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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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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 (80)

Friday
Mar292013

In Which We Give You A .Gif

Refresh

by KARA VANDERBIJL  

Even on my best days I am a series of repetitive gestures, an assembly line that finishes the evening in pajamas on my apartment floor, up to the chin in chocolate milk. These gestures are a hodge-podge of embarrassing human habits and internet inside jokes. Lather, rinse, repeat. I don’t press snooze but in this defiance to laziness I am regular. I look at my bowl of oatmeal in the morning and feel the contents of my belly shift low on the grade. I suppose it makes sense that in the morning, when I am least conscious, I should brush my teeth in the same tired circular motions. I’ve perfected these gestures down to the very minute in which they are performed, so that I can continue sleeping in my brain while darkness lifts off the city and traffic picks up. 

My street smells like bacon when I step out the front door because the breakfast joint on the opposite corner just opened for business. The same two gentlemen sit on the same two seats in the train and talk (presumably) about the same facts. Why do I take pleasure in these things? Isn’t this the very stuff of ennui, the boring picket-fence existence that can only culminate in divorce, disaster, and early death by artificially-sweetened diabetic coma? I am an unabashed creature of habit — why try to make something “better” when it is already so very good? — which may have something to do with my deeply structured days, down to moments of calculated madness.  

Some of what gives people the deepest physical and psychological pleasure comes from repetitive motion. If you start rubbing your eyes right now, I guarantee that you won’t stop until you have fallen asleep or died, whichever comes first. Should I even mention the complex bodies of flavor that explode in your mouth the more you masticate? And sex, of course, the moment of orgasm almost overshadowed by the pleasure of repeated friction.  

I have to believe the Ancient World had some way of duplicating their pleasures, mirroring their experiences, revisiting emotions. What is catharsis but the repetitive performance of profound fears, meant to move the audience into some sort of controlled, miniature insanity?  The oral tradition was simply a jury-rigged copy machine for cultures that had not yet developed toner. Still, the ancients’ collective memory was vast. What would it have been like to live in a time when you were never guaranteed to see something more than once? (Including your best friend, who may at any point be carried off by barbarian hordes.)  

The invention of the VCR hastened the advent of cultural immortality. Not only did it become a way for parents to perpetuate an already overly-long and embarrassing childhood (especially in front of high-school crushes, college friends, and eventual love interests), but its crowning glory was without a doubt its ability to rewind the magnetic tape inside. Within seconds, you could return to a past sequence of frames and watch it again. (This process is also known as how I ruined my Anne of Green Gables box sets within a few years of obtaining them.) Before the cassette tape there was no such luxury; once simply had to be enough.  

When I was a child and briefly insomniac, my parents used to come into my bedroom and rub my back gently while I waited for sleep. The gesture was incredibly soothing and during these nocturnal visits, I couldn’t go to sleep because I wanted to enjoy every minute of the back rub. Waves of panic would wash over me, in rhythm to their sleepy hands, when I remembered that they would eventually tire of soothing me and return to their own bed. This worry made it impossible for me to fall asleep.  

I had similar phobias about my favorite foods, whenever they were served for dinner either at our home or in a stranger’s. I would watch over the bowl or platter like a hawk before the meal to make sure nobody snuck a handful or a bite before everyone had sat down, before everyone had a fair chance to get their share. I would eat the food as quickly as I could, so that I could get a second helping before anybody else. My greatest fear was that I would miss out on the repetition, that the last spoonful would be claimed by another person.  

Fear of missing out on something, whether it’s a material good or an experience, can cause repetitive behaviors. Addiction seeks to replicate a past euphoria, a previous sequence of frames that existed before the hangover or the overdose or the alienation. Be kind, rewind. Believing that there is not enough of a good thing to go around is a particular neurosis, one that thrives on habit, on going through motions, on completing a set of rituals that lead without fail to a specific result. Repetition ensures pleasure because if I’ve already experienced it, the memory of it will infuse every subsequent reinterpretation, whether or not I actually enjoy these simulacra as much as I enjoyed the original.  

