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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 Can't Get Underneath The Stars Tonight

Where We Used To Live


I am thinking carefully about everything Eva told me the night before. The look someone gets when they have heard too much: I tried not to show it.

Eva asked if I had ever been to Marrakech. I thought: What a fucking pretentious question.

Once, many years ago, I was with someone I thought was too good for me. This one was not like Eva. She would ask terrible questions all the time, e.g. "What do you think Lawrence Durrell was thinking when he wrote Justine?" or "Can I get egg whites on a flagel?" (A flagel refers to a flat bagel.) I looked up what happened to her yesterday: she does PR for Maybelline.

I was telling you what my girlfriend said last night that so appalled me. Other thoughts keep intruding. Did you know that scientists brought a molecule down to absolute zero? It was a mitzvah.

There is this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where this hotshot business executive is driving on a long road trip, and his car gets totaled by a truck. He survives, but he is catatonic. Men come to take his bags and jewelry, never noticing that he continues to live. Other men come in prison jumpsuits and strip off his clothes. Right before they're about to toss his body in the incinerator, a coroner notices a single tear dropping from the executive's eye. That was basically the face I was making, last night.

I remember once, an evening like that not too long ago, she was asking me about my past. I felt like I had to reveal something, or else she might stop asking. "When was the last time you were in love?" she managed. First I said, "Murphy Brown."

Just because Eva originates from something flawed, does not mean that she herself is wrong.

She did not want my real story, the same as I did not want her real story. But we had been together for about fourteen months, although maybe 1/3 of that time was long distance, while I finished a job in Seattle. It felt like she could not wait another moment. She brought out this old photo album. It took us right through her teenage years. We saw her dad, an intensely obese man who had been killed by a drunk driver when she was 14. He had not been around much before that.

I met Eva's mother in San Diego, where she used to live. My girlfriend prepared me a lot for this meeting, she said she felt it was too soon, but that since her mom usually was overseas, this could be the only chance we would have to all get to know each other.

I have never been to Marrakech. I was in Bilbao once for a month. I met a girl online and she invited me to stay. The food is the only thing I remember, and how she never washed her hair. I told her I could not have sex before marriage, as a stipulation of my religion, but we could do whatever else she wanted. Eventually we did have sex anyway, but not until the last week I was there. By then, we both probably could have lived a lifetime on the anticipation alone, and I asked her to wash her hair, so that was no longer any kind of impediment. When I summarized this life experience to Eva, I stated, "I fell in love once in Spain."

I attended a lecture last week by a man who wrote a verbose novel that numbered many leatherbound volumes. Someone asked him during the Q & A how he was able to be so prolific. He said that he had gotten divorced. The crowd gave a knowing laugh, but I felt my head get warm. It happens to me in these fast moments. Say it, I thought, say the real reason.

Last night Eva started talking about this ex-boyfriend, who I will call Max. You see, she loved Max dearly but he had some problems. I assumed the end of the story involved Max being the drunk driver who killed her dad, but this was sadly not the case.

Max actually did not treat her all that badly, until he got off drugs. He did not hit her or even yell at her or scream. He just made her feel really bad about herself, for like, years.

There is a compulsion among certain people who believe that others are "too good" for them. Over the years I have heard this every once in awhile, but not as often as some of my friends. It is apparently what her mother told her about me, after we spent an afternoon by the woman's pool.

I looked in the mirror for a long time after that, wondering what Eva and her mother saw in me. They had both encouraged me to go in the water, but I shook my head and said nothing.

Max is married and he looks happy. His wife has the longest blonde hair I have seen since I used to go to this cafe in San Luis Obispo, where every single picture on the wall was of Max's wife.

You are probably wondering aloud to your flatmate, I wonder what his girlfriend will think when she reads this! The answer is, she will realize I am the finest writer of my generation.

Tolstoy bought a villa for his daughter Olga in Marrakech. Before his marriage to Olga's mother Sophia, he listed all his prostitutes, and admitted fathering a child with one of the women. Sophia Tolstoy took it in good stride. We always know the kind of person we are with, since it is the only meaningful way we can understand ourselves.

I told this to Eva just now, when she woke. She said, "Don't act like you know me," and turned over.  The woman on the walls of the coffee shop was actually Marilyn Monroe. She died of an overdose. The drunk driver who killed Eva's dad died in prison from a brain tumor. No one else in this essay is dead.

