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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 Turn On This Nancy

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.


My boyfriend Satchel has a female best friend who I will call Nancy. I never really get the sense that Nancy is overly interested in Satchel - she runs her own business and tends to date older guys. On a regular basis, however, she will come up with some semi-dire emergency where she will require Satchel to pick her up or help her move. When I think about it, it's no more than some friends do for each other, and it's not like Satchel is ditching me to be with her. At the same time the fact that he comes at her call can't help but rankle me a bit. Am I wrong to be upset, and what should I do about this fiend Nancy?

Sara U.

Dear Sara,

It sounds like Satchel has some feelings for this Nancy. Unfortunately saying anything about it is likely to exacerbate the situation, and this is the rare situation where reverse psychology can backfire greatly. You cannot be pushing them closer together and you cannot be separating them more apart.

All you can do is subtly alter Satchel's view of her with descriptive language. Nancy is

- desperate

- needy

- you feel 'sorry' for her (omit this if your boyfriend is a bleeding heart I Want To Save Her type who is creepily turned on by the suffering of others)

- escort

- awkward

- "hanging all out"

You also should by no means keep your anger completely inside. The key is not to annoy or carp at him. Instead, address one specific situation and never mention that there is a larger problem. Suggest Nancy is manipulating him this one time and act surprised, like you didn't think either of them had this sadistic of a friendship and he's a shithead for running to her.

Whatever you do, don't make them address their friendship. This could turn out badly for you. And if you are the kind of woman who has troubling asking for help, you had best shed that particular inhibition, because that is a quality Satchel enjoys in other people. Escort.


My girlfriend, let's call her Olive, has a group of friends. These women love to go out together and get dressed up. They want Olive to go with them at least once a weekend. This kind of boozing just is not my thing, nor are the places that they go any fun at all - they look like the cocaine hangouts of Patrick Bateman.

I care about Olive, but having this lifestyle be around my own life — I am very career focused and prefer to spend my free time going to movies or museums — is a real drag. Plus, it seems clear her friends don't really like me, probably because they have detected my disapproval of them. I don't want to be the person who holds my SO back, but I can't love these people or like what they enjoy doing.

Bernard T.

Dear Bernard,

I think the very same thing happened to Romeo. Juliet went going to trashy bars and he killed himself because of this. That should be a cautionary tale for you.

It sounds like this is a phase Olive will grow out of, probably sooner than you think. She may keep being influenced by her friends, however. You don't have to love her friends, or even like them, but maybe she would see things from another perspective if she disliked the behavior of one of your obnoxious friends. However, this strategy is useless if all your friends are wonderful.

If that is indeed the case, you need only make your friends her friends. Then she won't need her old friends.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Operate" - ASTR (mp3)


In Which We Are Exactly Like Ed Burns In All The Important Ways

To Be E.B.


Public Morals
creator Ed Burns

Ed Burns, 47, casts himself as a police officer with a wife who looks like a model. His young cousin (Austin Stowell) also works for the department and looks exactly like him: he dates and sleeps with beautiful women right and left. No one else ever gets laid on Public Morals, just Ed Burns and guys that look like him. All is right with the world.

Someone finally appreciates Brian Dennehy enough to dress him up in a suit.

Burns' special brand of mediocrity is much more suited to television. His passion for writing Irish-American characters who fit easily into various stereotypes is on full display in New York of the 1960s. The mien of Public Morals feels decades older than that, as no one seems to have a television or even listen to the radio. They are too busy for that: they are probably gambling or if they are a woman, having sex with someone who looks like Ed Burns.

Young Ed Burns is no Ed Burns, but then who among us?

Ed Burns is a cop, except he neither solves cases or stops crime in any meaningful way. He chooses to mentor a rookie in his unit, Jimmy Shea (Brian Wiles) getting the kid to cheat on his wife and take money from a casino. His boss is dating a madam. None of the people I have described are any good at acting.

Burns' partner is Charlie Bullman (Michael Rapaport) who is so out of place here he might as well be on MADtv. His acting as a touch-feely, whiny-voiced prig is ludicrous even in a universe where Ed Burns is king of everything he touches. Like Burns, Rapaport has two distinct facial expressions, neither of which is all that entertaining to watch. The first is Disappointed Ed Burns, and the second is Wry Ed Burns. Rapaport is even gifted the easiest scene in drama, the one where his daughter's boyfriend asks for permission to marry the girl, and turns it into the equivalent of an awkward pep talk from a Yorkshire terrier.

There was a time I thought his high voice was expertly done through the work of a dialect coach. That time has passed.