If I can repeat any pleasure at any moment, pleasure becomes repetitive. I am less sensitive to it, and it eventually morphs into the very stream of mundane events which caused me to seek it in the first place. I am still not sure whether my enjoyment of something increases the more I am exposed to it or the more I must anticipate it.  

My coworker and I have begun to act out popular .gifs in response to questions or else, sometimes, within the stream of normal conversation. It is not an affectation, precursor to Tourette’s or even particularly clever. The .gif embodies and tests this debate; it takes plot elements, personal confessions, and pretty much any other weird thing you can find online out of their original context and places them on the surface of our collective consciousness. Are you happy about the donuts your coworker brought today, the aesthetic cocktail you’re about to enjoy, the concert you went to last night? Then scream “Bees!”, obviously. Navigating the train platform during rush hour calls for none other than this gem. It's not that difficult to say no, as long as you have a good sense of humor. Everything is so beautiful; so, so beautiful. Honey, puhleeze. Naturally, it's all about the queen.

And the list goes on. Almost nothing is spared the .gif treatment. Is it better to know a .gif’s original context? Does it make the joke funnier? A .gif is telling us part of a story; it would say more, but it can’t go any further. Complex context is reduced to a single movement. Like a broken record, it’s caught on a portion of a song, catering to attention spans the length of a blink, a scroll down.

How many hours have I spent clicking Refresh, picking at the virtual scab, waiting for something new to pop up and occupy me? Concerned as I am to miss out on something big, I have not yet realized that the reward is rarely worth this endless repetition. 

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about embodiment. She twitters here.

"Kronos" - Keaton Henson (mp3)

"In The Morning" - Keaton Henson (mp3)

 

Monday
Feb252013

In Which We Give You A Body

Encounter

by KARA VANDERBIJL 

I have a hard time with art galleries, whether they are very small rooms on the way to work or large museums packed with artifacts. I would like to enjoy my time in them but for the most part, I do not. I have never had a satisfying experience in an art gallery and I would not say that it is the gallery’s fault or even particularly my fault. Why speak of fault at all?  

Art is about embodiment, and the space between the walls where the paintings hang protected and my body is large. I cannot be what I am seeing or do anything about it. I must blindly consume, pronounce a judgment, feign a stronger emotion than I am feeling. This appreciation is dismembered; much like standing in a crowded room, when I do not have enough hands to touch every person around me in greeting, enough mouths to speak to them, I cannot give enough of myself to this experience. I am paralyzed, made unbodied.

What do I mean when I say embodiment? I mean quite simply that the objects we create are incarnational. They are ideas become flesh, dwelling among us. They are real and not deceptive, although they are incredibly disruptive. To create an art object is to endow a beloved or feared thought with arms and legs and a will of its own and watch it build and destroy worlds. This has nothing to do with whether or not it is “good” by any standard. This has something to do with an old, bearded God reaching upside-down across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and touching a human into life. “I know you, come to life,” he says, “now go do.”

Art is incarnation. The only gallery I have enjoyed visiting is the Villa Borghese outside of Rome. Many of Bernini’s sculptures live in this manor, where only small groups of people are permitted to enter at a time. Apollo and Daphne, one of Bernini’s best-loved works, stands in the center of a room. You can walk up quite closely to it and look at the folds of stone cloth and the dimples where Apollo is pressing his fingers into Daphne’s flesh.

Apollo wants to rape Daphne. He has been chasing her through the woods, and when she realizes that she will not be able to outrun him, she calls upon her father to transform her into a laurel tree. As Apollo wraps an arm around her waist, he discovers bark where there was once soft skin. Her fingers and arms turn into branches. Her hair sprouts into the very wreath of leaves that Apollo will later use to decorate the heads of victors, of men become gods...

Only what is incarnate can be violated.

+

Being a body narrows you. Genetics predetermine the star of your face, the hills and valleys nourished below. I cannot be all things, as a body. As a mind, I can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. But my body is a full stop, a contained space, an impermanent expression of creative energy.