I do not like knowing these hard stories, even if it is about a person I care so much for. But I would like them a lot less if I was the one telling them. I know we can't forget what happened to us. Taking the next logical leap, it means that the present is as fixed as what preceded it.

Bilbao had the most wonderful restaurants. San Luis Obispo is a great place to live. Seattle's not so bad either, even if there is not much history. You can always make it up.

Ellis Denklin is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

Photographs by Gueorgui Pinkhassov.

"Old Folks" - Fionn Regan (mp3)


In Which Water Remains The Sweet Elixir Of American Life

The White Clouds


The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

"Every one of you here has the opportunity to live an authentic life," explains a guy wearing a really nice sweater. At Est, the concept of being trapped by other people's impressions and feelings about you is the real danger. "There is something so American about it," Elizabeth explains, since needing help with self-realization is a Western concept stolen from the East. They just didn't realize it.

Gary Snyder translated poems by a ninth century Chinese recluse named Han Shan that I was reading the other day. It is astonishing how modern they are, although Snyder's grasp of the timelessness of human expression in his translation is a major factor. Many Americans know and understand very little about life in other places, even within their own nation, and there has rarely been a good way of explaining it authentically.

This week Obama made an attempt at it, so he found himself drinking water in Flint, Michigan. It was an impressive feat; something I would never do. A famous moment in the 1992 campaign took place when Bill Clinton told an enraged protestor that he felt the man's pain; it also marked the permanent departure of the Clintons from the left-wing of that party. Why Obama drank the water I don't really know. It probably didn't taste very good, since afterwards he announced that "kids are very resilient" indicating that they could rebound from whatever illness the water imparted. Then he distributed filters for everyone.

One poem of Han Shan goes like this:

Spring water in the green creek is clear
Moonlight on Cold Mountain is white
Silent knowledge — the spirit is enlightened of itself
Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness.

This sentimentality is ancient. Even Elizabeth, after murdering an African-American woman with several kids, was momentarily absorbed into it. There is a literal nature to both politics and violence that Elizabeth grasps instinctively, in this episode directed by Matthew Rhys. What is common in both disciplines is a 1:1 relationship between the meaning of an act and the act itself.

Keri Russell's character embodies this completely. When Elizabeth says that Martha was simple, and straightforward, she was really describing her own outlook. To the extent that she has emotions, altering them isn't her forte, or her husband's.

Don't get me wrong: they can do what every good politician can do. It is only a matter of creating another feeling, and layering it over that initial anger. Bill Clinton did not "feel the pain" of the AIDS activist – in that moment he was merely a mirror. (The irony is that one of the campaign songs for Clinton-Gore was Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror.")

Martha was more complicated than a lot of people gave her credit for. She was more adaptable than she believed, although that was likely indicated by the fact she married her clandestine lover and suggested he take her from behind. For Martha, the world was not a literal place, full of sound and fury, signifying various somethings. No, the world is full of illusions of various values. Weighing one more heavily is only possible at the expense of another.

In light of that, Han Shan becomes a recluse. He writes,

There's no through trail.
In summer, ice doesn't melt
The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.
How did I make it?
My heart's not the same as yours.
If your heart was like mine
You'd get it and be right here.

It will take over two years to fix the pipes in Flint, Michigan. In the meantime, Kevin Drum put up a post explaining that very few children would be harmed by this, on average. He calculated half an IQ point, which was apparently not the biggest deal. I suppose it depends on how much of the water you drank.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, lots of people contracted cancer and many died. Looking at it statistically it must have been well above the average, for so many families to have parents taken away. Lots of theories went around as to why this was happening — many worked near a nuclear power plant, and there was other heavy industry in the area.

Most of those companies have moved their jobs overseas due to America's corporate tax rate. I don't think there are any travel agents around, and jobs in the region are hard to come by. Then and now, it was wise to make a point of not sampling the tap water. Some people were angry about the impact of cancer, but most tolerated it with good grace. We could not really know what had happened to us.

The Americans becomes a little too much like a fairy tale when Clark sobs for hours on end about how Martha is off to Prague. She made a choice, and knew what could happen. She's probably alive, and she should feel lucky that she had a chance to choose. I don't want to say that the people who make The Americans are spoiled, or that the people who walk into a town, sip the water and leave are inauthentic. I don't have any idea what motivates such an act.

