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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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Thursday
Dec212017

In Which We Pack Everything Away

photo by thomas bollier

Before It Went Cold

by LEAH BUCKLEY

I’m not telling the whole story. There are intentions to which I am blind, which have almost certainly dictated that certain parts of the truth have been be occluded. I can’t tell you which parts, because I am engaged in hiding them from myself. So I’ll tell a story as if it were true, and hopefully it will hold together by some mutual tensions of its component parts.

Pete and I met early in the school year at a party. It was cold for October, but the room was so warm that the windows dripped with condensation like the walls of a shower. I can remember noticing his body first, seductive with a drumming energy.

“Good evening.” His teeth were surprisingly white for a musician, and square. His hooded drunk eyes slipped open and closed around the room until they landed on me.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I know you,” I replied. It was a lie; I saw him almost everyday in the back of the library. McGill had a strict no-shoes policy to protect the library’s wooden floors, and I blushed, realizing that I even recognized the socks he was standing in now.  “And what’s the story with the dog tags? Are you planning on dying in battle?”

“If I die, it will be doing my duty, baby.” He swung a leg over the top of the grubby couch and climbed down next to me. The corroding leather sagged and our bodies edged together. I breathed in his smell –  nicotine and old spice.

“I’ll tell you what though,” he smiled at me with those big white teeth. “I’m bored to death here.”

That night I felt so alive I could barely breathe. We left the party together and he kissed me hard in the bitter winter cold. I wanted more of him, and had to fight a compulsion to scream. As he unlocked his door I tried to slow my breathing. Entering the tight stairwell, a wave of heat rose from his body in front of me on the stairs. Shadows fell over us as we wrestled in the darkness. Mystery made me hungry and my hands reached for every torrid part of him, felt the weight of him, untamed and rapacious. His dog tags swung from his neck and the cold metal hit my lips. I grabbed a hold of them, pulling him closer. My sense of time and space refracted, and everything collapsed into this minute.

photo by thomas bollier

I woke up to the taste of metal in my mouth. I was jarringly sober and naked, breathing in the unfamiliar smell of his apartment, moist, sultry and far from fresh. He stirred and I slowed my breathing, allowing only my eyes to slit back and forth. Who was this man? His bedroom didn't tell much. A basement apartment, it was claustrophobic and sunken, with a tiny window above the bed that looked out onto the ankles of passersby. His bedside table hosted an array of things and I began to conjure up an idea of him. This was a man who chewed spearmint gum, and had a sewing kit. He owned an antique portrait of a woman propped up on the floor next to crumpled up athletic shorts. He read Descartes in French, and bookmarked passages with guitar pics. He was also a heavy sleeper, indifferent as I slunk out of the bottom of the bed against the wall. As I tiptoed up the stairs, giddy from my escape, I began to piece together the night. Unwittingly, I’d already started crafting a story.

I woke up beside him the next night, and the night after. Everything about this romance felt novel, and Pete glistened with newness. I was obsessed with the way that I must look to him, and would glance at myself in windows as we walked together to try and see what he saw. I loved the way he said my name. His voice had an exotic color, not the flat metallic tone of the Great Lakes, with it’s clear hard r’s and absence of theatricality.

It was cold out now, the bitter cold of a Montreal winter. I stood in his doorway peeling off layers covered in snow, and dumped my boots in the corner. Pete strode over and pulled out a clear plastic baggie. “You wanna?” He placed two white pills onto my palm. Asking what they were would only reveal my innocence, so instead I looked into his beautiful bright eyes and swallowed them down without hesitating. He laughed and kissed me. “You have to come see our new strobe light.”

