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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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Entries in kara vanderbijl (80)

Friday
Feb202015

In Which The Snow Could Be Covering The Hole

Midwestern Dates

by KARA VANDERBIJL

5 minutes: Pay $14.95 for an Illinois fishing license

3 minutes: Put on old jeans, two shirts, a sweatshirt, socks from the Army/Navy surplus store, snow boots, down-filled coat, hat, and fleece-lined mittens

7 minutes: Load the sled with the necessities, e.g., beer, whiskey, an empty plastic bucket, an auger, a skimmer, two poles, two plastic condiment containers filled with wood shavings and maggots, a sonar scope, a heater named—no joke—"portable buddy"

15 minutes: Drag sled across frozen lake towards the best fishing spot, into the wind, trying not to slip

~2 minutes: Reach the other huts, realize I'm the only other woman on the ice 

1 minute: Screw the auger into the ice until a deep scent, reminiscent of summer, pokes through the freeze and water bubbles through the hole 

1 minute: Repeat

1 minute: Skim slushy lake water off the surface, stare deep into the murky hole

20 minutes: Attempt to raise the collapsible shelter in 20-30 mph gusts

3 minutes: Sit inside the shelter, freezing, while Jens attempts to tie down the back flaps

2 minutes: Scream when the wind catches the shelter through the open door and drags the whole thing three yards across the ice with me in it

2 minutes: Watch as Jens slips and slides after the fish bucket and a single glove that have blown away 



10 minutes: Figure out how to fortify the shelter against the wind with a series of disconnected metal poles and no instruction manual

1 minute: Breathe gas as the portable buddy kindles to life

30 seconds: Stab a maggot with a hook

30 seconds: Drop the line into the hole and watch the bait flicker green on the sonar scope

20 minutes: Wait for fish 

2 minutes: Laugh when Fleetwood Mac starts playing on Pandora. "It's like they know," I explain to Jens. 

30 minutes: Wait for fish

5 minutes: Have to pee, pull down pants, squat over the hole, feel like the most ridiculous being that has ever walked the planet

30 minutes: Wait for fish

3 minutes: Hear a conversation —

"Don't walk through the snow, you'll break your fucking leg." 

"It's not as slippery!" 

"The snow could be covering a 10 inch hole, you idiot." 

2 minutes: Study the intricate patterns crystallizing inside the strata of the ice 

3 minutes: Freak out, briefly, about the fact that all however many hundreds of pounds of us are sitting on eight inches of ice above twenty feet of water

1 minute: Marvel

20 minutes: Drink a beer that's so cold it makes my teeth hurt

5 minutes: Squat over the hole again

2 minutes: Attempt to tickle Jens through five layers of clothing

2 hours: Wait for fish

10 minutes: Insult fish

30 minutes: Wait for fish

5 minutes: Decide to call it a day

25 minutes: Pack it all up, slip-slide across the lake back the house hand-in-hand

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. You can subscribe to Hors Sujet here.

Paintings by Katherine Bradford.

"Sail" - Awolnation (mp3)

Thursday
Jan222015

In Which We Cannot Pass Unseen Or Untouched

My Disposition

by KARA VANDERBIJL

I am always a little surprised to discover that I have a body. Soon after I’d moved to Chicago, someone brushed my arm on the train and I almost cried because I could not remember the last time someone had touched me.

In the summer I bruise easily. The backs of my calves bloom with purple-black spots at the impact of bike pedals. Now, on my thigh above my knee, there’s a yellow-green spot from when I walked into a drawer that I had opened just moments prior. It’s disappointing, as an adult, to discover that you cannot pass unseen or untouched as easily as you did when you were a child.

I would rather reveal a deep, humiliating secret than have somebody invade my personal space. In the city, there are degrees of closeness. A certain touch in the train is formal, compartmentalized into what we refer to as “rush hour”: the slow sludge movement of hundreds of people trying to squeeze through doorways and turnstiles, through the curled spaces between other humans.

Even if they never reach the same physical proximity as these commuters, someone who means harm can be detected almost immediately. The bodily threat hangs pungent in the space between us. I remember a strange boy putting his hand on my knee when I was in high school, but perhaps he just lifted it from his own and began reaching towards me.

“Don’t touch me,” I warned.

I’m taller than almost any other woman I’ve met, and of a serious, unsmiling disposition. On the street, men whistle, but I don’t know what they’re whistling at. These hips? These breasts? I spent years trying to wish them out of existence, not because I was ashamed of them, but because the fantasy of being admired for simply my mind held an undeniable lure.

When a boy I liked in high school kissed me on the cheek one morning in the hallway before class, I felt it all the way down to my toes. I wasn’t kissed on the mouth until later, long after most people my age had already lost their sense of physical wonder. It was a little bit like being picked last for a sports team, except I was great at it right away, like my body knew things that my mind didn’t, answers to questions that have circulated since the beginning of time.

I took to water like a fish, not afraid of its depths like most children but terrified of the man-made box it was in, the feats of engineering that drained it and filled it and filtered it. When I was seven, I went swimming alone in the deep end by myself. I slipped underwater and reached down to touch the bottom of the pool, near the drain that I feared so much. As I let my body float to the surface of its own buoyant accord, I closed my eyes. My right cheek struck something sharp. I surfaced, bringing my hand to my face, and opened my eyes to see blood covering my palm and running down my arm. I’d gashed my face open on the ladder. At the hospital, they covered my face with tissue paper as they stitched up the wound with a needle shaped like a fish hook.

