen to people, do they really dream this, do they think this?"

There were weeks of wrestling to get the script right. I knew hard-hat workers like Nick, and Gena knew women like Mabel, and although I wrote everything myself, we would discuss lines and situations with Peter Falk, to get his opinion, to see if he thought they were really true, really honest. The actors discussed the clothes, the characters would be wearing, the influence of money on their lives, the lives of the children, why they sleep on the ground floor, etc.

Everything was discussed, nothing came from me alone. We write a lot of things that aren't in the movie, as background. So that when we got to the scene, you might rewrite on the spot, but we might have already gone in three, four, five, seven, eight, nineteen different versions of the scene.

In replacing narrative, you need an idea. What you do is take an idea that you have about a situation that seems as normal as everyday life so the audience doesn't see the idea. So it doesn't show. Of course the idea itself has to be good. It really has to be first-rate. And the idea in A Woman Under the Influence was a concept of how much you have to pay for love. That's kind of pretentious but I was interested in it. And I didn't know how to do it, and none of the other people knew how either, so we had to work extremely hard.

I knew that love created at once great moments of beauty and that on the other hand it makes you a prisoner. It just seems to me that women are alone and they are made prisoner by their own love. If they commit to something then they have committed to it and it's a torture. And it's true. I mean, I see it in my relationship to Gena. Within such a system, men have always been in a more favorable position they are allowed to test themselves against the rest of the world since they are in contact with it. But I feel it too. A man feels that also. And nobody knows how to handle it. Nobody knows how to handle it.

There's a very small part of all of us that has any kind of value. I think there's a small part of us that says we'd like to say something better than what is usually said, on the purest level. And the rest of it is con-men and struggling people just like everyone else where you're constantly humiliated and go through life, even if you're not humiliated, thinking you are.

And then you get very lucky and you meet a group of creative people that are very much like you who are locked up in their own selves, trying to come out, trying in some way to express something that is very personal to them.

When Gena was committed by Peter and she went to an institution, and as the film says, six months later she comes out I would have thought that she would be so hostile against her husband. But she comes in the house and she never even acknowledges his presence. She's only considering her children.

And we did a take, and I thought, "Should I stop this? I mean, she never even looked at Peter." She walks in the house and everyone greets her and she never looks at her husband I mean, she looks at him, but she never sees him, yet she's not avoiding him. And I thought, well, that's the defenseless thing carrying itself too far here! What are we doing?

All through that homecoming scene I was astounded by what was underneath people, what these actors had gathered in the course of this movie. And I was way behind them. I was staggered because Gena was so quiet and mild. She wasn't hostile at all. I started yelling because I thought she was acting so the audience would like her, but I was wrong. She was expressing fear, which separated her from the people she loved.

When we looked at the dailies, Gena said, "What do you think? I'm at a loss, did we go too far?" And I said, "I didn't like it, I just didn't like it at all." I mean, I found it really embarrassing to watch.

It was just such a horrible thing to do to somebody, to take her into a household with all those people after she'd been in an institution, and their inability to speak to this woman could put her right back in an institution, and yet they were speaking to her, and Gena wanted to get rid of them and at the same time not insult them. But then I thought what Gena did was like poetry. It altered the narrative of the piece. The dialogue was the same, but it really made it different. I would grow to love those scenes very, very much, but the first time I didn't.

By the time you get him to the beach the beach scene, I think, is wonderful, and Peter is wonderful because he has absolutely no idea what he is doing there. I had the camera down there and they just started walking. I never went near them and they are walking and Peter has some lines and he says the lines and then they don't know what to do. Now I could tell them, but that would kill it. What different does it make what he does? He has to do it. I can't do it. The camera can move. It can follow, you know. So where they play that scene and what they do has to be in their own timing. And when Peter gets there at the end of the beach and he pushes the little girl down, there was a wonderful moment. I see him trying to communicate with his children. I see him trying to touch. I see him not caring.

I see so many things that developed that wouldn't have if you formalized a view of the character through your own mind and didn't allow room for interpretation. I wrote it and as soon as I wrote it I killed the writer. There is no writer because the writer can only make the actor feel insecure. I have been in a lot of movies and as soon as the writer would come on the set everyone died. Because the writer knows exactly how everyone should be played, exactly what the intentions are. But writing is one medium and film is another medium.

You can find Molly Lambert's review of John Cassavetes' Husbands here.

"Repetition" - ZAZA (mp3)

"Sooner or Later" - ZAZA (mp3)

"Always On" - ZAZA (mp3)


In Which We Find Ourselves Pet Detectives No More

Hazy Days


Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan

Condi Rice recently lashed out at me because I suggested in these memoirs that she cried in my office. And so what if she did, exactly? I've cried twice this week, and I can scarcely remember seven days that elapsed when I didn't. I cried reading Friday's TR, I cried when Princess Diana first wore a crown (for the death of England, natch) and I cried after reading Ender's Game. For some reason the entire premise of genetically engineered orphans always gets the waterworks flowing.

Here are some of the other times I remember weeping like a baby. (In the Pentagon we called them "wepts", like, "My So-Called Life gave me one hell of a wept last night.")

