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Alex Carnevale

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Kara VanderBijl

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

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Durga Chew-Bose

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 Find This Impossible To Announce

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.


This started eight months ago when I met a guy who I will call Jeff online. We really hit it off and we were talking quite frequently despite living in different cities. Eventually we decided that I should come and visit him. Our first meeting was great and just seemed like a continuation of our online communication.

Jeff makes references to past relationships, although since we were just getting to know each other, I did not wish to pry. After that weekend, Jeff confessed that he was divorced and that he was not interested in getting married again. I asked him what he was interested in and he said that he wasn't sure, that he had done the long distance thing before and wasn't very successful at it. At the same time he expressed a desire to keep seeing me.

In the intervening months, I have tried to be more protective of our feelings. Jeff has come to my city to visit me and for the most part we have a great time with very little meta-relationship talk, as he seemed to request. Am I right to be taking this at his pace, or should I just bail?

Andrea R. 

Dear Andrea,

Learning all about someone from the person themselves leaves many blind spots open, Andrea. You need a third party who can give you a better view of Jeff. See if you can make up a reason to have a conversation with one of his friends: maybe a buddy is an industry peripheral to yours, and you can claim you are only looking for some general advice.

With that said, you can't necessarily assume there is any foul play involved. Men will say a lot of things; just because he's not considering marriage now doesn't mean the idea is permanently dead to him. Even lemmings have to be coaxed into heading for a cliff, but once they build up some momentum, death is a sweet release.

Demanding a commitment is the surest way not to get one. Make sure Jeff knows you are exploring other options and he will quickly ask you not to be if he cares that much. If he doesn't ask, then you know he doesn't care.


As you know, recently a bunch of private photos of female celebrities and models leaked across every cavern and hidey-hole of the internet. My fiance Craig downloaded these photos and he and his friends sent them back and forth to each other.

I am completely creeped out by this. Are these guys actually masturbating to photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Sybil, or is it just some harmful/harmless fun? Am I judging Craig and his gross, mouthbreathing friends too harshly?

Jackie C.

Dear Jackie,

There appears to be something of the Streisand effect at work here. How turned on can someone really be by watching Lady Mary's little sister opine about the residual odor of her boyfriend's balls?

We'll never truly know why Sybil left Downton Abbey. Did she have a lunch date? Was the guy who played her Irish husband tickling her savagely between takes? Did Elizabeth McGovern shit in her catering as a practical joke? A certain amount of curiosity as to what greener pastures Sybil is occupying strikes us as natural.

If he's still talking about this disturbing breach of privacy long after Kate Upton's tan lines have faded from the cultural memory, then I would say you had a right to be perturbed. Novelty fades rapidly: even Bradley Cooper barely even bothers to look down in the shower anymore.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Possibility Days" - Counting Crows (mp3)

"Cover Up The Sun" - Counting Crows (mp3)



In Which There Is A Lot Going On In Daniel Radcliffe's Life

Magnetic Poetry


What If
dir. Michael Dowse
101 minutes

Daniel Radcliffe plays the lead in Michael Dowse's What If as a miserable medical school dropout anguished with the pain of a two-year-old break-up. What If explores the disturbing vagaries of being told "let's just be friends" by someone you love. Despite all of the unfortunate events happening in the life of Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), he manages to find the most perfect and peaceful perching spot on the roof of the house of his sister Ellie (Jemina Rooper), overlooking the gorgeous Toronto skyline. He utilizes the spot to mope and wallow with his one and only friend, the fluorescent glow illuminating from his iPhone.

After making the unsurprising and predictable discovery of catching his ex-girlfriend having sex with his anatomy professor in a supply closet of the hospital they both worked in he ended the relationship. The infidelity between the two closely paralleled the lives his parents led: two doctors who cheated on each other constantly with other doctors in the hospital. He didn’t want to follow the same fate of lying, cheating, and manipulation for himself.

In addition to living with his sister Wallace serves as a father figure to his nephew. The two disobey the rules by bingeing on tubs of ice cream with horror movies while she’s away at work. Unfortunately, What If skimps out on the family dynamic in favor of its broader love story; weaving both together might have provided a bit more edge.