photo by thomas bollier

I sprawled out upside down on his roommate's bed, my arms cactused out and blood rushing to my head. Blue pink and purple lights rushed across the ceiling. I had started to feel a great pull on my heart, as though gravity had taken a hold of it, but didn't stop with a gentle downward force. It pulled in all directions, leaving me paralyzed. Where was Pete? He’d disappeared and I needed him. I was starting to panic, and even with my eyes squeezed closed I couldn't turn off the swirling lights. I opened my eyes and watched their pattern unfold above me, trying to make out voices above the booming techno. Then his face appeared above me. He sat down cross legged and cradled my head upside down in his lap. From this angle, I noticed a nick under his chin from a razor, and could smell the cigarettes on his worn in jeans. “Kiss me,” he said, and I flipped over onto my belly. I closed my eyes and pressed my lips to his. They felt so perfect, so smooth, I almost couldn't stand it. This was an impossible world I’d entered, in which I could give everything I had to him, but lost nothing of myself.

It was a winter of firsts: first high, first quiet come down, first pull of addiction, first love, first impassioned goodbye. Falling in love is spectacular, so much so that it necessitates a rapt consciousness. I was so busy jumping, falling, diving into Pete that I forgot to notice him, his lifetime of sorrows and beautiful triumphs. My memories of those months exist inside a teacup amusement ride; I’m sitting on the ride in focus, and he’s somewhere out there, a blur.

I think I remember the moment when things started to go south, but I can’t be sure. 

“I know how to tell a joke,” Pete says absentmindedly. “You can’t telegraph the laugh.”

“What’s the joke?” I ask.

“That was the joke. You didn't get it?”

“What was?”

He sighs.

Years later, I have a longing for truth. If only, for a moment, I’d thought to step off the roller coaster. As irony would have it, it is far too late in the story for that sort of transience. Instead, I’m left with the worn out stories I've reimagined too many times. What would the first layer of the palimpsest look like, before time and fantasy pressed out the creases?  There are the things I definitely remember. These are usually brought on by something sensual, and I’m transported through a perception time-warp. Late for work, eating eggs over the frying pan in my kitchen, I recall the morning we went out for breakfast at 2 p.m. after staying up all night.  I wanted to leap across the table and push my face hard into his, consume him. Instead, I piled both my eggs onto a piece of toast and shoved them into my mouth. I can still call to mind the feeling of the yolks breaking open in my mouth. Memory is like that – it conceals with a great nonchalance until suddenly, standing over a hot skillet, you are struck with deep loss.

Then, there are things that I think I remember, like the way his wallet fit in his back pocket, or the sheen of sweat across his brow that gave him a look of aliveness. I sort of remember how I used to try and walk on the lower side of the sidewalk so that he would be slightly taller than me. Did Pete actually like Mark Lanegan, or am I confused because it is on a playlist I titled “Thinking of Pete.” I think I remember that we had a beautiful thing, whatever it was, before it went cold and I was alone again.

Finally, there are things that I can’t remember at all. Squeezing my eyes closed, I try to picture him. Colors swirl and expand on the backs of my lids, muddling the outline. I can’t stretch out a face shape, or the perfect fine hairs that caught the sun as they turned. When we lose someone we lose the color of their lips, the way lashes curl around bright curious eyes. I feel my memories jumbling, thickening, my mind sagging with the effort, growing old by the second. I look down at my hands as I ride the subway. They curl in my lap like empty flower pots. I think about how they once held his broad shoulders, felt the blood pump in his temples as I drew him closer.

When we tell stories, do we agree to trade fictions that both of us know – with a strategically suspended knowledge – to be fictions; and is that enough? If histories are built on distortions and lapses, accounts of the past that we pack away without the messiness, are we destined to step into the same river twice? The great irony, of course, that in this sea of fictions there is only one ending we can rely on: death. It is the only thing in this world that is objectively true.

Leah Buckley is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York.

Photographs by Thomas Bollier.

photo by thomas bollier 

Wednesday
Dec202017

In Which We Defy A Remembrance Of Things Past

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

I recently met a woman who I will call Joan. Joan had a difficult upbringing and carries many of the scars from those years. As a result, she predictably has a complicated relationship with the family who remain in her life. She wants to introduce me to those people, but I can’t help feeling some anger towards them for treating her this way, and I am unsure how I should act within and without their presence. Do you have any advice?

