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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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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
Apr022015

In Which We Cover Ourselves In A Glorious Sheen

A Flytrap But For Happiness

by KARA VANDERBIJL

On a cold day in early March, during work hours, the Lincoln Park conservatory is mostly empty. Its few visitors pause in the palm house, where it's warm. We shed scarves and sweaters and tie up our hair. We're covered in a glorious sheen of sweat. 

"Are you getting dripped on?" I ask my friend. She's burying her face in a plant at toe level. Her laughter comes through a veil of humidity. I'm lightheaded from sudden muscle relaxation and birthday breakfast mimosas, champagne with a drop of orange juice. Everything's so lush and slow, it's seductive. It smells sexy in here. 

I wonder:

Do flowers smell different to different people? 

Why are the undersides of so many leaves purple? 

Why is that man talking so loudly on his cell phone? 

How old are these koi? 

Mimosa pudica, sensitive plant: Where have I seen that name before?


Mimosa — obviously, we giggled it while my friend fried bacon and stirred a chocolate gravy for biscuits out of a can. I poured champagne into tilted mason jar goblets. We were up early because we went to see the sunrise, read Mary Oliver on the banks of Lake Michigan and watch Chicago twinkling on the horizon. I was drunk before 9 a.m., because I turned 27 and Chicago turned 178.

Pudica sounds dirty, like pute, a word we shouted at girls we didn't like in French high school. I'm telling my friend about this article I read in the New Yorker about plant consciousness, and when I go to email her the link, l see this: 

Mimosa pudica, also called "sensitive plant," is that rare plant species with a behavior so speedy and visible that animals can observe it; the Venus flytrap is another. When the fernlike leaves of the mimosa are touched, they instantly fold up, presumably to frighten insects. 

+

In a hot bath oolong unfurls its fists, relaxes into the steam. The second cup is best. After three, the leaves' liquor weakens. I sip even the sediment. I wear a green sweater. Everything's growing. My razor is rusted. My windows yawn, jaws cracking.

Conservatory: The interior of a tea salon in a dicey neighborhood in Marseilles, France. Monsieur Kim, its owner, employed his stepdaughter to whisper to patrons about green, black, and white varieties while chocolate tarts heated in a concealed microwave. The tarts were the only thing manufactured about the place, and even they probably came from some neighborhood patisserie. M. Kim brought tea back from trips to China and Japan, which he then stored in giant tins behind the counter. We'd come in twice, three times a week to sit in the dark basement of his shop, hung with gauzy drapes, and we'd sip tea and get high on incense. I was new to tea and drowned cubes of sugar in it. We ordered teas with fancy names: In the Mood for Love, Imperial Jasmine, Thousand and One Nights. 


We invited boys, but they didn't come. Just as well. It was a place for teenage girls and people in love. It was a sacred space that, like us, would have crumbled if criticized. Here we talked about the boys who — we were convinced — just needed more time to steep. We fell asleep on each other's shoulders after the caffeine wore off and the sugar dipped low. We waited for our futures to brew. 

The store shuttered not long after I left France, and I lost the heart to visit its gated front on subsequent visits. Were we the ones keeping it alive? Where do teenage girls in Marseilles go now to eat microwaved chocolate tarts and drink Imperial Jasmine and sigh about boys?

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. You can subscribe to her Tinyletters here.

 

"Another Night On Mars" - The Maine (mp3)

"English Girls" - The Maine (mp3)

Wednesday
Apr012015

In Which Disparaging These Individuals Remains Wrong

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

My cousin Artis has been dating a woman named Jessica for around a year. We have some older family members who from time to time will say things that are less than politically correct. Jessica seems to go out of her way to lecture them about what they have said or criticize my grandmother, great-aunt and her husband, letting everyone know what she thinks is wrong about their point of view.

I understand expressing your beliefs, but at some point don't you just have to back off? The individuals involved are in their 80s, and in one case, 94.

Jared R.

Dear Jared,

It depends on exactly what kind of faux pas we are talking about here. I myself use what I call the Pat Buchanan test. People became so immune to the horrendous things that Pat Buchanan says on the McLaughlin Group that after he would make his usual disgusting statement, Eleanor Clift would just be like "I don't think so" and resume her explanation of how ovaries work.

Every once and awhile Pat would be like, "I blame Harvey Weinstein for this," and although he was occasionally right, he was sometimes wrong and the motivation for the comment was suspect.

If your elders are saying something about gays or Asians that is one thing. The ABC network has proved it is okay to disparage these groups publicly, especially if that critique takes the form of a televised sitcom.

If, on the other hand, your great aunt's husband is going after Patricia Arquette or Brianna Wu, call the police. It should never be wrong to tell the truth or set someone straight, and I fail to see how advanced age plays into it. We don't lose our ability to act like human beings just because we were born before the Civil Rights Act.

Hi,

With the upcoming return of Game of Thrones, my roommate Jamie will be hosting his weekly Winterfell gatherings in our apartment. Since I host similar events from time to time not based on HBO fantasy series, I have no problem with these groupings.

My issue is with a particular friend of Jamie's who insists on explaining the backstory of every single character who comes onscreen for the new viewers who may be casually watching this week's episode or are just not able to follow all the action that happens when a Lannister pays his debts. I understand this friend is trying to be helpful, but his behavior is not only super-annoying, but it turns the hour-long show into a ninety-minute feature with not-director commentary. How can I prevent him from ever recounting the particulars of Littlefinger's childhood in front of my loved ones again?

