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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

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Mia Nguyen

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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 (77)


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.

"In Love" - Carly Simon (mp3)

"Let the River Run" - Carly Simon (mp3)


In Which Almost Nobody Is Dirty At All

Young and Unafraid


Les Misérables
dir. Tom Hooper
157 minutes

1. Wait, this didn’t happen during the French Revolution? I thought that was the only element of French history worth talking about!

2.  As voiced by a young man on the way out of the theater with his grandmother, “There was a lot of singing.”

3. It is generally assumed that all Europeans speak with British accents, regardless of their nationality.

4. This is a bizarre sort of artistic colonialism.

5. There are a limited number of British actors. As such, Helena Bonham-Carter appears in almost all films that require a woman with a British accent.

6. This is forgivable, because she really is quite good.

7. Anne Hathaway’s performance of poor Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” was beautiful, and should win her all sorts of prizes. Regardless, I got a kick out of imagining her lip-synching to Susan Boyle’s rendition.

8. At some point or another, most people will claim that they wish they could have been born in a previous era, just to “see what it would have been like”. However, most of these poor saps imagine transporting back to a charmed time where they'd sit in front of a roaring fire in silks eating grilled meat off a bread platter in a well-guarded, well-cleaned castle. Les Misérables reminds us that most of us would have been lucky to have been working-class.

9. Speaking of which, I saw a hashtag on Rich Kids of Instagram the other day that said — I kid you not — “1% for life”. Really? Really? They are actually people walking around in the world vocalizing that kind of nonsense and they’re not being trampled by hordes of angry peasants? 

10. Let’s build some barricades in Beverly Hills!

11. My cousin shared with me before the show that the man who plays the Bishop in this version of Les Misérables, Colm Wilkinson, originated the role of Valjean in the West End and on Broadway.  This trivia made me blubber almost uncontrollably at the end when he welcomes Hugh Jackman into the embrace of heaven, essentially blessing him as the heir of a timeless tradition.

12. Everyone should aspire to welcome Hugh Jackman into the embrace of heaven.

13. Who knew he could sing and didn’t tell me?

14. Let’s play a game where we count how many people on our morning trains will now be reading Les Misérables. I played this last month, but with Anna Karenina. Nobody I saw had ever made it past the first hundred pages. Some of them were frowning. All of them had bought the edition with the movie cover on the front. I predict that by now, most of those editions are now collecting dust on the bottom shelf of a bookcase.

15. There’s an old joke floating around that the Koreans didn’t appreciate how long The Sound of Music was, so they cut out all the songs. I have no idea whether or not it is based on fact or whether it is just a racist jab, which I am more inclined to believe, but if I could perform similar magic on Les Mis I’d cut out all the parts with Russell Crowe, who plays Inspector Javert.

16. Javert should be fearsome and loathsome both. Crowe’s performance allowed us to empathize with the character a bit too much, and I don’t want to understand Javert as much as fear and hate him. Also, his shoulders should be at least as wide as Jackman’s if we are to believe that they are archenemies.

17. Pronouncing the “s” at the end of Misérables is like a person wearing a neon-colored polo shirt who then pops the color of said shirt in that I will forgive neither of them.

18. It was a mystery to me, until viewing the film, why Cosette’s face should be on the poster of every production, stage or cinematic, of this story. Amanda Seyfried’s depiction was precious, although her voice reached ear-splitting heights only before attained by the mice from Cinderella. Cosette is only interesting in that she inspires other characters to greatness. She is a small symbol of the revolution, sort of like a New Year’s resolution.

19. I sat very close to the screen during my viewing. This was not my choice, because I suffer from motion sickness and had to close my eyes during what I felt were key action sequences. I often opened my eyes to a very close shot of Hathaway or Jackman or Redmayne belting out their numbers, which felt very personal, although I never did feel the need to be that intimate with their dental work.

20. This was interesting camera work on Tom Hooper’s part, giving the audience the impression that we were viewing a sort of anachronous musical reality television special, straight from the slums of Paris.

21. Eponine (Samantha Barks) would make a great reality-TV show character. Not only is she the neglected angle of a tense love triangle, but she also dies, saving anyone from having to kick her off the... barricade.

22. Everyone has seen some high-school or college production of this musical; there were so many people crying in the theater at the end that it felt a little bit like my tenth birthday party.

23. Visually, Les Misérables is a smorgasbord. Its birds-eye views of Paris and high-definition details of dirty teeth achieve what the musical will never be able to on stage, which seems a bit unfair. How many people will now say, “Well, Les Mis is in town, but I have it on DVD, so why bother?”

24. You know which one is next, right? Wicked.

25. There was a trailer for an awful-looking movie starring James Franco which had something to do with Oz and it looked so bad that I almost left the theater before the movie even started.

26. There should be a word for forgetting which movie you have paid to see by the time the previews are over.

27. Thanks to this, one might almost be able to forget the 1998 version of Les Misérables starring Liam Neeson in which he falls in love with Fantine and Geoffrey Rush isn't a pirate and almost nobody is dirty at all. 

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

"Slow Beginnings" - Alameda (mp3)

"Swollen Light" - Alameda (mp3)


In Which We Have A Good Idea Of What Needs To Be Done

Is This Allowed?


I am civilized. My feelings are not.

- Jeanette Winterson

I have planted a nice garden here. Tracing over the past two years, my writing has visibly improved. This is good. I get emotional thinking about it. I nearly gave up writing. You know? It’s easy to be confused. Introspection can be just as dense as the lack thereof.

