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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Ethan Peterson

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 rachel sykes (15)


In Which It Seems As If No Time Has Passed

Do Not Take Notes


Years later, I traced my sometime fear of flying back to the journey between Frankfurt and St. Petersburg. I had never flown before and, besides, I was flying alone. But these facts did not account for the fear itself; I still suffered from an obliviousness which could pass for youthful bravery. Until we neared St. Petersburg, I felt for the first time the fervent calm of journeys spent mid-air — delicately balanced between the known and the next. It was only as we descended into the city that the plane jolted, forced to fly up at a harsh and sudden angle. Over the intercom, the pilot announced that we had been about to hit another plane.

On the next flight I took, out of Russia some months later, I sat beside a friend who was in fits of giggles. “What's so funny?” I asked him.

From his pocket, he drew a lighter, shaped like a gun. The Russian police found it less amusing as they searched us, bribed him, and threatened not to let us fly. Back on board, my friend, unashamed, spent the flight leaning across to me and, whilst knowing my nerves, periodically whispered: “Oh... I don't think it's supposed to make that noise.”

I travelled back to St. Petersburg seven years, almost to the day, since I had left it. Taking my first flight from London to Frankfurt, I held the faded St. Christopher's that my grandma had given me seven years previously. It was cheap, the coating was flaking, but I rubbed it back and forth and guided it round my neck, briefly wondering if I should pray, briefly wondering when I'd needed to pretend I was religious.

Slowly, my mind sifted through all the flights on which I had performed the same routine. As we circled Frankfurt, I tried not to think of the descent into St. Petersburg. And when I looked out of the window, focussing on what might identify the new country beneath us, I was distracted by how recognisable the woods around the city had become. I couldn't remember ever having seen them before, but the colour of the trees felt familiar. The woods were exactly the same, I just didn't have the memory.

With five hours to wait in Frankfurt airport, I could only watch as people walked around me. Listening to music didn't seem to help; it felt like the songs only dragged me backwards. When you listen to headphones daily, you invest each destination in the same, solitary beat. When leaving somewhere, and especially if waiting in terminals with machines that claim to fly, filling my ears with these sounds tugs me back too sharply amongst the places I have just left. Feet step in the rhythms of the route to work; my heart taps the pulse of the person I'm not supposed to be thinking of. Under headphones, you are too set in the problems which songs doctor in a day to day routine.

So here, in Frankfurt, I listen to people talk and watch how they hold their food. I think about how they place their feet on the ground in front of them and wonder how they pick their clothes in the morning. I steal their identities. There's a woman, to my left, who is reading Peter Pan in Spanish to her toddler, as her husband and other children sleep on the bench. I write a page about her, but only two sentences about the man, 41, and woman, 27, who sit cross-legged and in suits, iPads on their laps, accidentally spilling empty pill bottles and stethoscopes over the floor of McDonalds.

Some hours earlier, my housemates wrestle several pieces of work out of my suitcase. This is a holiday, they tell me; take fresh eyes and fresh reading. Do not take notes. Remember that this is not the same trip, it is not a return. There is nothing for you to achieve.

But somehow, the strangeness of the woods spins parallels between this point and every moment in which I have previously sat, aimlessly waiting. Remembering these interims seems like remembering nothing at all. The layovers in another language, with a currency I'd forgotten to get, with words I never intended to have. Sometimes I'd slept on top of my backpack in a country I'd forgotten by the time I woke up. Already worried about knowing the right Russian, I order coffee and forget the German for anything at all. Hurrying out of security, I leave my rucksack open and, reaching a table with my drink, spill a satchel-worth of pretentious notebooks and biographies over the sleeping children.

These interims typify the first world problems I point out to myself on a daily basis. And ordinarily, I worry less about them. But seven years after I took my first flight to Russia, it seemed difficult to grasp that I was returning by the same route. And besides, there is something about the sterility of airports that encourages self-analysis. I self-consciously keep scrapbooks and notebooks all year round, but when we are forced to pause we all generate parallels, we all look for patterns to reconcile memories with the accumulation of years.