 

Brad C.

Dear Brad,

Sounds like you need to bring a Game of Thrones ringer into the picture. Someone who can see an expression on Tyrion Lannister's face and ascribe it to a particular prostitute that his father might have procured for him on the mean streets of King's Landing.

With this even bigger know-it-all shouting loudly over the far more prosaic, simple, rudimentary background information of your friend Jamie's friend, all your problems will be solved. Or maybe just plan a night out and watch it later. It's important to make Game of Thrones last; there is only so much of it that George R.R. Martin can write between his monologues about how much he hates fan fiction.

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

 

"Not Just Anything" - I'm From Barcelona (mp3)

"Sirens" - I'm From Barcelona (mp3)

Tuesday
Mar312015

In Which Laurence Olivier Leaves His Wife For Vivien Leigh

Misunderstandings

by ALEX CARNEVALE

1937. Laurence Olivier was very displeased with his marriage, so he began to look elsewhere. He registered in hotels with Vivien Leigh as Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Kerr. (Leigh was herself in an unhappy, sexless marriage with an older man she had met at 18.) When Vivien got out of the bathtub the first time Laurence ever saw her nude, she said simply, "Now I'll show you how I do it."

While he performed in Henry V, the two couples stayed in the same hotel so his fucks were more accessible. He planned a home in Chelsea where he and Leigh could live together. The two exchanged affection onstage as Hamlet and Ophelia, in full view of their spouses. "This welding closeness tripped the obvious decision, and two marriages were severed," Olivier later wrote. Vivien would not be able to divorce her husband  Herbert Holman until years afterwards.

wedding photo from Olivier's unhappy first marriage

As soon as they were openly together, Olivier changed his will, giving Vivien the lion's share of his estate. To his ex-wife Jill Esmond and Leigh he wrote, "It is my most earnest wish that my wife and Vivien shall live in friendliness and harmony of spirit both forgiving and forgetting any possible bitterness that may perhaps be between them."

Olivier hated vacations, but that first year with Vivien he took two; one in Italy and one in France. While they were on the Riviera, Laurence was offered Wuthering Heights. They quarreled over the role that Vivien would get; she wanted the larger part of Cathy but William Wyler insisted Merle Oberon would play that part.

They shot Wuthering Heights in Los Angeles, and Wyler and Olivier just could not get along. The main conflict was over the amount of overacting Olivier was intent on doing as Heathcliff. (Wyler just wanted Olivier to be himself, and was undoubtedly correct in his appraisal.) "We argued and argued and I must say he didn't argue very brilliantly," Olivier wrote Leigh. "I suspect he must have good instinct with no brains."

Things went no better between Laurence and his leading lady Merle Oberon, who accused him of spitting on her in close-ups.

Laurence Olivier missed Vivien terribly, especially sailing from England to New York.

Olivier refused to take cabin 69, thinking she might disapprove, and spent most of the trip drunk. "I love thinking of you when water is rushing past my face," he wrote her. "I always used to find a cold sponge very soothing at Capri - do you remember? Great comfort in thoughts of you while in water. I must have a pre-natal wish, somewhere, to be your child." Ew.


Los Angeles wasn't much better for Olivier's loneliness. "My dearest little darling passionate supreme love - I am with you, and round you, and in you all the time, my treasure." Eventually, Vivien made her way to him. "HOW GLORIOUS. WILL MAKE ARRANGEMENT FOR EIGHT HEAVENLY DAYS," he telegraphed. "I AM SO HAPPY. SHOULD DIE WITHOUT YOU ANY LONGER. DELICIOUS LOVE." He later added "I DIE TILL YOU COME."

Olivier in drag for "The Taming of the Shrew"

Vivien's reasons for the trip were far more logical. When Hamish Hamilton asked why she was going, she explained, "Partly because Larry's there, and partly because I intend to get the part of Scarlett O'Hara."

For the Oscar-winning role Vivien received only $25,000, and was under David O. Selznick's thumb for the next seven years. This incensed Olivier, who hated the slimy producer long before this. When Olivier brought his doubts to Selznick, the bastard told him, "Larry, don't be a shit twice."

with Marilyn Monroe, who he loathed

Leigh and Olivier were far from happy to be in America. "In fact," she told her soon to be ex-husband, "I do not think there is anything nice about America except the football, and the politeness of men in garages." But when Wuthering Heights came out, Olivier was an instant star in the country. Olivier appealed to both men and women in a deeply sexual way.

He quickly learned that this approval could vanish in an instant after he tried to star in his own Romeo and Juliet with Leigh in New York. The audience could barely hear his girlfriend, and Olivier as a brooding Romeo was a bit old for the part. The reviews were savage.

note to Vivien about doing his hair

Olivier lost $96,000 on Romeo and Juliet, and could not wait to get home to England. Unfortunately, he picked an awkward time to flop: France was fading, and English children were making the trip West to America for safety. When Olivier and Leigh landed in Bristol, they were in the middle of an air raid and the plane nearly went down.

Wanting to aid the war effort, Olivier enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Instead of bunking with the cadets, he and Leigh lived in a bungalow near the base, which she furnished with paintings and a few Indian rugs from their place in London. "I've always thought that my performance as a naval officer was the best bit of character work I've ever done," Olivier lied.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Moon Never Rises" - Calexico (mp3)

"Woodshed Waltz" - Calexico (mp3)