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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Ethan Peterson

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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

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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

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Entries in barack obama (3)


In Which We Choose A Place Where We Can Kick Back

54 Christmas Trees


There's a book I come back to again and again on my shelf. It's called White House Redux, and it is ostensibly a collection of proposals for a new White House. Although this surely would have been more appropriate a subject after the White House burned down the first time in 1814, flipping through the proposals gives me a certain feeling. The book contains a variety of ideas for how to redesign the next White House in a style that doesn't scream "falling Roman empire."

Afterwards, the president's grounds were still standing, they just looked really subpar:

guys, the slave whips smell weird now

My wife bought me White House Redux as a gag, and reading through the collection's 720 pages, it is a gag. The winner was decided by a jury meeting on the 45th floor of a World Trade Center. The victor of the competition was a collection of magic carpets and aerial views of Washington D.C. with Richard Brautigan's Revenge of the Lawn laid over them. As a collage it's not half bad, but I can't get cozy with my wife on the kitchen counter of your ideas.

Other topics covered by entrants to White House Redux include The White House in Antarctica, The White House as a jet (never heard of Air Force Won?), the White House as a giant golf ball and the White House peppered with live graphs tracking the public's disapproval of the Iraq War. What is this Iraq War and why does it sound so familiar?

Kory Bieg's white house as sponge

White House Redux was released in 2008, when apparently everything was considerably less serious. One entrant has the president looking out on a variety of Noam Chomsky quotes, and yet there's no nearby basket of tissues for when he masturbates. 2008 was the joke before the punchline. (Now is the punchline.) The proposals are overwhelmingly silly, from individuals who have clearly never entered or coveted the White House, and why should they? Many of them have tenure.

Matthieu Hackenheimer

But really, I can't blame these architects for not treating the project at face value. Most of them don't even believe there should be a White House, and there I cannot fault them either. It's been said numerous times that the Obamas don't particularly enjoy being in the White House. It's large and not really suitable for family living. It's exactly like the movie First Kid basically.

Brandon Shigeta

Many of the proposals play on perceived corporate ties, as in the above. Wouldn't it be precious if we combined two things known to us for completely different reasons? Let's get this straight: ABC paid a lot of money to Barack Obama's campaign, but they didn't actually get anything for that money. (Well, George Stephanopoulus received a lovely pen and a dental dam.)

Since everyone in our society uses the products of corporations whether or not they actually profess to, it's amazing how you never see the president around one. We don't even know what brand of cigaret he smokes, we just know that lung cancer is in his future and he himself will not be paying for the treatment. George W. Bush was addicted to Febreze; I once saw him coat his cat and his Secretary of the Interior in the same spray. Another example: Ronald Reagan would only have intercourse with whores from the Ukraine.

Some of the ideas are particularly ill-advised, but not in a humorous way, more in a "we-don't-know-anything-about-the-world way." This conception of the new White House includes a mutating wall that could post a variety of symbols and colors appropriate to foreign visitors. That's all good until you accidentally see an image of their prophet above the toilet. (We keep that stuff in video games.)

Usually when the White House is redesigned, the end result is more tyranny. You never tear down the wall to make a smaller wall, it might turn into too easy of a metaphor for the shrinking economy.

I'm not sure when the White House became, instead, a symbol of humility — here, we also live in a house. Not houses plural, not a ranch in Texas, not on a $50m vacation, but in a home like yours. As symbols go, the current White House is hardly even the nicest home in the Washington D.C. area. That honor goes to the domicile of Antonin Scalia's mistress.

Steven Marker

Yes, the Obamas are very controlling about what information comes out about their lives. The general public thinks that every Washington secret will emerge eventually, but in reality things aren't much different from when Thomas Jefferson kept his infidelities from a press that would trade any amount of integrity for the golden concept that described the importance of their lives - access

These White Houses perform a service of making us realize how ridiculous that sounds. It's not just a house with a Christmas tree and people. It's a station of disembarkation, a place where mortals leave the world.


The excessive number of Christmas trees in the residence this year were donated by individuals and corporations eager to be known for providing the carcasses of living things to powerful people, kinda like when villagers would thrive on a monarch's sampling of their potatoes or daughters.