In the airport, I write about the people who pass by me prematurely dressed for the beach. They wear bikini tops and straw hats and are already disappointed in the DJ booked for their arrival. I begin also to notice what is different about me. There may not be one cell of my body that is the same; I am certainly three dress sizes smaller and have four more piercings. There is one grey hair in my head, a head which has been dyed ten times more and has an extra bump on one side of it. In seven years, I have broken my own heart once, and had it broken for me once more. But I still wear the same dark and wonky glasses, and sit too often on the floor. I walk with my head slightly down and my mouth slightly open, a trait which my mum pointed out to me on the way to the airport in 2005.

Before the decision was made to go to Russia the first time, I had become obsessed with Russian novels. Morosely dragging a tattered copy of Anna Karenina around with me, mouth slightly ajar, I sat in pink flared trousers and read it for the whole of one summer. My unfalteringly Catholic grandmother noticed how slowly it took me to read. She told me that I had become involved in immoral practices - I caught her trying to swap it out of my school bag for her copy of Pride and Prejudice.

That summer I turned sixteen and changed schools. I still hadn't finished the novel by the time September rolled around. But that autumn, I met a girl in music class and we bonded over a shared and unlikely near death experience in which we had both swallowed marbles. Being prone to melodrama even at a young age, we had quickly, separately, accepted that day as our day to die, had uttered our final words and said a quick prayer. The marble had popped neatly and easily back into the palms of our hands. My friend remembers me dolefully unpacking my school bag at the beginning of the new term, attempting to cram Anna Karenina awkwardly back into the top. “I haven't finished it yet,” I said, at which point she claims that I extended a pointed finger ominously in her direction: “But I will.”

I'd always thought that if I could work out what took me to Russia in the first place then I would figure out a little more of myself. It seems, at least in part, to be a wilful belief that Russia is a home for eccentrics and that I could belong amongst them. In my mannered quest for an identity, I told my English teacher I would go to Russia, instead of university. With very little self-awareness, I was convinced that this would be shocking. She knew better and was, thankfully, used to ridiculous teenagers.

She laughed, and she said, “That is because Russia is the country of your dreams.”

When I changed schools that summer, it had begun to change my life. I had teachers who humored my stroppy temperament, who allowed and encouraged me to think, who let me be ridiculous and indulgent. But even by eighteen, when I left, I wasn't quite ready. Even at a new school, even with the encouragement to do what I wanted, I noticed how far I was behind. The people around me were richer than I was; they were cleverer, better read, better dressed, and thinner. Even as I started to want things for myself, it felt as though I was chasing other people's ambitions.

It's just a thought that catches up with me, on the floor of Frankfurt airport, as I think about how bright the trees around the city seem to be. My mum still remembers me as a child back then, hiding beneath a head of hair which one hairdresser would later tell me held twice as many follicles as a “normal person.” I was looking back over a suitcase twice my size, struggling to see under the weight of my fringe, and looking anxiously for someone I knew. But when I had passed through security seven years previously, I had felt so unafraid. I had figured out that I was about to go somewhere, to do something, which I had not inherited from the people around me. No matter how false this could only have been, as I sat and tried to remember the Russian for “maybe,” it seemed as if no time had passed at all.

Rachel Sykes is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about the road. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"The Magic Morning" - Titus Andronicus (mp3)

"The Angry Hour" - Titus Andronicus (mp3)



In Which There Is Something Surgically Wrong With Steven Soderbergh

Fear of Needles


The Knick
creators Jack Amiel and Michael Begler

This summer, TV seemed unseasonably dark, from the return of Hannibal and its totem pole of corpses, to the wonderfully pansexual Penny Dreadful, and the gruesome, woman-beating second season of Bates Motel.