Art objects, too, are narrow. “Writing is a little door,” said Susan Sontag, “Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through.” An art object is a slice of the world, a representative, perhaps male or female, of one race or another, a tightly-packaged experience. I want this object to be all things but to ask it to contain more than it does is to deny its very being. As an embodiment, it is bound by its curves and contours.

When I ask, “Why doesn’t this art object embody an experience that is important to me?”, and become angry, it is a bit like shaking a child and screaming, “Why aren’t you a bird?” I may marvel at the fact that this object could have been any number of things, so long as I recognize it for what it is, give it credit for the beautiful disaster that is its embodiment.

Criticizing an art object, faulting it for its lacks and limitations, is a violation; a small one, yes, but a violation nonetheless.

+

“What about bad art?”

Irrelevant question.

+

Dance, then, is absolutely pure. And isn’t it ironic that it is this form of art, this form of expression, that causes the most panic and self-consciousness? We dance in small, dim spaces, mostly hidden from view. The act has been called frivolous, childish, dangerous, yet there is no form of embodiment more intense than dancing. Here, various incarnations touch, interact, share a moment in time. If anything this is the only place where art can be panoramic: bigger than itself, more than a single voice, experience or expression.

+

 

Tastes and preferences change over time. If I am starving, I will eat what is put on the table in front of me, even if the meat is tainted or the fruit is rotten. Given the choice, though, I will eat what is satisfying, nutritious. Given a myriad of choices, I will eat what is popular, easily acquired.

Like so many people, I am secretly starving for companionship. I will listen to what voices I can get, at the press of a button, at the recommendation of a web site. I will not necessarily go looking for the relationships that truly fulfill me. Then, poorly satisfied, the words mal-absorbed into my system, I will complain that what I found was not what I was looking for.

When I learn that an object is poisonous, I know I should stay away from it. But it doesn’t take much pride for me to continue consuming it, believing as I do that my body is above corruption and violation.

I ask, “What will this do to me? What will I do with this?”

+

Is it important that I identify with an art object? In my view, I am simultaneously the most beautiful and the most foul being imaginable. This double vision applies, too, to art; what enamors me can in its own time become frightening. What is delicious can be too rich, too much for me to handle. I am not always ready to encounter what I observe. Like my relationships, the traumas of which mold and shape my personality, my interactions with art have taken me out of myself, made me intensely uncomfortable. The ones that have not done so, the ones that have been too cloying, too reassuring, I have not been able to trust.

This is, after all, a personality flaw.

But in the same way that I would not want a friend who would not tell me true — even if it meant that I had to see myself in a garish new light, hang in a different, less-visited corner of a gallery — I do not want to surround myself with art that does not occasionally put me on edge, or break my heart.

+

It takes two to create: myself, and the strain of thought inside of me that won’t be still until it has been given a body. 

Kara Vanderbijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Tumblr. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Tuesday
Feb122013

In Which We Show You How To Use The Tumblr Website

So You Think You Can Tumbl?

by KARA VANDERBIJL

There is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that having a presence on Tumblr will one day count for as much as a primordial cave drawing or an ancient love letter found floating inside a champagne bottle. Admittedly, the platform’s popularity makes it intimidating to many people; if we could get a quarter for every time somebody asked us how to become Tumblr-famous, we would be neighbors with David Karp in Williamsburg. But we are nothing if not generous, so instead of hoarding all the soft-focus pictures of cats and beautiful women for our own reblogging purposes, here are a few tips on how to win followers and get your fifteen seconds of fame.