This donation idea is not so bad. If people are willing to donate massive expensive trees to a home they'll never enter, maybe they would be willing to part with other things taxpayers can cease paying for. Gifts for the girls, a ham for the table, a Vingian bobble to make sure two worlds exist where once there was one. Anything given freely is a blessing, property surrended under duress causes hurt feelings and imaginary solar panels.

Every utopia in some way resembles another, similar utopia. Mixing the political world with the art world always ends in tragedy, because art must be unaffected by time to deserve that label, and the only thing timeless about politics is Hillary Clinton's prim sexuality.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about Boardwalk Empire.

"Slowly Show Me" - Jessica Bailiff (mp3)

"Take Me To The Sun (So Warm, So Ready)" - Jessica Bailiff (mp3)

Pieterjan Ginickels, Julian Freidauer


In Which All They Know Of The World Is What You Show Them

Acting Up


I am a product of the Oakland Unified School District (Glenview Griffins!), home of the Ebonics controversy. In 1986 our teachers went on strike for what seemed like forever (got to hang at a friend's grandma's house, it was awesome). In 1989 MC Hammer filmed his video for "Help The Children" at my elementary school, also we had an earthquake and the A's swept the World Series (big year). I would not be lying if I said that we studied Too $hort lyrics in class: "600 million on a football team, And her baby dies just like a dope fiend." The Raiders returned in 1994.

Personally I care about the children, not because they are 'the future' but because they make the present worthwhile. It is an anthropological truth that children are cute so that we will love them, with the idea that our love will nurture them into thoughtful adults. That working with children is rewarding emotionally, if not monetarily, derives from the fact that children are generally just better than adults. If you don't appreciate that it takes a village, you must at least acknowledge that we should hope some of these children grow up to be smart enough to cure our cancers.

Did you read There Are No Children Here in the 90's? Did it break your heart? Did you go out make your own "I <3 Birdleg" T-shirt with those iron-on fuzzy letters?

Geoffrey Canada is president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone. Canada is doing Whatever It Takes

to get every child in Central Harlem to college. "Called "one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time," by The New York Times, the Harlem Children's Zone Project is a unique, holistic approach to rebuilding a community so that its children can stay on track through college and go on to the job market. The goal is to create a "tipping point" in the neighborhood so that children are surrounded by an enriching environment of college-oriented peers and supportive adults, a counterweight to "the street" and a toxic popular culture that glorifies misogyny and anti-social behavior.

Paul Tough's book about Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone displays blurbs from a cast of characters that reads like a roaster of well respected Americans: Bill Clinton, David Brooks, as well as blurbs from the authors of every book you have seen every single person on the subway reading: Elizabeth Gilbert, David Eggers, Stephen Dubner, Michael Pollan.

photo by Alex Tehrani

During his campaign Barack Obama promised that if was elected he would replicate the Harlem Children Zone in Promise Neighborhoods in 20 cities around the country. This was without Canada's endorsement (Canada was after all a friend of the Clintons). Part of Obama's Change is more Geoffrey Canada. As Tough writes, "Kids from poor families might be nicer, they might be happier they might be more polite — but in countless ways, the manner in which they are raised puts them at a disadvantage in the measures that count in contemporary American society."

photo by Alex Tehrani

The HCZ pipeline begins with The Baby College, a series of workshops for parents of children ages 0-3. The pipeline goes on to include best-practice programs for children of every age through college. The network includes in-school, after-school, social-service, health and community-building programs. The pipeline has, in fact, dual pathways: on one track, the children go through our Promise Academy charter schools; while on the other track, we work to support the public schools in the Zone, both during the school day with in-class assistants and with afterschool programs.

- HCZ Mission Statement

In a speech at Amherst College, Canada explained that many of his rich donors visit his schools and say "This school is better then MY OWN kids school," to which he responds, "Of course it is, these kids need this. Your kid doesn't need this. Your kids have all this other stuff."

Baby College

The Baby College offers a nine-week parenting workshop to expectant parents and those raising a child up to three years old. Among other lessons, the workshops promote reading to children and verbal discipline over corporal punishment.  —  This American Life: Going Big

Victor Boria Jr. and his young father represented two separate generations of Harlem youth. Geoffrey Canada’s staff had one program that would help Victor Jr. complete all his immunizations and another to help Victor Sr. complete high school. But while the Harlem Children's Zone was prepared to work with both Borias, the prospects of the infant and those of the young man seemed very different. (Victor Boria Jr. became eligible for the Promise Academy lottery in August 2010.)

