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Kara VanderBijl
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Brittany Julious
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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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Entries in kara vanderbijl (77)

Monday
Sep292014

In Which Her Mistake Was Waiting Six Episodes

Resemblances

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Just like that, it’s time to bid adieu to Outlander -- at least until April, when the Starz adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s beloved novel will return to screens with its first season’s final eight episodes. Seriously, whoever created mid-season breaks needs to be taken out and flogged. While that’s happening, let’s take a look at a few things we’ve learned from the show over the past eight weeks:

1

Explaining this story to people who haven’t heard of it never gets easier. Eventually the only solution is to dish up a healthy serving of black pudding, sit them in front of the telly, and make them watch it.

2

Or else pass them a copy of Gabaldon’s book and watch them fall into spasms of delight when they realize there are SEVEN MORE IN THE SERIES.

3

Speaking of spasms, if a group of ancient stones starts whispering to you, your vacation is not going well and you need to leave.

4

Should you get sucked into the past via the aforementioned stones, don’t fret: your life is about to get a whole lot more exciting.

5

People pay good money to have experiences like yours, Claire. Haven’t you heard of living museums?

6

Just think: if you travel back to the past, you start a never-ending cycle wherein you never really cease to exist.

7

Don’t trust Redcoats.

8

If the captain of the Redcoats, who looks suspiciously like the husband you left behind in the future, starts confessing his sadism to you, this is not your cue to let your guard down.

9

This isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey.

10

But it is a romance, so look alive, Claire!

11

When you have a completely unexplained but intense attraction to a perfect redhead who calls you by a cute nickname and wears a kilt, you need to do what God intended and jump his bones immediately. Don’t wait six episodes.

12

Then again, seven is the perfect number, isn’t it?

13

The wedding is pivotal, and not just because of its consummation. Every decision thereafter involves another person. Claire cannot escape through the stones anymore without facing the consequences. There are consequences, there is loss, on both sides now.

14

Outlander as a portrait of female desire.

15

Then again…

16

If you are a woman in the 18th century, you will narrowly escape rape in pretty much every episode.

17

By the end I wouldn’t have been surprised if Claire had just rolled her eyes and hiked up her skirts. “Let’s just get this over with.”

18

All in all, it has always been a drag to be a woman.

19

But that’s okay, because Jamie exists.

20

Behind every good woman is a well-written male character.

21

There are few greater male characters than ones who are written into existence by women who are obviously in love with them.

22

If you don’t believe me, read the books.

23

Scars are sexy.

24

Do NOT fuck with anybody whose last name is Randall.

25

If your name is Frank Randall, you’re boring but we still feel sorry for you. We’re sorry you’re boring. Somehow, despite being boring, you manage to be important, which probably wasn’t easy for Diana Gabaldon and certainly isn’t for Tobias Menzies, who plays you. He’s doing a great job, though.

26

Frank, your theme song is Fleetwood Mac’s “Secondhand News.”

27

Obviously casting Menzies as both Frank and his ancestor, Black Jack Randall, was a key move, if only because it gets us thinking about family resemblances, which aren’t just skin deep. Violence, abandonment, detachment, psychopathy… couldn’t they also be inherited?

28

The following things look comfortable: sheepskins, kilts, cloaks, Highland grass, those cozy knit caps all the guys seem to wear, not having to wear any panties under your skirts (!)

29

The following things do not look comfortable: corsets, any of the chairs, that weird roll thing Claire has to strap around her middle to make her ass look bigger underneath her skirts, saddles, putting a knife inside your boot, being flogged, wigs, those strips of cloth men had to tie around their necks for whatever reason, not having to wear any panties under your skirts

30

Everything else aside, ripping open a bodice seems pretty satisfying.

31

There are a lot of ancient euphemisms for sex and all of them are wonderful but they’re used in such distasteful situations that it’s hard to imagine asking anyone to grind your corn and have it sound even remotely inviting.

32

None of the food looks good.

33

Books aren’t just for smarts; they’re also for tickling the deep, abiding parts in all of us that want to fall in love. That want adventure, and risk, and a good, hot, long roll in the hay discarding 18th-century clothes. That want men who wear their kilts and scars with pride.