Now, providing the season with its passage to September, Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick has aired its first episodes on Cinemax, showcasing a grotesque but uniquely historical approach to this season’s yen for horror. The Knick, like its predecessors, is straight from the Gothic tradition, exhibiting a kind of gross-out Gothicism which, much like Penny Dreadful, combines Victorian facades with blood, guts, and gore. The first episode opens in a suitably druggy haze, the camera slowly focussing on an opium den where Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) lies semi-conscious, surrounded by nakedly “exotic” women. So far, so period drama - except that minutes later Dr. Thackery is dashing off to The Knick, the show’s eponymous hospital, pulling off his coke-white shoes, injecting a needle between his toes and, only a little later, into the only part of his body with a visible vein: his penis.

This, in a nutshell, is how the show works, as a curious mix of turn-of-the-century repression and heavily mutilated bodies. Set in a downtown Manhattan hospital in 1900, The Knick follows Dr. Thackery and his team of surgical pioneers as they take-on breath-taking surgeries, staged in explicit detail before a gallery of starkly unmoved benefactors. And it’s not just the patients who suffer horribly: besides Dr. Thackery’s nerve-shattering addiction to cocaine, the show obsesses over the parallels between life-saving and/or endangering surgeries and the violent incidents that regularly afflict the hospital’s staff.

While the finance director (Jeremy Bobb) has his teeth pulled out by creditors, the hospital’s only African American doctor, Algernon Edwards (André Holland), is punching strangers in alleyways, where blood splatters onto the sidewalk and into the camera. The bloody tone is set most shockingly in the first episode when, after an exceptionally brutal caesarean section, and just minutes after Clive Owen shoots-up between his toes, Thackery’s mentor lays a sheet over his leather sofa and quietly, but gorily, shoots himself in the head.

Scrubs, this is not. In fact, the completely humourless set-up of The Knick reveals just how firmly Soderbergh has his sights set on History. The Knickerbocker hospital is real enough; the original was founded in 1862 although, located on Convent Avenue and 131st Street in Harlem, it was significantly further uptown than The Knick of the show. Up until the late 1970s, The (real) Knickerbocker gave free surgical and medical treatment to the “worthy sick poor” of New York City and, like the characters of The Knick, its employees regularly battled the high mortality rates and poor conditions that afflicted many down and out citizens in turn- of-the-century Manhattan.

Into this sound historical backdrop, The Knick adds Dr. Thackery, played so sternly by Owen that you can never be quite sure his face can move. Thackery’s gut-punching surgeries, numbering two to three per episode, anchor Soderbergh’s portrayal of the poor and the needy but curiously distance the viewer from the worthiness of the show. The Gothic elements of The Knick are a symptom of the city’s poverty and corruption; the flickering electricity that dims the lights, and fatally electrocutes one of the nurses, is not in any way mysterious or supernatural, but the result of bureaucracy and administrative extortion.

In much the same way, patients have their bodies turned inside out not only because it is their only hope for survival but also because we, as viewers, know that the goriness we are watching will lead to more successful procedures, to safer caesareans and quicker heart bypasses. We know, in other words, that the extraordinarily messy surgeries that Dr. Thackery and his team attempt will eventually be successful, but the benefit of hindsight effectively distances us from the shocking brutality of the show.

The problem with The Knick, then, is its middle ground between prestige and Gothic drama. At times, it’s like watching a version of Mad Men made only from its moments of shock, where lawnmowers continually eviscerate people’s feet and every employee presents Peggy with a sawn off ear in a box. Running throughout the first episodes of The Knick is also the suspicion that a more interesting show lies beneath it. This comes down, as ever, to gender and race.

Within the first three episodes, every male character has done something illegal and typically anti-heroic, making the men invariably complex whilst the women are presented as strong and, worst still, moral. The most interesting character, Dr. Algernon Edwards, is paralysed by the racist system he is placed in, left pandering to superiors who know less than him and observing on surgeries he initially pioneered. Although everything about The Knick screams its seriousness, the storylines favour tradition over innovation, patriarchy over matriarchy, and white men over black when the inequality it registers might have served as a better focus.