What If quickly settles into a romantic comedy groove with the appearance of Allan (Adam Driver) and jacked and brash sense of humor, which audience members rely on to sit through the entirety of the film. His tall stature in relation to Wallace’s is laughable at best, making their friendship heartwarming and engaging. (One was little, one was big, but they were the best of friends.)

Allan tries to fix Wallace’s social displacement and anguish by inviting him to his tumultuous social gathering at a house party where he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan). The two hit it off and complete each other’s sentences in front of a refrigerator filled with magnetic poetry.

After calling it a night, he walks Chantry back to her apartment only to find that she has a boyfriend, but she willingly scratches her phone number on piece paper from her sketchbook and hands it over to him. This act inculcates his madness for her bright red lips, coy personality, and closet full of cute vintage dresses.

Wallace, like any guy who gets friend zoned, goes home absolutely livid. He climbs on top of his perching spot and ponders if he should even keep her number, allowing the wind to drift it away from his hand. His facial expression screams, "What's the point of even keeping her number if she has a boyfriend. I want someone that can instantly put out. It has been two years!" The piece of paper drifts through the wind with the fairy coming to life on screen as an animation, which closely follows through Chantry’s emotional journey throughout the movie and gives us a better idea of what she does for a living as an animator.

The two rejoice and encounter each other outside of a Princess Bride screening (ugh) and decide to be friends. They go out drinking and rambunctiously dance at nightclubs. Alcohol eases the pain in any situation, even in the friend zone.

The friendship between the two blossoms into a spectacular rose bush and Wallace enjoys talking to Chantry about everything. He falls in love with her, madly in love, but can’t express it. Chantry invites Wallace over for dinner to meet her boyfriend of five years Ben (Rafe Spall). Ben works for the United Nations and suspects Wallace’s sexual pursuits for Chantry with quick mutters and jabs while hastily dicing an onion. Ben resembles someone who you don’t want to be stuck in an elevator with because he will suddenly start a conversation.

In one scene, Allan and Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) invite the friend zone pair on a beach trip. Allan and Nicole pursue a late night skinny dipping excursion, leaving Chantry and Wallace by the fire. Chantry suggests skinny dipping in the dark with Wallace, a dangerous game, but she plays it anyway. In addition, she plays the juvenile I’ll show you mine if-you-show-me-yours game with Wallace underneath the moonlight and he obliges, of course. It’s purely innocent.

Allan and Nicole’s mischievous scheme of taking their clothes leave the two out cold for the night. Being naked doesn’t even lead to second base and they end up spending the night back-to-back in a sleeping bag furious.

Chantry gets a job offer as a project manager in Tokyo and feels an exorbitant amount of pressure to make a decision. It’s the only source of control she feels she needs to take advantage of. Instinctively and rationally, she sits alone with a pencil and writes a pros and cons list. She allows to be honest with herself and her feelings for Wallace. Her heart can no longer deny that their friendship is more than just a friendship. The calculated risks and steps Chantry takes guide her onto an illuminating path on questioning her career and 5-year long relationship with Ben. She finds happiness in her honesty and becomes unafraid.

Mia Ngyuen is the features editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here.

"Scar Issue" - The Color Morale (mp3)

"Developing Negative" - The Color Morale (mp3)


In Which Ralph Ellison Meets The Love Of His Life

This is the first in a two part series.

Nothing Has Changed


In 1957, Ralph Ellison told his second wife Fanny McConnell that their marriage had been a disappointment to him.

Ralph and Fanny met thirteen years earlier. She was slightly older, still gorgeous, having changed the spelling of her name from Fannie to Fanny as a way of putting the sexual abuse by her stepfather behind her. She had studied theater at the University of Iowa after transferring from Fisk College in Nashville. Due to Jim Crow laws she was never allowed onstage.

Disillusionment came to Fanny quickly. When she enrolled at Fisk, she told her mother, "I think I am the best looking girl in the freshman class. I am going to make it my business be one of the smartest too." She transferred from Fisk to Iowa, where she was even unhappier at the larger, almost all-white school. Chicago treated her no better.

Fanny's first husband was the drizzling shits; her second husband ran off to join the 366th infantry and decided he liked it a lot better than his wife. She lost her job at the Chicago Defender for no reason and found Washington D.C. to be the most racist city she had been to yet.