- When Molly Young deleted her tumblr; I was like, "WHY DIDN'T I MAKE SCREENCAPS"

- Nine times during Brideshead Revisited. Being British, or even knowing a British person, is just about the saddest thing I can imagine. Each time you come to an old townhouse near Shropshire you're overcome, and that kind of vulnerability touches me deeply;

- the homophobic lyrics of Katy Perry;

- The day in 1994 when it was no longer OK to say "Allrighty then" and generally pretend to be Ace Ventura;

- When they freed the West Memphis Three and Eddie Vedder was like, "G chord";

- The idea that Kate Winslet is eventually going to turn into that horrible old woman in Titanic;

- Whenever anyone's an orphan and is taken in by caring parents, especially in the third world;

- Seeing another man cry, especially if he was on CSI;

- Anytime someone reblogs Andrew Sullivan approvingly;


- Anytime someone uses the name Robert Downey Jr with a positive connotation;

miss when u weren't trying so hard

- When Jonah Hill got thin and looked like the Scarecrow in Oz and/or the thought of someone caring about his godawful animated series;

- The old West was sad as shit;

- Every single moment Michelle Williams dresses up as a dead or suicided ingenue;

- After the Mission Accomplished banner on that aircraft carrier, but it was tears of joy.

Despite my ample experience working the tear ducts, watching Breaking Bad's Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) do the weeping last night came as something of a shock. One disturbingly emotional moment fuels every man's drive for power. Winston Churchill's entire political career happened because one of his young classmates told him to stick a ceramic vase up his fat ass.

Yes, the traumatic loss of Gustavo's first chemist partner, and possibly his Chilean lover, brought on tears we haven't seen from the man in any previous episode. Gustavo, in fact, never seems to break his steely countenance. He never laughs, which is the one universal sign that the person sitting across the table from you is, in fact, human.

The men and women of Breaking Bad usually make a habit of showing us their humanity. Last night's episode began with Walt (Bryan Cranston) at the doctor for a cancer checkup. As a newly diagnosed patient lapses into reverie about the hopelessness of his condition, Walt disabuses him of his sorrowful notions: "Live life on your own terms. To hell with your cancer. Every life comes with a death sentence." This reality check itself is enough to get most men wet and teary, but not Walt. He's fresh out of salty discharge. Like Gus, he's well into the anger and resentment phase that Jesse (Aaron Paul) expresses by playing video games.

If you really analyze it, there is no human experience without pathos. Just watching John Edwards wake up in the morning or try to rationalize a single thing he's ever done is enough to get a hard wept out of Dick Cheney lately. The very sight of the wonderful new home Jesse made possible for his ex-girlfriend and her son, and the way he is unable to credit himself for doing a good thing is sadder than when all the lower class passengers were not permitted in the lifeboats.

Gus was questioned by the DEA last night, and his ample excuses for the fingerprints they found in the apartment of one Gale Boetticher dimmed the suspicion of law enforcement. His steely countenance as he took the elevator up to the place where he might meet his end was also quite moving.

Maybe I've just gone soft. When I wake up on a typical Sunday, I don't even feel the urge to light my neighbor's copy of the Sunday Times on fire. My wife Lynne said, "Dick, when you don't even want to set fire to a newspaper containing the writing of Paul Krugman, I have to worry about our future together." I said, "Quiet, I'm watching a YouTube of Stevie Nicks lip-synching 'Wild Heart'."

DEA agent Hank Schrader's rehabilitation from gunshot wounds, first inspired by a hospital handjob and then by the potential investigation of Mr. Fring, was enough to get most of the conversatives I watch Sunday night TV with ensconced in velvet tears. Usually it's hard to focus on the episode in my house, because whenever Jesse Pinkman shows up on screen, Grover Norquist is screaming, "Stop whining!" or Laura Ingraham is yelling, "Take off your shirt!"

Last week's amazing sequence, which featured Pinkman telling off the director of his Narcotics Anonymous support group, deserves more Emmys than Matthew Weiner has in storage. This was the best theater since Neil Simon's Chapter Two. I'm considering getting a tattoo of this entire scene permanently inscribed on my colon.

Listening to this scene more than once inspires a litany of different reactions. At first, there is stark approval of Jesse's destruction of the entire therapeutic purpose of a support group. Then, astonishment at the honesty of everyone involved, especially the group's alcoholic leader. Lastly, a hatred of everything that exists to bring about such an annihilating moment.

We think it takes one thing to make us cry, that something sad itself is enough to disturb the calm of our face, the twitching of our ears, tension in the cheekbones. But it is our own mental state that takes primacy: a instinct designed for self-preservation. Nothing, then, could be more tormenting than what we ourselves become in the moment of collapse. To overwhelm the gravity of the feeling, we attempt to transcend it through self-importance. When we weep, we're saying, "Me! Me! Me! Me! Me."

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of his work on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about shame.

"Capitol City" - Wilco (mp3)

"Rising Red Lung" - Wilco (mp3)

"I Might" - Wilco (mp3)

The new album from Wilco, The Whole Love, is available on September 23rd and you can preorder it here.