It's difficult to tell whether Burns' material is meant to be tongue-in-cheek or not. Clearly the entire character of Brian Dennehy, who plays an Irish mob boss, is meant for chuckles, since he berates his brother and nephew like his heart is about explode on-camera. Dennehy's scenes are at least amusing, which is more than I can say of the directionless plot and stilted dialogue of Public Morals.

For his part, Burns' mother on the show is a charismatic drunk, and his father warns the woman against her consumption of alcohol. Every woman on Public Morals is either a wife or a prostitute except for the woman in a deep relationship with young Ed Burns. She just has low standards. 

Guess what occupation these women have? (Feminist bloggeur is not an option.)

I feel like Public Morals erases all the important work Good Will Hunting and Anne Hathaway's constant complaining achieved for the Irish- American community. It is important that you know that Irish people are not, however, racist. Ed Burns respects the lone black officer (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) in his unit, and encourages others to do the same. It is the law itself he does not respect, and in this appraisal he is joined by every man in his department.

HIs wife's only dialogue is, "Ed, stop" ad nauseum, until he ceases whatever he is doing.

It is morally correct to disobey an injust law? When Ed Burns' uncle is killed by one of Brian Dennehy's cronies (Neal McDonough, the only talented actor on this entire show), Ed Burns is really ticked off, which you would think would lead to that all important third facial expression, but you would be wrong. He takes his troubled son to the funeral, where the boy asks if he can touch the body of the deceased, who was played by Timothy Hutton.

Ed Burns thinks about it for a second and then agrees. All I could imagine in my head was Ed at Christy Turlington Burns' funeral in thirty or so years, touching her body. It really must be something to be Ed Burns.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Ed Burns' ties to the African-American community are longstanding.

"Kitty Kat" - Empress Of (mp3)

"Icon" - Empress Of (mp3)


In Which The Complexion Of Jesse Eisenberg Renders All Else Dark

Missing Out


American Ultra
dir. Nima Nourizadeh
96 minutes

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) has a more pallid complexion than usual. He only goes outside at night, when the rays of the sun aren't present to make his skin burn or discolor. He has tricked a woman named Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) into embodying this drastic way of life as well. There is a great question here waiting to be answered about why such people live as they do. Stewart had a nicer tan when she was a vampire.

American Ultra, the second film written by John Landis' son Max, is a not very funny romp through West Virginia, since the town itself is devoid of any Americans other than Rose (John Leguizamo). We quite literally never see another person, which is funny because John Landis was quite interested in how Americans spoke and acted, and the zany half-comic romps he specialized in thrived on jokes about how the individual took his place in a greater whole.

American Ultra is devoid of any specific comic relief. Eisenberg is depressed and upset he can never live his West Virginia birthplace. This is because he is secretly a government project designed as a drone of sorts. Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) sends out the other members of his program to hunt him down for no discernible reason, since he is just working at a Cash N Carry and having very infrequent sex with his CIA handler/girlfriend.

Stewart proved herself a talented performer capable of a superstar-like role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria last year, but she is not really suited for open aggression — just subtle tear downs and sideways looks. American Ultra basically pretends she doesn't exist, focusing mostly on the self-defense Eisenberg offers against those trying to murder him.

Eisenberg has established his credentials in a variety of quick-talking roles. He is still doing the same basic schtick, but he has a novel way of putting a twist on what is essentially a variety of similarly narcissistic characters. There is a hint of something more vulnerable in the character of Mike Howell, but the clueless direction of American Ultra never touches it.

It is supposed to be comic that a stoner is killing all these people without really meaning to, but director Nima Nourizadeh does not really give a humorous flair to the action. The only depth given to any of the characters is a man from Howell's program named Laugher (Walton Goggins) who offers Howell empathy after failing to murder him. He is the only one to receive it: otherwise, Howell is a savage killer, dismembering and cutting up his victims in fast and explosive ways. Watching it is vaguely like witnessing Hannibal Lecter eat.

Beneath the clueless and rote direction, there is another script here. Hollywood has a rich history of writer-director collaborations that barely even spoke to one another. Famously Lee Tamahori never understood that David Mamet's 1997 script for The Edge was a satire. There was nothing special about anything in the script of Casablanca, but it accidentally became a kind of phenomenon. A more recent example of such discord might be the recent Fantastic Four, which looks like someone spliced five different scripts together and called it a day.

American Ultra contains nothing that bad. It is just so devoid of any kind of character development that we forget there used to be movies like this, narratives which contained no content, and which in some level are designed to be appreciated by children or pets. Fortunately or unfortunately, we expect more now.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Tilted" - Christine & the Queens (mp3)

"Narcissus is Back" - Christine & the Queens (mp3)