The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Possess Carte Blanche Of An Unmistakable Variety

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.


I have been dating my new boyfriend, who I will call Sauron, for about six months give or take a week. Recently I received a message from an ex-girlfriend of Sauron's that was rather spiteful in nature. I showed it to my boyfriend and he became very upset, at first, mainly at the idea that someone from his past was trying to sabotage his current relationship. He hasn't brought it up since, but I have to admit the idea of being discarded by someone not interested in a relationship brings up some of my trust issues and I have found myself holding back more. It's hard not to ask about the full story but I don't want to make it seem like I'm jealous or petty. Is there a way of getting over this without screwing up or making a wrong move?

Emily H.


I send out spiteful messages all the time, often to people who I never even dated. Here are some examples:

Hi, I miss you and I love you. Do you know where you put my slippers?

Hey, what's up. Did you see that video where the guy drank the entire cup of hot coffee? Classic.

Hi, is this Tim? Where is Tim? I miss you.

These kinds of strange messages are sure to contribute to an underlying instability at the center of the world. You seem to think that because you received a message from the past, it needs to affect your future. No one wants to see someone they care about moving on with anyone new. A facebook message is about the most mediocre expression of rage that exists, so consider yourself lucky that you were not run over by this woman's car. If things are going well, just forget it ever happened.


I recently met a woman through some mutual friends. Dee is a social worker who is very devoted to the people she helps get on their feet. She is great at her job. 

Frequently, our dates or hangouts are postponed because things come up unexpectedly. Dee doesn't have a lot of faith in the people with which she works, so she feels like she has to handle these things herself. I try to accept that I am not always going to be her number one priority, but I am starting to worry it might be this way forever. She is apologetic and feels really guilty when she cancels the plans, and I try not to make things worse. I don't feel comfortable bringing it up to her since we have only been dating for four months. Should I give up now, or is it possible things will change in the future?

Henry P.

Dear Henry,

Dee probably is balancing a lot of things on her plate at one time, and since she deals with people who are used to letting her down and feeling bad about it, she is reflexively adopting their behavior. A good psychologist could probably fix her in a month or two.

We don't have that kind of time. It seems like she likes you because you are the one person she can disappoint, which means you may be very special to Dee. The irony seems to be lost on you.

Your instinct to wait until further in the relationship to make this an issue seems sound. By six months she will have bonded to you further, and you can influence her decision-making without her openly wondering where you got the nerve to tell her what to do. Four months in, you're just another aspect of the patriarchy holding her back.


In September I am planning on marrying my boyfriend of four years, Darren. Recently the wedding preparations have begun in earnest and while I don't have any hesitation about my decision to get married (I hate the expression tie the knot, it is gross), I am a bit worried about how many people seem to be involved in the ceremony. Both of our parents are contributing financially to the event, and understandably they both expect to be a part of the process.

The wedding already seems like it will have to be much larger than I ever imagined it - over 100 people! - and the amount of money and time that is going into one day is starting to bother me. Should I just suck up my feelings or should I try to do something about it?

Jamie P.

Dear Jamie,

Many weddings and genocides share a common trait - they both involve over 100 people. I have attended many weddings in my time, and the only one I really truly enjoyed the bride got incredibly drunk and slept through most of the reception. Basically, as a bride, you are allowed several common expressions that will curtail a lot of this chicanery without coming off as a party pooper:

- "I always imagined a small wedding."

- someone suggests inviting Aunt Helen. "Didn't Aunt Helen once say ADHD was caused by grapefruit juice? She is not welcome on my special day."

- "Whose wedding is this?"

- "Darren and I need to talk that over."

- "Whose special day is this?"

- "Aunt Helen once thought my Armenian friend was a terrorist."

- "They had that at the Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise nups. Remind me how that special day worked out."

- "You're not my mother."

- "You might be my mother, but this is not your special day."

- "I need to talk that over with Aunt Helen."

Above all, lie, prevaricate and postpone any decision you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with. No one ever looks back on a bride's behavior before a wedding and says, "She was just so indecisive, Shelia!" It's just par for the course.

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


"Legend of the Keeper" - Magic Sword (mp3)