I have only been happy in short bursts, some of them terribly short. It is my fault. I inherited resignation, the tendency to blame outside of myself. The pendulum swings back to extreme guilt, self-deprecation. I have allowed happiness to become digital, or at least, sublimated. As if thinking correctly could make you happy. As if wrapping emotions into layers of text and subtext could produce joy.

I don’t think that happiness is the goal of a life. At least, it’s not the goal of my life. I don’t believe that unhappiness means necessary doom. But in long stretches it is indicative of a lack of gratitude. I am certainly disconnected, not only from what is most important but also from myself. From others. I’ve divorced parts of myself that need tending. I need to touch and feel and smell and smile. I need to be touched. I need to feel very small and allow myself to slowly be built up.

Because everybody keeps telling me I have so much time I don’t want to waste a second of it. I want to laugh and laugh some more and admit that I’m wrong. Is this allowed? Is it really any more complicated than this?


Everybody loses something. Keys. Bus passes. A comb.

I don’t lose things. Circling around a board game, I nominate myself the dice-thrower of one team or another. I throw some good pairs, some mediocre, three great. I can’t be blamed for the outcome. It is a game of weight, of fate.

Lost: receipts, bookmarks, socks.

Soon after moving to France, I had my mother dye my hair auburn. I did not want to blend in. When I didn’t know the right words to formulate my thoughts, I kept quiet. I did not want to stick out.

A mitten. A penny. Phone reception.

Cheap sweaters disintegrate in the dryer. Misguided intentions, spooning rent money into my mouth, living month to month. I can’t even afford what I need, how can I give? This is a lean time, but give out of weakness. Fold the two dollars bills in your wallet, stuff them into a frozen cup on the sidewalk.

Wallet. Passport. Country.

Thirteen years ago today my family moved into another language, took up residence with the irregular verbs. Humans don’t conjugate easily. I wasn’t happy with my handwriting, and so I rewrote my lessons over and over again. I learned the verbs by accident. None of us live there anymore.

A slim, crinkled roll of paper towels fell into the kitchen sink when I tried to put it back in its proper spot and I looked at it and said, “Fuck you,” without thinking, because if I had been thinking in that moment I would have realized what a terribly ridiculous thing it is to a. insult a roll of paper towels, especially when they’re more absorbent than the leading brand and b. to do this so vehemently, as if the rogue paper towels had killed my family before my eyes.

Later, I was baking with a very hot oven (Wikipedia tells me that anything between 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit classifies as a very hot oven.) As it popped and clicked its way to that infernal temperature I worried that the expansion of gas was going to blow the door open or that it was simply going to spontaneously combust, which I imagine is altogether within its range of capabilities. The oven beeps so faintly when it is done preheating, as if to belie the roar of the ignitor and the dull orange flame I can just see when I open the door to peek inside. I cannot let my guard down with this appliance. I have often dreamed of sacrificing small odds and ends in its favor, building a shrine, much like the employees of a hair salon in Los Angeles I once frequented, who offered up bowls of rice and day-old donuts to a particularly moody blow dryer.

Here begins the smaller subplot with the smoke detector. This is one I do not intend to flesh out any more than strictly necessary. Two minutes before the raisin buns were done baking, it came shrilly to life. The next thing I remember, its parts were exposed and I was holding two 9-V batteries in a floured hand. What if there is a fire in the next two minutes and I don’t even know about it? What if when I put the batteries back in, it resumes beeping and doesn’t stop, ever? What will I tell my landlord? Why doesn’t this have a mute button?

I consumed several buns to fortify myself and left the windows open. I replaced the alarm’s batteries and mask; it cried out once, and I shook my finger at it. “Now you behave,” I said.

At the front door of my building, the button next to my apartment number is the only one illuminated. It is a beacon in the night, drawing drunks from the bar kitty-corner to my door like moths to a flame. Punctuate the night with the doorbell ringing. 2 o’clock, the first wave of sloshing bellies spill into cabs, catch the last train south. 3 o’clock, raucous laughter, ring. 4 o’clock, the stragglers shuffle by, think they are somewhere that they are not. At 5 a.m. the first bus passes by on my street, its automated voice more faithful than any alarm: “It’s morning.”

I live alone but I have not been lonely, although perhaps my voice has tended towards disuse. This home and the street speak to me daily; I’m just too young yet to talk back.

With a dream, my feelings change. I feel soft as clay when I wake up, like a child. I am not afraid of all the things that I could be: good, better, worse. The only thing that frightens me is no longer being able to change, no longer being able to study the interminable facets of any given person or situation.

It’s you that I choose to study. I’m a poor student, but even when I’m baffled, I pull these books to my lap. I leave a finger between the pages when my thoughts fly elsewhere.

I can’t imagine a single right answer. In the early morning, I often hear arguments out on the street. Often it’s between two men, a father and son, or two friends who have had too much to drink. The yelling wakes me up and I’m frightened. From the outside, my apartment doesn’t seem secure, but when I’m inside it feels like a fortress. I’m not sure which perception is closer to reality.

Almost nothing is as I expected. It’s better. As I open myself up to possibility, my ideals, these ghostly dreams, disappear for something more painful, more instructive, more creative. I am being chiseled down to the beautiful bits.

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

Photographs by the author.

"That Baby" - Grouper (mp3)

"Early November" - Grouper (mp3)