34

Romance is the only genre.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording.


Friday
Sep122014

In Which We Take Anyone Who Speaks Our Language

Good Americans

by KARA VANDERBIJL

The Cosmopolitans
creator Whit Stillman

Aubrey (Carrie MacLemore) is having a rough day. Her bedheaded French boyfriend, for whom she recently left Alabama to live in Paris, has banished her to the maid’s quarters. When he tells her that she can’t use the kitchen in his place anymore, either, she straps on a pair of heels and trudges along the Seine.

But that’s not the worst of it, because Aubrey is about to sit down at a sidewalk cafe with the only people in Paris who are more deplorable than her boyfriend: Hal (Jordan Rountree) and Jimmy (Adam Brody), fellow American expats who lounge around, complaining about French women.

And that’s about all there is to say about The Cosmopolitans. Oscar Wilde once said that good Americans go to Paris when they die, but according to Stillman, you’ve just got to be bored. Paris is the bright pair of shoes or the clever joke you bring to a party to differentiate yourself from everybody else, a word that means nothing anymore except for culture, pleasure, and wealth.

Hal, Jimmy and Aubrey have come to Paris in search of friendship and romance, which, even after watching the pilot, is still the only thing we know about any of them. They have no jobs, no roots, no ambitions: they flit from cafe to house party, glass of wine in hand, seemingly directionless.

Watching them is a little bit like trying to find your way around a foreign city at night when you’ve just spent the past twenty hours on an airplane, not sleeping. You want something to fall from the sky into your lap, like a plotline, or perhaps a conflict, or maybe a free pizza. You want somebody to come up to you and speak in English and lead you to your bed, where you will be able to dream of jokes that are actually funny and dialogue that actually sounds like people speaking to one another.

Expatriatism is all about imagination. We wouldn’t travel at all if visiting other lands didn’t mean exploring the alternate facets of our own personalities. Immature travelers spend most of their time differentiating their new experiences from ones they’re familiar with, asking, “Why isn’t this like what I’m used to?” These people are incapable of imagining the world, or themselves, differently. Seasoned expatriates create a third culture in which aspects of both their native surroundings and their new ones are integrated.

Aubrey, the token fish-out-of-water, is meant to lure us into Hal, Jimmy and Sandro’s territory, the third culture that they’ve created. Normally it’d be hard to believe that a woman on her own in a foreign country would comfortably sit with three strange guys at a sidewalk cafe. These things seem to happen naturally when you’re abroad: it’s like your ears have been fine-tuned to hear your language from hundreds of yards away, that you’ve been outfitted with an internal GPS that leads you to others like yourself.

Still, it’s Aubrey’s willingness to hang out with them that propels The Cosmopolitans into the far reaches of fantasy. Within a few minutes, Hal, Jimmy, and Sandro insult her drink order (sangria) and launch a smear campaign against Hal’s ex, Clemence, who, for all intents and purposes, seemed like a pretty decent person, just not into weird entitled creeps like Hal who are only capable of one facial expression.

Aubrey can’t see these red flags because she’s still convinced that her bedhead boyfriend wants to be with her. Perhaps she believes she’s living inside Beauty and the Beast.

It’s a pity because Adam Brody, of The O.C. fame, is genuinely funny, and he brings his open Seth Cohen face to this role. Unfortunately, this only serves to make the other characters, especially Hal, look like stock photography someone from Yale might use in an admissions brochure.

Of course, one might concede that in a foreign country, when you’ve just been dumped by your beast of a boyfriend and you’re all alone, you’ll take anyone who speaks your language or shows a sign of friendliness. In which case I’d like to tell Aubrey and anybody else considering this as a new fall show: stick to singing candlesticks and talking clocks. The Cosmopolitans may look good, but really, it’s positively primeval. Plus, Gilmore Girls just landed on Netflix.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording.

"Hard To Love" - The Drums (mp3)

"If He Likes It Let Him Do It" - The Drums (mp3)


Tuesday
Aug122014

In Which We Beg For An Inexpensive Horoscope

The Only Fruit

by KARA VANDERBIJL

“Don’t avoid what is easy,” the Oblique Strategy recommends. Instead of writing, I take a nap. I fall asleep like a person escaping from jail. This torn scrap of paper, this cheap horoscope, this song lyric — I take them as prophecy. “Have a donut,” my coworker says.