I forgot to drink water during my freshman year of college. I woke up in the middle of the night sometimes so parched I’d search the whole room, in the dark, trying not to wake my roommate up, for enough change to go buy a bottle of water from the vending machine. Sometimes I couldn’t find enough change and I had to wait until breakfast. The water in the bathrooms tasted metallic, with a twist of chlorine strong enough to make me reminisce about entire Southern California summers spent in the pool. It was a cocktail of childhood, of living in a place I’d lived in before after I’d lived in a place that obliterated all other places for me. My body was the only constant between here and there, and it has never been constant.

I bit my nails for years. Never until they bled, but close. Now, when I see someone on the train with badly bitten fingers, my stomach turns and I have to look away. I wish I could remember how I stopped, or why when I’m taken almost completely out of my body by a book or a film, I resume the old habit.

Eating a lot, and eating well, has always moored me to the physical. But it’s a transient activity. If only I could pick up some sort of tic, a discomfort that would constantly remind me of my body. If I could tap my toes obsessively. If I blinked more than the usual amount. If I possessed one superhuman sensation, even at the expense of another. I realize that these wishes are nonsensical, even offensive. But the desire to change, mutilate, or enhance one’s body has been around forever. It is simply the desire to be a body that we are also proud of, instead of this paradoxical creature that we happen to be but cannot always identify with.

My thighs are touching again. I’m wearing a sundress and the humidity makes my legs stick together uncomfortably. When I’ve felt unbeautiful, I’ve known deep inside that it is simply a result of my own feelings, not the physical reality of me. I’ve always thought more about what I could give to people in terms of my presence or thoughts; giving my body to friends or lovers to embrace and study seems foreign and bizarre even now. I enjoy it with the same wonder as I enjoy pondering a new and difficult concept.

We copyright them sometimes, but in truth, our thoughts are universal. Once you share an idea with someone, you’ve put it out into the universe, and you can’t take it back. Our bodies are the only things that truly belong to us, truly are us. Even in our most intimate physical sharing, we remain separate. You can pass an idea off as your own but you cannot pretend to own somebody else’s body. It’s the part of us that keeps us from becoming truly universal, perhaps from fully belonging.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by David Drebin.

"Follow You" - Night Riots (mp3)

"Oh My Heart" - Night Riots (mp3)

Thursday
Dec112014

In Which This Must Not Be The Place

Panic Room

by KARA VANDERBIJL

The One I Love
director Charlie McDowell

91 minutes

Every relationship has its house rules: put the toilet lid down, don't cheat, listen to what I have to say before telling me what I should do. But Ethan (Mark Duplass) has broken the big one, so he and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) visit a therapist to see if they can salvage their marriage.

Call me when you get there, don't make fun of me in front of your friends, make yourself more emotionally available.

Ethan and Sophie try so hard it's painful to watch. Attempting to recapture the magic of their early courtship, they break into a stranger's yard in the wee hours and jump into the pool, failing to understand that what thrilled them early on wasn't the act itself but performing it with someone attractive they didn't yet know.

When his initial methods fail, the therapist suggests a new approach: the couple should escape for the weekend to a remote retreat, a huge, beautiful house on lush grounds complete with a guest cottage.

Pick up your socks, pick up some milk, will you, honey can you pick up some beer?

Taking a trip: like telling the truth or trying a new hobby, it's one of the great relationship rejuvenators that can also double as a death knell. At first, Ethan and Sophie bask in the opulence of their getaway: they poke their head in magazine-perfect rooms, begin to laugh, explore the guest house, open a bottle of wine. The film's mood — earlier dominated by discord, deep shadows, and disconnected dialogue — lightens. Ethan fires up a joint and they pass it back and forth. Somebody, we sense, is about to get lucky.

And somebody does. But in the morning, Ethan has no memory of their encounter.

We immediately cry “Drugs!”, of course, but McDowell's film takes a refreshing turn for the weird and ends up revealing more about the rules within a relationship than another rote story about a difficult relationship could.

Slowly, Ethan and Sophie realize that they're not alone at their retreat — in fact, another Ethan and Sophie live in the guest house, which only one of them can enter at a time. Mostly identical, these doppelgangers embody aspects of Ethan and Sophie's personalities that have fallen by the wayside the longer they've been together. Sophie becomes enamored with faux Ethan, while real Ethan's suspicions grow and fake Sophie cooks bacon.

In every relationship, an (unconsciously) agreed-upon dynamic guides the couple's interactions, and the longer the relationship lasts, the more this dynamic cements and resists change. Ethan and Sophie remember the wildness of their early days because these rules didn't yet exist: they “did Ecstasy at Lollapalooza” and jumped into strangers' pools. Ironically, of course, the very freedom to be wild and oneself at the beginning of a relationship is what determines one's role in the relationship later on, a role that's very difficult to break out of — unless, of course, you meet someone new.

Ethan cheated on Sophie — it's the whole reason they're in therapy, after all — and now Sophie cheats on Ethan with his shadow, a foil that apologizes for all the wrong he's ever done and wants to be as close to her as possible. This allows Sophie to see herself as a generous and forgiving spouse, which, ironically, fake Sophie also embodies — the doppelganger is so accommodating and domestic she's basically a transplant from the 1950s.

Moss and Duplass deftly impersonate both the classically boring, married couple that dresses in neutral tones and goes for jogs around the property, as well as the doppelganger duo. It's especially easy to imagine Moss as a blonde and icy cool Hitchcock heroine, which adds even more interest to her character as the film dives deeper into fantasy.

McDowell doesn't draw any conclusions, and by the end it's hard to tell the difference between what's real and what's false. Ultimately, the film's greatest success lies in the subtle suggestion that Ethan and Sophie were in fact in a better place at the beginning of the film than at the end. It's better to build a safe atmosphere in which to be uncomfortable with your partner, than one that is comfortable but unsafe.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Outlander. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can subscribe to her letters here.