Visitors to my public charter school often ask how the students feel about the signs on the walls that say: 'Failure is not an option.' They are surprised to hear that the signs are really for the staff. 

Efiom Ukoidemabia, or Mr. U, was the math coach at the Promise Academy Middle School. Back in September, Chastity was obsessed with math, always going to Mr.U for extra problems and special math games. For the past few weeks though, she and Mr.U has been feuding she acted up in class one day, he called her mother to report her misbehavior and Chastity decided she couldn't stand him. ("We're both Geminis," Mr. U said by way of explanation.)

If Canada's model was one of contamination, in which positive ideas and practices spread within a family and throughout a neighborhood, the KIPP model sometimes seemed by contrast to be one of quarantine, walling off the most promising kids from a sick neighborhood's contagion.

As Canada often said, he was tired of programs that helped a few kids "beat the odds" and make it out of the ghetto; his goal was to change the odds, and to do it for all of Harlem's kids. The idea that Promise Academy might stand as an island of success in the middle of Harlem's ocean of failure - that felt entirely wrong to him.

Charter Schools are a controversial issue. Teachers are notoriously underpaid and in exchange belong to a powerful union and a contract that regulates the both the minutiae of school system and larger issues such as the length of the school day and year. Charter schools who chose to institute 'whatever it takes' methods, including longer school days and classes on on Saturdays, have been picketed by Acorn. (While wearing Abercrombie & Fitch no less, if one were to point out ironies.)

Families in Harlem want desperately to get their children into charter schools, which are only available through a lottery. If the final scene of The Lottery doesn't bring you to tears you are officially dead inside. "This is a call to all those in charge at the Department of Education,” shouted Esperanza Vazquez of Morrisania. "Do your work for our children."

promise academy/HCZ  BO in 2007: "The moral question about poverty in America — How can a country like this allow it? — has an easy answer: we can't. The political question that follows — What do we do about it? — has always been more difficult. But now that we're finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, this country has an obligation to keep trying."

The radical idea behind the Harlem Children's Zone is that poor children deserve the best, of everything. The best education, the best health care and the best resources. Canada decided to do everything for the children of Harlem that he would do for his own child. The fact that we continue to accept that children growing up in the most powerful nation in the world, are something that require "saving" shows the true perversity of our system. We should feel an outrage akin to Katrina victims referred to as "refugees." To quote Ras Baraka, principal of Central High School in Newark, "This is not normal."

Letizia Rossi is a contributor to This Recording. She is a master's candidate at the Hunter College School of Social Work. She last wrote in these pages about nail polish blogs. She tumbls here and blogs here.

self portrait with teeth brushers Mission Head Start 2003

Those Awkward Years Have Hurried By

To Sir With Love

A story as fresh as the girls in their minis. . .and as cool as their teacher had to be!

Dead Poets Society

He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary.

They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? — Carpe — hear it? — Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

O Captain! My Captain!

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.

Stand and Deliver

In 1982, a new troublemaker hit Garfield High. He was tough. He was wild. He was willing to fight. He was the new math teacher.

The day someone quits school he is condemning himself to a future of poverty. — Jaime Escalante


Stuff White People Like #62: Knowing What's Best for Poor People

Lisa's Substitute

Miss Hoover: He didn't touch my lesson plan. What did he teach you?

Lisa: That life is worth living.

Mr. Bergstrom: "That's the problem with being middle-class. Anybody who really cares will abandon you for those who need it more."

Dangerous Minds

Q: Is the movie true?

A: Sort of. The movie is based on my book, My Posse Don’t Do Homework, but the Hollywood guys made up a lot of stuff because they thought it would be more exciting. You'll have to decide what you think.

"Gangsta's Paradise" - Coolio (mp3)

"To Sir With Love" - Lulu (mp3)

"Gin and Juice (acapella Snoop Dogg cover)" - StuRap (mp3)


In Which We Just Want Someone To Look Up To

In Praise of Monarchy


Despotism is the most underrated form of government, second only in its vast appeal to anarchism. Historians spend lifetimes proving what is obvious to everyone - we like powerful leaders who don't listen to anyone but themselves. A king or queen who turns affairs of state into a family matter is the best sort of despot. Since we tried to elect one, and he turned out to be a normal man, we can't let this sap ourselves of the possibility.