You will need:
- A Tumblr account
- Basic grammar and spelling skills
- A slight sense of desperation

Optional:
- The ability to use/recognize irony
- A photogenic face

1. First, write what you know. It’s a cliche, we know, but it is easier to come across as genuine when you are writing what you really care about. Of course, what you care about should fall into a category that everybody else cares about, otherwise nobody will visit your tumblr. As you are thinking about what content you want to post, keep this acronym in mind: EWBP. The only things that really matter on Tumblr are what can be Eaten, Worn, Bought, Photographed. Truly viral posts generally combine one or more of them. Ideally, your blog should focus on these four foundational principles, so spend a lot of time thinking about what you consume. When in doubt, consider writing about one of these topics:

- How hungover you are
- Brunch
- Walking around the city
- Your cat
- How unappreciative your parents are of your lifestyle choices
- How unfair it all is
- A glossed-over account of your shitty job
- How the patriarchy has ruined the world forever
- Your take on a current event, especially if it involves a celebrity
- How you came out of the womb liking something that happens to be very trendy at the moment
- How you just want to get away from it all

2.  Find a clever byline. Your byline is what differentiates you from everyone else. Try to be perky and positive in a self-deprecating and ironic way. This is an easy way to promote yourself but also seem like you’d be really approachable and funny at a party which is important if you plan on attending Tumblr meetups. For example, instead of writing, “Rachel Jones is a writer living in Los Angeles”, you should probably say, “Rachel Jones is a tea-guzzling, Warby Parker-wearing, Tina Fey-admiring nerd” because that will make you sound cool and edgy but also like everyone else.

3. Write in the second person. On Tumblr, “you” is another word for “I”. Even though your therapist keeps telling you that you really ought to start owning your failures, narrating your life story in the second person is the surest way to elicit empathy from your readers. Not only does this allow you to distance yourself from the reality that you ate an entire pizza and watched Netflix for fifteen hours straight on a pile of dirty laundry, but you will be able to trap your readers into thinking that they have done the same. Now you’ll be able to enumerate the details of your interminable brunches without guilt, because obviously everybody has a weakness for reading about other people eating giant pancakes!


4. Have a cat or a mysterious love interest. It can be hard to discern how much you want to share about your love life on Tumblr. If you’re the sort of person who wants to bare all, we suggest you get a cat. You’ll be able to feel genuine affection for this animal, exploit it as necessary for photographs, and talk about it without worrying that it will feel upset about how much of your relationship has been publicly discussed. (See also: small children). If you must discuss your human companion, stick to talking about being in bed together or visiting popular, preferably urban destinations. Happy couples on Tumblr generally don’t own cats. If you are in a happy relationship, you should consider getting a dog, but if you do, you shouldn’t blog about it. People prefer to read about unhappy relationships.

5. Learn the language. Visiting a foreign country can be difficult when you can’t find anyone who speaks English. So imagine how challenging your followers will find it if you don’t incorporate Tumblr’s most basic language into your posts! All users eventually come to embrace the lingo, both as a way of feeling included and as a way of adding what they feel is their own personal spin on viral expressions or memes. What follows is a basic glossary of common Tumblr terms and how to use them:

- This. Placed carefully under a picture of an aesthetic apartment, outfit, celebrity, or well-worded rant, this term indicates your approval of what you are reblogging and communicates that if you had more time, motivation, money or intelligence, you would buy it, photograph it, or  you guessed it  eat it.

- GPOY. Floating somewhere above this phrase is a picture of a blogger, posted gratuitously, although he or she is generally not familiar with both meanings of the term “gratuitous”. Use this tag or phrase as a caption for selfies you take, generally on or around your bed, wearing headphones.

- #Feelings. Often posted as a tag, this term hints at the overall embarrassment, yet secret pleasure,  the blogger might feel for having written a long-winded, emotional post about very personal things. Try to reserve this tag for posts that deal with death, complicated relationships with parents, your love for your city, etc.

- “All the...” True to the spirit of the age, Tumblr-ites are rabid consumers. In posts where you reference how much of something you’d like or would not like, try to use the phrase “all the” to express the intensity of your desire. For example, instead of posting, “I would like donuts”, you should write, “I would like all the donuts”, implying that your need for all the donuts outweighs your consideration that all the other people might also want donuts, that if you were given the opportunity you would clean out all the donut houses in all the world for your hungry little tummy.