Alex N.

Dear Alex,

The most important thing you need to remember is that none of this is actually happening to you. If you conceive of yourself as the central character in this narrative, you will take everything that occurs between Joan and her family as if it were happening to you alone.

Relationships between family members often concern events you may not know now, or will not know even in the near or far future. The sooner you force this knowledge out of Joan, the worse it will likely be for you. If these happenings are truly traumatic, it would be best if you were associated with them as incidentally as possible.

Hi,

I work a very difficult and somewhat controversial job. In the past I have had difficulty getting significant others to respect what I do for a living or understand why I want to do it. As you might imagine, it is an uncomfortable and unhappy situation when someone you love doesn’t love what you do. However, I am good at it and I enjoy it and it compensates me well. Would it be wrong to lie or mitigate what I do in hopes it wouldn’t turn my partners off before they have a chance to get to know me?

Darren C. 

Dear Darren,

Unless you are a contract killer, in which case someone’s objection to your chosen field seems relatively rational, there is probably something good about what you do. (I’m guessing the tobacco industry?) In any case, my recommendation is to have a non-work related activity that you can use to define yourself that negates the unhappy effect of your other work.

There are many great charities (just avoid the Red Cross and Susan B. Komen because they are frauds) and there is a lot of positive work that can be done in the world. Women and men will respect that, or they should. Also, it makes you a mysterious figure full of shades of gray.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

Monday
Dec182017

In Which We Have A Long Way To Go In The FBI

The Whiz

by ETHAN PETERSON

Mindhunter
creators Joe Penhall and David Fincher
Netflix

Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), the mercurial protagonist of Netflix's Mindhunter, returns home from a long day of hostage negotiating, and he sits alone in his apartment. In that disturbing space, he has no books or television, and every other aspect of the interior design is a cross between Patrick Bateman and Teresa Giudice. This is a fellow who is not quite right.

The next evening Holden goes out and meets a very masculine woman, a sociology graduate student at the University of Virginia named Debbie (Hannah Gross). After coitus Holden asks Debbie why she is with him. “You’re smart,” she says, the biggest kiss of death there is. Holden is not much bothered by his new girlfriend’s apathy towards their burgeoning relationship, because there has never been a more transparent homosexual in the history of television.

The fact that Jonathan Groff broadcasts his gayness in every line reading he gives perhaps should have tipped off David Fincher and British playwright Joe Penhall that the hours they spend trying to make Groff come off straight are a waste of time. In one particularly graphic sex scene, Holden has Debbie pinned in such a position that it would be virtually impossible for their genitals to actually be touching.

Casting a magnificent gay actor as a straight FBI agent is a gag, and Mindhunter has plenty of them. Fincher has wanted to develop the more parodic elements of serial killing in a number of films: Seven and Zodiac both contained humor on this topic. I blame Silence of the Lambs for this trend; although I doubt Jonathan Demme was aware Hannibal Lecter would become a parody of himself.

With his partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), Holden performs a series of powerpoint presentations on the somewhat dull topic of what drives people to do evil things. Since forensic evidence eventually rendered criminal psychology into a background discipline, the only thing even vaguely interesting about the academic side of Mindhunter is Holden himself.

Others have argued that Holden is destined to become a serial killer in season 2 of Mindhunter, which does not necessarily seem farfetched since all his friends are murderers. One positive tendency of this modern age has been less glorification of killers themselves. We no longer see any novelty or intrinsic interest in the killing act. To hear the details of a murder, one need only turn on the endless reruns of NCIS or CSI. It’s unclear to me what Mindhunter really offers that is new in this vein, if it is not the story of how an FBI profiler became an evil man.

The only aspects of Mindhunter worth viewing are certainly not the dreary scripts – it is the performances and the sets, which bring to life a small corner of the world at the end of the 1970s as if it were a location and time period that makes an intrinsic sense that our own does not.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.