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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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Mia Nguyen
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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 (80)

Thursday
Aug152013

In Which We Ask If You're Still Doing All Right Over Here

Fast Foodie            

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Yesterday your palate was as sophisticated as a half-eaten Hot-N-Ready® pizza and a flat Red Bull. Yesterday your palate was wearing sweatpants and double-fisting Ben & Jerry’s and episodes of Breaking Bad. But today, you’re going out to eat. You may be meeting friends for lunch, taking someone to dinner, or grabbing brunch before a jaunt at a modern art gallery. Needless to say, your palate needs to update its resumé. Today we give you a few tips on how to become a foodie, fast.

Self-deprecation. Nothing is more pretentious than someone who claims to have always had stellar taste in food. Describe the joy with which you ate the McRib in your youth. Refer to your past self as an “Olive Garden-variety eater”. Then, wink at the waiter and order something involving paté.

Notice the location. Every self-respecting foodie knows that the atmosphere lends as much to the experience of the meal as the food itself. Say, “I really love this space.” Elements to be admired: exposed brick walls, naked light bulbs, ambivalent industrial fixtures. Elements to be derided: menus not printed in typewriter font, flowers that aren’t in mason jars, a lack of cork sculptures.

Think small. You may have grown up going to restaurants with confused medieval decor and Grecian-inspired menus that spanned twenty or more pages. You may have fallen prey to television advertisements promising juicy lobster, sizzling steaks, and reduced-price appetizers. It was entirely possible to receive not only a bowl of popcorn as a free starter but also a basket containing various kinds of carbohydrates. Your meal came on a plate as big as a pizza pan, and you did not share. Those days are over. You will learn to navigate plates smaller than those on which toddlers receive their evening portion. “Small plates” will offer you four bites of something doused in balsamic vinegar that costs $12. Never mind. It has a “surprising flavor.” This will be your mantra.

Drink slowly. And heavily. Grab a Bud Light at one of these places and you’ll be thrown out or looked on as an immaturely ironic hipster. No, it’s to the mixologist you must go, which he’ll call himself, even though he’s just a bartender dressed in an unironic beard and cryptic arm tattoos. Keep a straight face while he tells you that yes, the rosemary is organic, it’s grown right in the back alley.

Know your oil. E.V.O.O. isn’t a new FDA certification, it’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You will refrain from mentioning the adulteration of olive oil in Europe as you pepper it expertly and dip your perfectly toasted bread into it. You have two options with truffle oil: go along with the con of faux luxury, or educate your peers. Either way, you will often find yourself in front of a giant plate of fries doused in the stuff. It’s also in the pasta, the aioli and the salad dressing. Great news, everyone! Truffles are now so abundant that we’re just throwing them in the condiments.

Story time. There comes a time in every server’s life, especially if he or she started out by wearing orthopedic shoes and throwing $5 Applebees apps in front of drunk college students, when they can get revenge tenfold against the nibbling, “dressing on the side” masses. It’s called reading the menu. They’ll do this with an aching precision, asking after each section whether or not you have any questions, if you’re doing okay, if everything is still all right over here. They’ll leave a full bottle of water on the table for you to use at your leisure, and will still stop by every three minutes to refill glasses you’ve barely sipped out of, all in the name of protecting the nebulous 20% tip that will pay their rent. Do them (and yourself) a favor: listen to them. Indulge them. That we as a foodie culture have managed to lasso an entire population of the workforce with such fear of losing a few extra dollars on the bottom of a damp receipt at the end of a boozy night is a crime worthy of severe punishment. I vote that the offenders sit in a dark room and have their unfavorable Yelp reviews read into their ear at a deafening decibel.

Brunch is your safe word.  Food-wise, brunch is nothing but the breakfast you had time to make because you didn’t press snooze three times before getting ready in five minutes and going to work. The power of brunch is in the idea that those who eat it belong to an exclusive club of people who wear J. Crew and get up late because they spent all night partying, drinking pricey cocktails and most likely eating fine foods that will show up in a different form on their brunch plate. When you text, “Brunch?” to your friends at an acceptable hour on Saturday morning you can all for one moment believe you belong to that club.

Fads. You’ll want to log into Pinterest at some point and check out what hybrid freak of nature desserts are stirring people into a frenzy these days. Don’t.

Purism. Long ago, a man was judged by the content of his character, then by the car in his garage, and now he’s judged by the contents of his plate (and if we’re being really honest, the contents of the contents of his plate.) You may have been wondering why your coworker is staring you down while you pop your sad pocket change into the vending machine at work. “Ugh,” she says, “don’t you know that granola bar is full of chemicals?” The correct answer to this and all other similar questions is, “Oh, I know. It’s my guilty pleasure.” Guilty pleasure will let you get away with bathing in a tub full of high fructose corn syrup with an aspartame syringe shoved up your arm. Guilty pleasure will save you from judgment when you’re caught by your roommate with your arm covered in Cheeto dust. Guilty pleasure will shield you with invisibility when you find yourself in the suburbs drinking a blue raspberry margarita at Chili’s.  Use it wisely, though, because it’s only guilty if it’s rare. 