In New York, she took a position at the National Urban League. It was here that she met Ralph Ellison, who, she wrote, was "the lonely young man I found one sunny afternoon in June." In reality, the two were introduced by mutual friend Langston Hughes. Their first date occurred at Frank's Restaurant in Harlem.

Ralph encouraged his new girlfriend to read Malraux. He was planning a novel about a black man dropped into a Nazi prison camp, who would rally the group together before perishing as a martyr. It was meant to be "an ironic comment upon the ideal and realistic images of democracy."

Three months after they kissed, Fanny moved into Ralph's apartment at 306 W. 141st Street. She could not tell anyone she lived there, since she would have been fired from her job if they knew. Soon after, she left for Chicago to finalize her divorce papers. Ellison panicked that she would not come back. She had barely hit city limits when he telegrammed, YOUR SILENCE PREVENTING WORK. WIRE ME EVEN IF MIND CHANGED. Fanny replied, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I AM THE SAME AND LOVE YOU.

When she returned to New York, Fanny was so happy she chanced an enema and threw out her old clothes. They adopted a puppy, a Scottish terrier named Bobbins.

The two were rarely apart in the years that followed. World War II ended, but Ralph's own battles continued. They spent part of that summer after their marriage in Vermont, where among the detritus of backwards New England, Fanny's husband developed the basic concept of Invisible Man.

Ralph found it difficult to write in Harlem, so he rented a shack in scenic Long Island that served as his office. The rent took up most of his savings, and Fanny's job at a housing authority provided the rest of what they had. The two were married quietly in August 1946.

At the same time as Ellison was putting down roots, his friend Richard Wright was leaving America for Paris, exhausted by the insults an invective marriage to a white woman had brought into his life. In Paris Wright would have powerful friends in the expatriate community; Ellison had already found these resources in America.

With Fanny by his side, Ralph hoped for the kind of acclaim and financial security of which he had long dreamed. In order to really get down to completing Invisible Man, he plotted a sabbatical from his wife in Vermont where he could finally wrap up the novel. He took Bobbins and their new dog, Red, with him. He missed his wife intensely: "To paraphrase myself, I love you, write me, I'm lonely, and envious of your old lovers who for whatever pretext, have simply to walk up the street to see you."

Fanny wrote back, "My dear, all my former lovers are dead. I don't even remember who they were."

with a friend's bb

Ralph encouraged Fanny to spend the time writing, which she had done for the stage in Chicago at the Negro Theater. In New York she was expected to keep up relationships with Ralph's wealthy white friends, who enjoyed parading her around a bit too much.

By the time Ralph made it back from Vermont where he was basically the only black man in a small college town, Invisible Man was yet to be completed. Fanny felt major pressure to produce a child. At 38 this would have been difficult, and Ralph was resolutely against adoption. Still, she could not conceive despite fertility treatments at the Sanger Bureau. Frustrated with his wife, Ralph pretended to seek other intimacy without ever consummating it.

He took out on Fanny his anger at not being able to complete the book, at what he felt was a token role in a white-dominated literary world. All this he also channeled into his writing. When a friend offered the use of an office in Manhattan's diamond district, Ralph gladly accepted. Perched in a window that looked out on Radio City Music Hall, passerby were often scandalized to see a black man smoking at a typewriter.

By 1949 Ralph had to abandon his temporary office, but Invisible Man, after so long, seemed close to being finished. An excerpt published in the magazine Horizon heightened anticipation for the book and elevated Ralph's star, pushing him to complete the final manuscript. Fanny did much of the typing as he revised, focusing the text by eliminating an Othello-like subplot.

Manhattan seemed a more hospitable place than ever. In these last months of putting together the book, Ralph would do anything to distract himself from saying it was done; he even constructed an entire amplifier from parts to avoid working on it. Fanny gave him the space he needed: husband and wife were on more solid ground. Finally, with a new agent and new publisher, Invisible Man appeared on store shelves on April 14, 1952.

"We feel these days," Fanny wrote to Langston Hughes, "as if we are about to be catapulted into something unknown  of which we are both hopeful and afraid."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

with Lyndon Johnson

"Sugar High" - Larkin Poe (mp3)

"Jesse" - Larkin Poe (mp3)