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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

Live and Active Affiliates
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In Which No One Looks Or Even Cares

Run or Hide



I left a ten-day long stay in Turkey almost as soon as the protests had begun there. I traveled with a group of fellow graduate students and our Turkish-American hosts who had set up a series of informational meetings and tourist activities so that we could learn more about the country. On our boat ride on the Bosphorus, we saw bright red flares reach the sky. The morning earlier, on a bus ride to a mosque for the dawn prayers, we saw about a hundred young men chanting and waving the red Turkish flag. I saw no gun-toting men, no real indication that danger was ahead.

And yet, I told the others on the bus, “The Pakistani instinct in me is telling me to run and hide. To get away from protests – this is how people get killed.”

According to my parents, a large gathering of people for political demonstration will inevitably turn out violent. They have told me this on the phone as I made my way to Occupy Chicago demonstrations, as I rallied to save the job of a professor in college, even as we watched Obama’s election on television witnessing strangers hug one another in Grant Park.

It is something my parents always say with a little bit of shame in their voices. That we should come from a place like Pakistan – with all its corrupt politicians, bomb blasts, and rivalry with the bigger, richer India – and not from somewhere else. They have only ever wanted us to feel proud of where we came from.


My flight from Istanbul to Karachi was shorter than I had imagined it would feel. Out the window, I watched the blinking lights of Iranian cities flash as the sun set behind us. I left California a month and a half ago, eagerly making my way farther and farther east. Karachi is my last stop before I go back. It is the farthest east I have ever been.

It is also the city in which I was born. When we came back to visit Pakistan as children – with our full American accents – my parents drove us past our old apartment building in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. I saw from the car a shattered window pane on the top floor. I drove past it again, more recently. My cousin Sara, who is years older than me, pointed out the building to me from the road – the brown earth and the brown buildings sometimes blend into one. I looked at it but did not recognize anything. It has been nearly 23 years since we lived there.

“This one?” I pointed at the building next to it.

“Yeah, it was one of these. I think that one over there,” she said, “I remember when you guys used to live there. Your taya and taijan [uncle and aunt] lived just upstairs.”

I told her I wanted to take a picture the next time we drove past.


A computerized image of a drone flashes on the television as we flip through channels. We never rest on the bad news – we almost reel past it. I sometimes will myself to forget that it exists. I will myself in the way I did when I lived in Chicago – when I heard of dozens of murders happening just miles away from me, I would will myself to think of something else. My first week back in Pakistan, I thought of myself as cruel for attempting to forget the innocent lives lost. By my second week I had decided it was the only way to keep going.


Occasionally, I will see an advertisement on television for USAID’s educational facilities in Pakistan. I have not seen any public mention of programs like this in Pakistan any other time I have visited, even though they have existed for a long time. In the commercial, a brown man dressed in shalwar kameez escorts a young girl wearing a school uniform into a brightly lit classroom. The entire ad is in Urdu, emphasizing that the curriculum is all Pakistani. I have seen this advertisement appear on the news networks mostly, after mentions of drone attacks in the north or when a news anchor reports on Taliban activities.


I spend my days studying languages – Arabic and Urdu – with private tutors, and my evenings accompanying Sara to the various bazaars to buy fabric and appliques for her clothing business. She is often telling me to avoid the puddles of brown spit on the ground – stains from paan, sweet chewing tobacco – and placing brightly colored fabric against my skin to see how it would look on me. My sister is getting married in autumn, and Sara is making nearly all of my outfits. We travel from one bazaar to another, meeting with tailors and the men who will sew all of the beads by hand onto my outfits. In their little shops, I fan myself as I am measured. As a reward for our hard work, we eat street food in the car with the air conditioning on full blast.

As we wind through traffic on the streets, I look closely at the Urdu script on the buildings and medians. Since the reason I am in Pakistan to begin with is to learn to read and write Urdu, I attempt to take some pictures of the graffiti so that I can read it as practice later. I mostly end up with snapshots of the political signs that line the medians on the roads. Benazir Bhutto’s face is still everywhere. I saw a particularly large poster of her, her eyes glinting with a faraway look and her white dupatta draped loosely over her head. The last time I was in Pakistan, in December of 2007, she had been assassinated brutally during a political parade in Rawalpindi.


When a bomb goes off in Boston, the world is shaken up. I had stared at my laptop all day when it happened, asked all of my friends in the area if they were okay. The days that they had shut down the entire city, I was glued to my twitter feed, unable to accomplish any of the tasks I had meant to do that day.

When a bomb goes off in Quetta, a city on the border with Iran in Pakistan, and 12 young women on their way to university die tragically, no one looks, notices, or even cares.

“We are used to it,” we tell each other as much as we tell ourselves. What else are we to expect of the rest of the world?

Hafsa Arain is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"Come On" - Alpine (mp3)

"Foolish" - Alpine (mp3)


In Which We Move Against Each Other In Groups

My Tether


The Affinities
by Robert Charles Wilson
304 pp, Tor Books

The Affinities, the new novel from Hugo award-winning author Robert Charles Wilson, tries to explain the attraction of people to groups. The book's central character is a Toronto-based graphic designer named Adam Fisk who feels a bit lost. He is a relationship with a woman who likes him a lot more than he likes her, and he can't find a job. His only friends abandons him after he is smashed in the face by a policeman, so he visits a company called InterAlia which suggests it may be able to place him in a tranche with people who on a genetic and sociological level already think the way he does. He has obviously never heard of tumblr.