- #NYFW. Even if you are not or have never been interested in visiting New York City, you should consider posting something about New York Fashion Week. It is an intensely popular, discussed, and overrated event that takes place in NYC two times a year, so it is virtually impossible to escape blogger coverage of it. Consider tagging any fashion posts with this term so that you’ll get more hits, even if it’s only your outfit of the day that comes directly from H&M or Target.

- Le. Le sigh. Le pout. Le frozen pizza. French is truly a fetishized language on Tumblr, and nobody cares if you’re actually using the word correctly or not. Tack it in front of a noun and you’ll immediately sound more sophisticated or cutesy. Boys who look and act like Mr. Darcy will write you long-winded emails about your sharp mind and your incomparable looks and fall at your feet drooling in spasms of glee. At least, you can imagine that this is actually what’s happening behind the enigmatic “[username] liked your post”.

6. Date another Tumblr user. Although its inhabitants tend to keep this under wraps, Tumblrville is prime real estate for snagging a hottie. If you spark a blogger romance with someone, keep the details on the DL (see #4), but remember that having a long distance relationship, especially one that originated on the Internet, is perfect fodder for #feelings posts. Weave a virtual love story worthy of any tabloid! When you have kids, don’t forget to include pictures of them almost as soon as they emerge from the womb. It is crucial that their internet presence begin from day one; this will contribute to their popularity later on and they will be so thankful for your help.


7. Make the most of your ask-box. The questions and comments you receive in your ask box will be either your refuge or the bane of your existence, depending on how many vocal internet trolls follow your blog. Make sure to be as volatile as possible in your answers to both praise and criticism, since everybody on Tumblr loves drama. For example, instead of ignoring hate mail from an Anonymous asker, you could answer with inflammatory criticism of your own. Include plenty of references to Satan, the patriarchy, complaints about how you can never just be left alone, and veiled references to how much ice cream you will have to eat to make up for this in your answer. If you receive a genuine compliment, assume a humble stance and make a joke about how self-promoting your blog is becoming.

8. Invest in your persona. When you wake up in the morning, one of your first thoughts should be: how can my life contribute to my blog today? Spend a few minutes planning out your day in “bloggable” increments. Ask yourself whether or not the outings, people, or items you have on your calendar will look good on your blog. Sure, you may want a hamburger for lunch, but sushi is more photogenic. Do you really want to wear those sweatpants? Okay, but take care when applying your makeup so that your selfie will look good. The more you spend time cultivating your persona, the more content you will generate, and the more followers you will acquire. You should be posting 3-4 times an hour, if not more. For lulls, keep a few photos of cats, outfits, quotes, songs, or rants stashed in your queue. You can always schedule them to post regularly while you’re on vacay.

9. Post when you can’t sleep. Forget counting sheep. If you’re having trouble catching the Sandman, log in to Tumblr and share your deep late night thoughts. “I couldn’t sleep,” you should begin, “so I was just thinking...” Talk about your deepest fears. Practice letting it all go. Post it privately if you don’t feel comfortable sharing it with others. Better yet, forget editing it at all and put it up for all to see in the morning. Everyone will admire your emotional courage; they’ll know that the grammatical faux pas and the spelling errors are evidence of your turmoil. If you are a perfect speller even when you’re tired, throw in a few “it’s” when they should be “its”. Tumblr users love that.

10. Reblog. Reblog. Reblog. You should be reblogging people a lot, especially if the content falls into one of the EWBP categories. It is always best to reblog a post that somebody spent a lot of time writing and give your opinion on what they said, especially if it is a negative opinion. We would highly advise against calling somebody a name but you should logically, grammatically, and aesthetically pwn the other person. This is a great way to fire up some healthy rivalry and gain new followers. Plus, fights on the Internet always turn out better because they never resort to actual blows and you can keep all of your resentment inside of your soul or in anonymous ask box comments.

11. Become a “hate read”. If all else fails, strive to become an object of unaffected scorn.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Les Misérables. She tumbls here and twitters here.