'i just bet the over in the MNF game little girl'Man loves to worship something, anything. At first the vast number of interviews B.O. saw fit to grant was most vexing. But then we understood his deeply wise plan to become our monarch. Barack's perpetual campaign does make some sense, although usually our leaders wait until election season to reinforce their popularity. This constant need for attention is of course the major characteristic of the most intolerable children.

In politics, ubiquity is nearly always good unless you're interested in being the governor of New York. (Everyone knows who David Paterson is besides David Paterson.) There's such thing as too much exposure, however, and it makes the ensuing celebration ring false. For example, does anyone actually believe Taylor Swift is talented? Her voice sounds like a creaky can, and she sort of looks like she was run over by a steamroller.

Princess Diana was wildly popular here in the United States. Even Elton John was astonished about how much people cared about a white girl's sad end. Her ensuing halofication was pretty abhorrent, but worse was that empty longing that the Queen Mother felt when Camilla Bowles entered the picture. The glimmer of royalty is the salve on the pathetic inadequacy of government.

Do you have any idea what vast army of bureaucrats has taken up space in the world's biggest roach motel of Washington D.C.? Feeding off the government has moved beyond skill for these people - they actually believe they're doing the rest of us some good. Find a moron who takes American politics seriously and I'll show you a person who thinks that our next Democratic president will be the first one to reduce troop levels.

not quite a brave faceYes, we're pumping more human lives into Afghanistan. If a king were handling this, we'd have the glory of a nationalistic speech and an unmistakable authority to dry our tears. Instead we just get another 60 Minutes interview and people pasting Barack's face on Lyndon Johnson's body in photoshop. I have given up on getting a better government, now I simply wish to feel better about the one I have.

Monarchy's singular advantage overwhelms all. Despite the necessary evil of increasing the circulation of the New York Post tenfold, a monarchy will honor us by eliminating all the unnecessary departments from the government. One wise person can easily do the work of hundreds of thousands of people who are probably not that bright. I nominate Warren Buffet for starters, and maybe after that Kathy Griffin just to mix it up a little.

We don't even need to find the smartest person in the world. First of all, most traditionally smart people aren't actually very intelligent at all. I mean, do you know how much money Steven Spielberg pays in alimony? Can we really trust him with our country? Our closest thing to a royal person was Alan Greenspan, who every president invested with some modicum of faith. Although that didn't work out so great, to be fair, Greenspan wasn't the culprit who made the United States into a service-based economy. We did that.

In this fashion, all negative things can be blamed on populism, and all remedies on the monarch. Aren't you tired of not knowing who to blame for society's ills? It's three words and it's the name of the asshole who did this to us: William Jennings Bryan.

Our democracy has long been a sham anyway; Mayor Bloomberg just rewrote the laws to keep lording everything over us. Democrats and Republicans continue to keep third party candidates out of the public debate. As wealth itself becomes less satisfying and power an even stronger entitlement, it will be a simple matter to buy elections. How can democracy exist when the only other option is robbing the populace like that gollum John McCain suggested? I don't want to pay for his lifestyle any more than I want the American taxpayer underwriting Barack's joyrides to hear if Chicago is going to get the Olympics. Kings demand ceremonial sporting events, they don't wait to be chosen to host them. Kings order us around because in our hearts, we'd all feel a lot more comfortable being told what to do.

Our pop culture is becoming radioactive; Barack and his stunning wife offered a return to the glamour of old. The richheads of Rome fell, too. All that becomes stagnant perishes except a monarch. For this reason, monarchy is not as staid a form of government as is commonly perceived.

In those halcyon days, power was as fleeting as a handjob or coy servant girl's attention. Government's most important quality was that it had to last, and democracies are only as stable as the kinds of people who vote in them. If one option is a guy who's more into critiquing Fox News than running this country, and the other option is Sarah Palin, I have a plan to select neither of these options. Barack's already got the hard part down. He's the best baby-kisser ever elected president, narrowly edging out Harry Truman's lascivious lips. At this point I'd rather watch him wear a Burger King crown than think about the outcome of the next election.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here.

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