Although The Affinities is supposed to take place in our world, or at least a Canadian version of the same, it barely concerns itself with how technology brings us closer together. The chief weapon of these affinities is, in fact, blackouts, since people have no other way of cohesively moving as a unit other than their phones. This renders them  relatively helpless against anyone with a grudge and a working knowledge of electromagnetic pulses.

From a technological standpoint, Wilson suggests, we have reached what might be described as a plateau. It would be impossible for the rate of innovation to increase exponentially or even perpetually, and this is a danger, for stagnation in any society is quite dangerous.

The people Adam meets in his affinity shelter him and give him a job in advertising. He is immediately attracted to a member who is the child of Indian immigrants, and they begin sleeping together. None of the people he meets in the group have much in the way of families, unless those family members also belong to the cult. The group refers to family members outside their walls by a pejorative: they call them "tethers."

Adam quickly gives up graphic design and becomes an operative along with his girlfriend. They plot to take down another of the affinities, a group called Het. The leader of Adam's affinity is a lawyer named Damian, whose goal is to ascend Adam's affinity to the leader of the affinities. First among not-so-equals.

Those "tethers" outside an affinity, like Adam's autistic stepbrother, are jealous of these organizations of like-minded individuals. They enter into their own, less-organized conclaves. Wilson's story of how these groups intersect with other as Adam decides where his loyalties lie features his best prose yet — previous novels from him have felt unpolished and unedited, but The Affinities seems to consciously eschew overexplanation and bloat.

Religion or God never really comes up in The Affinities, by design. It would end up making a faith as doctrinaire as Catholicism seem open and welcoming. The problem/benefit of religion, Wilson is ironically pointing out, is that it is not binding and determinative enough. In Wilson's godless future, we miss Him terribly.

We are all destined to become more like each other than ever, Wilson argues in The Affinities, and that is a transformance that is immensely complicated, just as the microcosm of seeing ourselves in just one other person can alter matters completely.

Matthew Ranghert is a contributor to This Recording. This is his first appearance in these pages. He is a writer living in Williamsburg.

"Let Me Breathe" - Joss Stone (mp3)

"Cut the Line" - Joss Stone (mp3)


In Which We Cover For Any And All Of Our Mistakes

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 friend Karen has a gay son named Leonard rapidly nearly adulthood. When our friends ask how he's doing, she never mentions the fact that she is gay. If they ask whether or not he has a girlfriend, she is evasive and explains he is playing the field. I also know that she worries a lot for him.

I don't really have a problem with concealing this fact to people she knows, even though I find it a bit odd. I do have concern for her son, who is a lovely and personable guy. Why can't his mother be proud of him as he is?

Nancy A.

Dear Nancy,

While certain politicians find homosexuality more acceptable in their own families and friend circles than they do in the public at large, regular/basic people often skew the other way. They have no problem with how other people live, but the concept hitting so close to home has dashed certain dreams they have had for their children, most of them engendered through subliminal advertising by the American Wedding Industry.

Then again, maybe it's for the best. Marriage is the foundation of civilization. Now that gays are able to engage in this magnificent institution, they will be happy like David Geffen, Dan Savage and the guy on Empire. Maybe your friend Karen needs to see more than the stereotypical and offensive depictions of homosexuals on televisions in shows like Modern Family and Matlock. She can learn that her son can have the same kind of happiness as Sergey Brin.


I have been dating a woman named Jessica for around five months, and we recently had our first fight. Now that we are an official couple, she has informed me that she expects us to spend five days a week in each other's company. She always stays over at my house when we go out.

On one level, I really care about her and the time we spend together is very enjoyable. I worry that it is overkill, though, especially for where we are in the relationship. What do you think I should do?

Jason W.

Dear Jason,

Everyone has different expectations and ideas for what they want in a relationship. Matching those expectations is part of compatibility. Jessica probably cares for you very much as well, and she enjoys having you around.

You need what every man needs, really. A fake community service volunteer position that accounts for the time you don't want to be spending with the one you love. Have you thought about "giving your time" at the local VFW? Veterans of foreign wars enjoy spending quality time talking about the problems of young guys with girlfriends who want to have too much intercourse with them. Their sympathy (which was never actually exist, since this will all be made up) is legion.

A lie is only necessary when the truth won't serve, however. I'm sure you can think of an excuse that is both partly accurate and gives you a little space from Jessica. Hobbies that women find acceptable include League of Legends, "I'm tired" and making your own moonshine. Just kidding, but she may give you some space if you are teaching piano or mixing some hot tracks for your burgeoning DJ career. So, music. I hope you have talent in this area; if not it looks like Jessica will be everpresent for the duration.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Traveling Song" - Ryn Weaver (mp3)

"Here is Home" - Ryn Weaver (mp3)