Kara Vanderbijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about manual labor. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.


Wednesday
Aug072013

In Which We Have A Brush With Beauty

Manual Labor

by KARA VANDERBIJL

We stayed with a lot of strangers when we returned to Southern California for the summer after our first four years in France. It was as uncomfortable as you can imagine, with moments of gut-squeezing anxiety, like when your suitcase looks the same as every other suitcase on the baggage claim carousel. 

Our first hostess was the sort of woman who flapped around the house in an expensive, colorful kimono and made margaritas before lunch. She also preferred that we fold down the duvet before sitting down on a bed in one of her many guest rooms. Naturally my mother and I were slightly reluctant when she invited us to join her at her favorite nail salon one morning. It was in a stucco strip mall; across the parking lot was a Starbucks and a Cold Stone Creamery. On the other side of a newly-paved street and a stretch of landscaping so young the saplings were still braced — sat another nail salon, Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery. Mom parked our rental car and we flip-flopped our way into the salon.

We leaned against the counter as we waited to be assigned to both a chair and the unfortunate human squatting in front of it. In a small alcove, the ladies had erected some sort of crude shrine in which a fat Buddha stared benignly at a pile of day-old donuts. My head began to spin. It was perhaps the acetone or that season’s newest shade. Mom and I got French tips, which we laughed about, because in France they call any kind of manicure “American nails”, just like they call French braids “Indian braids”.

Years ago, I read a children’s historical novel about China. One of the minor characters was an old man who had never cut his pinkie fingernail because it was a symbol of his wealth, the fact that he never had to do any manual labor. It grew in on itself, curled and brown.

This fact about ancient China is passed around like an urban legend, a sort of disgusting anecdote that amuses and impresses. What's funny to me is that although they are less physically repulsive, we still cherish these status symbols. We still like having an extra $30 to burn so that it looks like we spend all day sipping mimosas over brunch, gripping phones and flipping perfect beachy waves. It's like, have you ever done the dishes? Rolled out a pie crust? Picked up something? I don't understand the desire to look like someone who has never stepped off the pages of a lifestyle blog. 

Is there only beauty in the immobile, the indestructible, the unchipped? 

From an early age, I became obsessed with a picture book about the demise of Pompeii that the local library left at child’s-eye view. The images filled my thoughts. I was not afraid of volcanoes (there were more important things to be afraid of, like rattlesnakes in the backyard and earthquakes) but I was fascinated with the images of the people who had lived in Pompeii, the people who had without warning been torn from their pleasures.

Vesuvius left only traces: lewd sketches above doorways in what used to be a brothel, large paintings of penises in inner courtyards. The residents of Pompeii died with eating utensils in their hands. Locked in an embrace. Curled up into themselves, hands over their ears.

For a few years, I considered the merits of living by what I came to call the “Pompeii test”: I would only do things that would be instantly recognizable if I were instantly encased in molten lava for all time. Had a volcano magically erupted in Southern California on the day my mother and I were getting manicures, archeologists would have found us thousands of years later forever locking hands with the nail technicians. “Look,” the archeologists would say, “these women were comforting one another in their last moments,” or, “Look, these women were performing sign language” or “Look, these women were handing primitive tools to one another.”

It isn’t remembering Pompeii that keeps me from getting manicures these days, though. I feel unlike myself when I walk into salons featuring the same peach-colored walls, faux Grecian columns and flat-screen televisions playing daytime soaps. Women with perfectly straightened hair in yoga pants read fashion magazines while they get their bunions rubbed, then walk out gingerly in rhinestone-covered sandals. I have nothing against these women, but I am not one of them. I haven’t brushed my hair in a year.

It is fascinating to me that we develop beauty products that completely deny the ever-evolving, ever-moldable aspects of our bodies. We take our live fluid hair and fill it with products so it won't move. We dutifully hydrate with special creams to prevent wrinkles that we know we'll get anyways. To me, this is a lot like closing the curtains on an ocean view and plastering them with pictures of motionless waves. 

Something must be said for allowing yourself to be ruined and ripened by your environment.

A few weeks ago I listened to a woman in the bus complain about her most recent manicure over the phone. She expressed disdain for the salon and called the technician who had performed the manicure a string of adjectives I wouldn't even assign to my worst enemy. I snuck a look at the toes peeping out of her T-strap sandals. They were painted a trendy neon orange. I couldn't pick up any visible flaws, except that she had none.

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

"Will We Ever Be Friends Again?" - Ida Maria (mp3)

"I Just Need A Hug" - Ida Maria (mp3)

Wednesday
Jul172013

In Which They Cover Our Faces With Tissue Paper

Insult to Injury

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 last wrote in these pages about a Provence state of mind. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by David Drebin.

"Strep Throat" - Georgia's Horse (mp3)

"A Long Ride Home" - Georgia's Horse (mp3)

The debut album from Teresa Maldonado is called The Mammoth Sessions.