Perhaps, though, the show is headed somewhere different. As early as episode two, stifled by the short leash that Thackery has him on, Algernon takes matters into his own hands and begins to treat the hospital’s unwanted African American patients in an abandoned basement. A show about the challenges facing an African American hospital seems infinitely more watchable than the show that The Knick purports to be and perhaps, if Soderbergh leaves behind Dr. Thackery’s slow circling of the drain, The Knick will uncover its purpose in amongst its detail.

Rachel Sykes is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Nottingham. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here and twitters here. .

"Blue Movie" - Lowtide (mp3)

"Missing History" - Lowtide (mp3)


In Which Hannibal Contemplates An Aesthetic of Murder

Consumer Society


creator Bryan Fuller

The remarkable thing about Hannibal is that it should never have existed. Adapted from the fiction of Thomas Harris, whose novel Red Dragon originated the Hannibal myth in 1981, when the show premiered in 2013 it seemed like a redundant addition to an already exhausted format.

The compelling first season largely dismissed low expectations by focusing on the budding relationship between FBI investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) as they work to solve a number of highly disturbing murders. Indeed, their relationship upends the Hannibal canon by disturbing the viewer’s expectations of who the reliable narrator might be. Agents refer ambiguously to Will’s place on the “spectrum” yet the FBI continues to exploit his inability to judge social situations, to rely heavily on the paranormal levels of empathy that allow Will to visualise the ways in which a killer has worked simply by attending the crime scene.

Of course, Hannibal still murders people and regularly feeds their limbs to his house guests in increasingly ambitious and experimental attempts at haute cuisine. But throughout the first season, it is equally clear that Will is unfit for FBI employment, that he struggles to function in society, to maintain personal relationships, and ultimately to switch off from the horrific crimes he is called on to solve.

The finale of Hannibal’s first season was particularly startling for the speed with which it motioned towards the future in which Will and Hannibal are mortal enemies. By the end of the episode, Will realises that Hannibal is the psychopathic murderer the viewer knows him to be and, just as quickly, Hannibal frames Will by planting the ear of one victim down his throat miraculously, and comically, intact. The finale also set the scene for a startling twist on the memory of Lecter as he will be in The Silence of the Lambs.

At the beginning of Hannibal’s second season, it is Will who wastes away in an archaic prison cell, waiting for his fate to be decided in an elaborate series of dystopian cages and ever decreasing scenes of grey. The bleakness of Will’s reality is then mirrored, if not parodied, by the FBI’s increasing involvement with Hannibal, who becomes central in aiding their investigations. Will can only escape his cell through the power of hallucinatory daydreams.

What’s interesting about Hannibal and its distinctive take on mass murder is its curious reach for objectivity. At times, the show comes close to stilted affectation because each character seems so consumed with the avoidance of emotion. With Hannibal, this process is self-explanatory - mass murderers pathologise the emotions of themselves and others in order to enact their gruesome tasks. But with others the absence of feeling spreads like a sickness and emanates from their involvement with Will and the crimes to which he lends his profiling acumen.

Similarly, show runner Bryan Fuller’s phantasmagoric approach frames the act of murder as a statement of aesthetics, troubling the idea that Hannibal is set in any reality we might know. None of the murders in Hannibal could be described as crimes of passion and motives are generally conceived aesthetically.

This variant of Harris’ text is disinterested, then, in serial killers as an absent threat or as a symbol of fear – if Hannibal, or any his contemporaries, want you dead then you will, very soon, be dead. Rather, the killings that occupy the center of each episode are statements on the nature of art and reality, on the aesthetic differences that colour our varied perceptions of the world. People are murdered in Hannibal, often graphically and without warning, not to induce fear or disgust in the viewer, but to show how people express and hide themselves in art and how the artistic process is at once creative and destructive, for the creator but also for the consumer.

Rachel Sykes is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Nottingham. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about American Hustle.

"Give" - Octo Octa ft. Raw Moans (mp3)

"Cause I Love You" - Octo Octa (mp3)