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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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 Drive Around For Some Time

Driver's Manual


Mr. Mercedes
creator David E. Kelley

Retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) is absolutely disgusting. In the first episode of Mr. Mercedes, he starts to eat a slice of rum cake before he has even begun his lunch. This kind of cursory character-building detail is the bread and butter of Stephen King, who has written a novel on every single subject. This approach means that more talented people can adapt them at their leisure depending on when the subject becomes relevant in the contemporary social discourse.

The relevant subject in this relentlessly dull adaptation of the similarly boring source material is the dissociation of young white men from reality. A murderer named Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) works at an electronics store and has an incestuous relationship with his mother (an unrecognizable Kelly Lynch). In the first twenty minutes of Mr. Mercedes, Brady has run over a bunch of job-seekers lining up for an employment fair, gawked at his mother's ample cleavage, and been dressed-down by his not-so-inspirational manager.

Without meaning to, I think, King and showrunner David E. Kelley are giving some kind of bizarre justification for racism, bigotry and hatred. Even The Silence of Lambs did not go to extensive lengths to humanize the behavior of Hannibal Lecter, and god knows that was a possible direction since most of his victims were incredibly annoying.

Let me change the topic since it seems like the right moment for that. I recently attended an event seeking to explain the phenomenon of various neo-Nazi gatherings that caused some branches of the ACLU to completely abandon their principles. The panelists mostly focused on structural racism, wisely staying away from identifying the motives of the actual people involved.

Why are some people full of hatred? There is no justification or excuse that will render this subject operable in the mind of a normal, non-bigoted person. Mr. Mercedes is proof of this, since there are plenty of great writers (Dennis Lehane, A.M. Homes, Sophie Owens-Bender) working on this project, and throughout this series, which is exclusive to the Direct TV channel Audience for now, nothing much is accomplished when it comes to knowing who or what Brady Hartsfield is.

Since that inquiry fails either because it is the wrong question, or because the answer is unknowable to non-sociopaths, we seek to learn what we can from Brady Hartsfield's counterpart in Mr. Mercedes. To his credit, King has always been willing to take risks with his protagonists that other writers generally eschew. Sometimes that makes those protagonists rather unlikable, rendering their stories impotent, but this is of no concern to Stephen, since there is always another novel if you are not liking the one you've got.

Gleeson really throws everything into this alcoholic, near-suicidal retiree. Hodges' general crankiness is actual charming when administered in bits and pieces, even if we acknowledge we are witnessing the slow death of a dinosaur being purged from his natural habitat. Far less forgivable is the fact that Hodges is not really much of a detective -- in fact he relies upon a teenager named Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) to fix his computer, mow his lawn, and generally discover what is relevant to the investigation. "You have to find a purpose," his good-natured neighbor Ida (Holland Taylor) tells him.

It is impossible not to read this as an oblique commentary on Brady Hartsfield, who is portrayed by one of the most talented English actors at imitating an American we have seen in some time. If we would simply give our racists some other purpose, David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal) seems to be saying, they would forget about their true nature. I don't know whether this is true, but I do know that goodwill towards those unwilling to help themselves rarely goes unpunished.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


In Which We Autistically Begin Our Career In Surgery


Showing Appreciation


The Good Doctor
creator David Shore

Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is a functioning autistic surgical student. In the first episode of The Good Doctor, he flies from Wyoming to San Jose, California to begin his first residency. Both places are much the same to him, and really to us, since we have never been to San Jose or Cheyenne, and there is nothing in The Good Doctor to recommend either.

When he lands at the San Jose airport, he witnesses a severe accident. A plane of glass falls on an African-American boy. Shards lodge in the boy's abdomen and enter his bloodstream; his neck is also slashed. A well-meaning doctor tries to help, but Shaun can see that he is doing it wrong, because autistic people have superpowers much like Superman's x-ray vision. Shaun immediately recalls information from medical textbooks he has pored over. He creates a makeshift valve to allow the boy to keep breathing, but not after stealing a knife from a gaggle of TSA agents.

After they see that their son has been saved by this weird white man, the parents of the boy give him a soft hug. Shaun is neither excited or disturbed by their outpouring of emotion. He does not seem to understand it at all, an unlikely reaction for a functioning autistic. Then again, if he bristled at their touch, how sympathetic would he be in the scenes that follow?


Shaun's benefactor is Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff). He is president of the hospital to which the African-American boy is dispatched. Shaun follows, begging the doctors attending the case to give the child an echocardiogram. They won't do it, probably because they are racist. Or maybe not racist, since most of the residents at this hospital are individuals of color, but racist against autistic people.

