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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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 (79)


In Which We Give You A Body



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.


In Which We Show You How To Use The Tumblr Website

So You Think You Can Tumbl?


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

- 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.


In Which We Note The Time

A Feminist Timeline


Had I the mind to do it, I would dedicate the following to Susan Sontag. Or perhaps to Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, or really to any of the women represented here. What is wonderful about them is not that they stand alone in history - although many of them deserve to - but that they stand together, that each one leans in some small way on the last. No matter what their intentions, the passing of time and Wikipedia have allowed us to pretend, at least for today, that these women were all trying to say the same thing.

1458 BC – Queen Hatshepsut dies

1330 BC – Nefertiti dies

610 BC – Sappho born

69 BC – Cleopatra born

29 – Livia Drusilla dies

246 – Empress Helena of Constantinople born

350 – Hypatia of Alexandria born

705 – Wu Zetian, the only female ruler in the history of China, dies

1098 – Hildegard of Bingen born

1137 – Eleanor of Aquitaine disagrees with her husband Louis VII over the correct pronunciation of “vase”

1253 – Clare of Assisi dies

1303 – Bridget of Sweden born

1347 – Catherine of Siena born

1381 – Catherine of Vadstena dies

1388 – Juliana Berners born

1416 – Julian of Norwich dies 

1432 – A year after her execution, Joan of Arc returns to earth as an alien endowed with a vagina dentata

1438 – Margery Kempe completes her autobiography, arguably the first to be written in the English language

1559 – Realdo Colombo, an Italian professor of anatomy, discovers and names the clitoris, describing it as "the love or sweetness of Venus"

1564 – Elizabeth I finds a gray hair

1607 – Pocahontas saves John Smith’s life

1630 – Ann Bradstreet, New England's first published poet, lands on American soil

1651 – Juana Ines de la Cruz, self-taught scholar and one of the earliest literary figures in Mexico, born

1729 – Catherine the Great born

1786 – Jane Austen’s needlework meme goes viral at boarding school

1789 – French women propose that a decree be added to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen ensuring, among other things: the right of all to wear pants, the end of degrading soldiers by having them wear women's clothing, and the equality of the sexes in French grammar

1792 – Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women published

1793 – Marie Antoinette executed

1820 – Susan B. Anthony born

1840 – Elizabeth Cady Stanton castrates a bald eagle

1843 – Margaret Fuller becomes the first woman allowed in the library at Harvard

1855 – Florence Nightingale’s primitive Jell-O shots vastly improve conditions in the Crimea

1867 – Marie Curie born

1880 – Helen Keller born

1884 – Eleanor Roosevelt born

1899 – Kate Chopin and Willa Cather stage a pagan fertility dance somewhere in the American South

1901 – Queen Victoria dies

1908Simone de Beauvoir born

1910 – Virginia Woolf dresses as an Abyssinian royal, beard included, to gain access to the Royal Navy’s flagship

1913 – Rosa Parks born

1916 – Margaret Sanger opens the first U.S. birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY

1920 – The 19th Amendment of the US Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law

1925 – Margaret Thatcher born

1928 – Amelia Earhart embarks on her first transatlantic flight

1931 – Jane Addams becomes the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize

1936 – The government rules that birth control information is no longer obscene

1942 – Ms. Sanger’s American Birth Control League becomes Planned Parenthood

1943 – Rosie the Riveter born

1954 – Angela Merkel born

1958 – bell hooks skips an important grammar lesson to picket outside her segregated elementary school

1960 – The FDA approves the pill

1963 – Sylvia Plath goes domestic: mixes up a pie crust, sets her oven to preheat

1963 – Gloria Steinem lands a job as a Playboy Bunny

1963 - Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, orbits the earth 48 times

1966 – Betty Friedan founds the National Organization for Women

1969 – California is the first state to approve a divorce on the basis of “mutual consent”

1973Roe vs. Wade establishes a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion

1976 – The state of Nebraska becomes the first to condemn marital rape

1976 - Shirley Temple serves as the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States

1979 – Hermione Granger born

1992 – Camille Paglia bares pierced nipples at a Madonna concert

1994 - Oprah freezes briefly during her morning show, later attributing the attack to a "disturbance in the force"

1995 - Octavia Butler becomes the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant

2000 – Mattel widens Barbie's waist

2004 – January Jones mimes the “pow-pow” motion of a handgun while staring down at an 8-year-old girl who cut her in line at a hot dog stand

2007 – Construction begins in Chicago on Jeanne Gang’s 82-story skyscraper “Aqua”, the tallest building in the world to be designed by a woman

2009 – Zooey Deschanel outquirks Phoebe Buffay

2011 – HelloGiggles.com founded

2013 – Meryl Streep plays Hillary Clinton, Bathsheba, Ann Bradstreet, Yoko Ono, herself, Amelia Earhart, and Laura Ingalls Wilder in various films

2015 - Roughly 75% of Tumblr's content is devoted to complaints about misogyny in sitcoms

2027 - Scientists concur that Jennifer Lawrence was composed entirely of a clay-like substance

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her website here. She last wrote in these pages about relics. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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