I don’t watch many movies — I’ve said this before with the conviction of a person who says, “I have a salty tooth,” while reaching for a cookie — but in July, I watched a lot of movies. Flops and blockbusters and romances and dramas blurred together. I interrupted them only to grab a pint of ice cream from the freezer. My ideas melted. My air-conditioning unit overheated. My ceiling fan began making a very strange noise.

+

Any repetitive, and very easy, activity takes on a greater significance the longer you engage in it. I stayed up very late watching movies that I had already seen because I thought I might receive a secret, previously unheard message from them. This is more than eccentricity. Sleep eluded me while I unknotted the symbolism in Dead Man Walking. Sean Penn as Christ, Susan Sarandon as Christ, Susan Sarandon as feminist, Susan Sarandon as soapbox actor, Little Women, death penalty, last meals. My last meal: a hamburger and French fries. I go pick it up across the street at Slim’s, a greasy counter that has five stars on Yelp and deserves all of them. They serve a generous bag of perfectly crisped fries. I have a salty tooth.

+

Here’s the message I received: find a way to portray despicability without compromising humanity. Find a way to smile at the mirror. “Nesquik?” a man in a yellow shirt offers on the Merchandise Mart platform. “Is it free?” I ask. In response, he hands me two bottles.

My dental hygienist asks questions when her fingers are in my mouth. I am polite, so I like to answer. “How has your summer been?” she begins. She wears purple eye shadow for most of my visits. “Nice,” I try to say, but it is difficult to say nice without the use of your tongue. I hate all the tools she uses except for the soft brush at the end. “Spit,” she says. I promise to floss, but we both know I’m lying.

As a child, I never got cavities; my baby teeth were so durable that the orthodontist had to pull five of them when they refused to fall out. My mother says that this is because there was fluoride in our water. I said, “It’s because I don’t eat very much sugar.” My little brother, the candy-head, still hasn’t had any cavities. The military taught him how to brush his teeth and make his bed.

+

“Take a hike,” says a security guard on a normally abandoned stretch of Kinzie. Today there are trailers, a fire truck, and a row of people sitting in camping chairs reading scripts. Because the guard isn’t talking to me — he’s talking to a couple of kids doing skateboard tricks on a crumbling corner of sidewalk — I walk through the set. The row of people looks up, one by one, but I’m listening to Fleetwood Mac and don’t have time to chat. “You can go your own way,” Lindsey Buckingham says.

I take a quiz on Time.com that matches your relationship to a sandwich. I get a Reuben. I’m always hesitant about them because of the sauerkraut, which I tend to forget I like. When my boyfriend Jens takes the quiz, he gets a BLT, which makes me hungry. “Want a bag of chips with your sandwich?” the lady at the café across the street asks while I’m paying for my lunch. Since it’s a question, I am free to ignore her command. I am polite, though, and I like chips, so I get a bag that’s crinkle-cut, kettle-cooked, and reduced fat. I tell myself that oil doesn’t travel to the thighs as quickly as sugar. Then I make up “thighway,” and I laugh until I want to fall asleep again.

Awoken by sirens, I crave chocolate or a soda. The light outside is a bruise with a yellow center. My journal sprawls open, spine broken, on the carpet where I left it after scribbling myself into a difficult patch of self-discovery. Seams between my muscles strain as I stretch my arms towards the ceiling. “Oranges are not the only fruit,” sings Jeannette Winterson from the bookshelf.

I spend an inordinate amount of time listening for things that other people can’t hear. The undercurrent of fear in someone’s voice — the subtle condescension in a novel — the anger behind a smile. Sometimes these hidden messages blare so obviously that I am not sure how others don’t understand them, or why they choose to ignore them. “Tell me if the water is too hot,” said the hairstylist, twisting the cold faucet open even when I hum that it’s just fine. She’d already made her mind up about the answer.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about learning how to drive and Orange is the New Black She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by Richard Misrach.

"Not in a Bad Way" - Eden (mp3)

"Crying Birds" - Eden (mp3)