In many other countries, individuals with developmental disabilities are being eliminated before they are even born. I would like to think that in America, we value genetic diversity, but The Good Doctor puts the lie to this entire concept, since Shaun's supervising Mexican-American surgeon Dr. Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) tells him, on his first day, that he will only be doing suction.


While it is certainly nice to see a hospital full of doctors from a diverse variety of backgrounds, The Good Doctor sort of writes itself into a political hole here. It is not really appropriate or convincing to identify these various individuals from disparate life experiences as all united in their intolerance of a white man. I say, "not appropriate," because it implies that coming from a particular place gives you no particular understanding of what it means to be an outsider in every context. I think that's a lie.

As it happens, the actors who play Shaun's immediate superiors on The Good Doctor have a very specific background. Hill Harper, who portrays the head of surgery at the hospital, attended Harvard Law School. Gonzalez, who stars as the arrogant surgeon meant to be Shaun's supervisor, spent time at Oxford. I do not believe any of these people in real life would be intolerant of someone with autism, and it feels somewhat wrong to force them into positions where they have to pretend this.

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Shaun's character promulgates this contradiction in a scene with another resident, Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas). (Thomas is an English actress, borne of a Jamaican mother and a British father.) He says to her in the hospital's cafeteria, "The first time I met you, you were rude to me. The next time, you were nice to me. Which time were you pretending?"

In flashbacks we see that young Shaun (Graham Verchere) was essentially raised by his brother Steve (Dylan Kingwell). They live in a school bus for some reason, which seems slightly implausible, but not for Shaun, who asks if they can get a television. Steve says that they can't because they live in a school bus. Steve might be annoyed sometimes by his brother's autism, but in general he is remarkably good-natured about it.


In this inverted world, certain people are surgeons. Maybe it's great that they are, maybe some of them shouldn't be. It is not up to us to judge, whether we are white or Mexican-American or African-American, since we can never truly know the subjectivity of another person. We must only show our appreciation, our happiness that another person, who exists at the behest of something larger than ourselves, lurks behind the mask of the everyday. In this regular-ish place, superpowers are always secret.

Or maybe the only superpower that Freddie Highmore's character actually has is that he is white, and the rest is just a distracting backstory.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.



In Which We Wait Longer Than Is Really Necessary

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.


I recently met a great girl who I will call Lauren. Eventually we got around to talking about past relationships. At first she became somewhat quiet, and then explained something that was difficult for her.

She said that she was engaged to a guy named Kevin until she found out he was gay. When confronted, Kevin confessed and the wedding was called off. This was all fine if a bit unusual, but Kevin is still a big part of her life. She also shared he was not the only gay guy she has been involved with.

I don't know exactly what kind of red flag this is, but I sense that it is one. Can you parse this better than me?

Lane R.



If this is something that happened when she was fairly young and didn't know any better, then I'd be inclined to give her a pass. It is completely reasonable to have a boyfriend who isn't demanding of you sexually if this is an area in which you are hesitant or possibly sensitive.

Imagine some guy places himself inside you and it hurts like hell. On a conscious ir subconscious level you might think about dating a gay, too.

If this episode in her life is occurred at a later point, it is likely reflective of some larger dysfunction. The fact that she still has a relationship with this person isn't the greatest sign, but maybe she just doesn't have many friends.

If you see the two of them together, you'll know quickly how much of a problem it is. If you are still concerned, then you can blow the whistle. So early on it's probably not the best to demand she cut off important people in her life she might need if and when you bail.


Recently I was seeing a guy named Javier. Things seemed to be going well until we had sex. After that he ghosted me but very slowly, making up an entire litany of excuses before finally not responding. We waited a month before fucking and it seemed like forever. What is the best way to handle sex in the early stages of a relationship?

Kyoko E.

Dear Kyoko,

If a guy isn't interested after sex, there could be a variety of reasons for this. It is best to not fixate on any particular one. Of one thing we can be completely sure: if you had waited another two months, it is extremely doubtful the result of the relationship would be different.

It is usually not the sex so much as how it happens. If Javier was coming off a relationship, intercourse that approximates this will remind him of his past. In this case it is better to have sex spontaneously in an unfamiliar place. If he is more of a flighty kind of guy, make him express some significant emotion before getting more intimate. Many people don't know what exactly they are feeling until they articulate it.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.