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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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In Which Pure Materialism Is Not Yet Hypocritical



In or Out?


by Anna Dever-Scanlon


on cults and fashion


I had this idea to write a piece on cults and fashion. I started browsing the internet and found a lot of pictures of various cults, some scary, others not. The Manson Family came up often, as did Heaven's Gate, the Branch Davidians, and Jim Jones' People's Temple. Actually, those are all pretty scary.



The Manson Family: just not normal


I did some more research, reading a psychiatrist's account of his experiences treating a patient who'd left a cult called the Frontiersmen in the early eighties. What became clear is that no matter what kind of cult it is - religious or not, right leaning or left leaning, ending in murder, explosions, or mass suicide or just quietly dispersing, the key element behind every cult is the sheer force of personality of a charismatic leader.


In a cult, clothing is just one of many tools used by the leader to manipulate his followers and assert his dominance. Whatever the rules, they are usually completely arbitrary, although in the mind of the leader they are tied to their chosen religious or philosophical beliefs. In the photo shown above, the Manson women followed Charles Manson's lead when, during their murder trial, they cut their hair shorter and shorter until one day they shaved it all off. This seemingly arbitrary act, explicable only if you had access to the inner workings of Manson's mysterious mind, had the effect of further promulgating his terrifying persona.


At the Yearning for Zion Ranch cult that was part of a widely-publicized child abuse scandal last year, the women wore long, anachronistic prairie dresses that looked like they came straight out of the 1850s. I'm not sure what the rational was for this, although I am guessing it was related to leader/polygamist Warren Jeffs' belief that women should be pregnant all the time, like in the olden daze. The rules themselves don't matter so much as the fact that there are rules, and that they reinforce the agenda of the cult leader.



Girls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch


Aside from these well-known groups that fit into the traditional view of cults as extremely negative and harmful, there were many cults in the sixties and seventies that were much more positive experiences for the majority of participants. One of the most striking fashion-wise was the Source Family, founded by Father Yod (born James Edward Baker) in Los Angeles. Father Yod oversaw a successful restaurant and psychedelic rock band in the early seventies and seems to have been pretty benign, espousing mostly vegetarianism, meditation and occasional herb smoking. Father Yod started his teachings in the Kundalini yoga tradition and at first, most participants wore all white, as was customary for Kundalini practitioners.



Members of the Source Family


As time went on the clothing style evolved, but Father Yod continued to wear long Jesus robes that added to his mystique. Yod's followers also wore long cotton or velvet robes that evoked ancient Greece and Egypt or Medieval England. Their look was an integral part of their appeal and many prospective members were overcome by the visual as well as spiritual draw of the community. In the book, The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, YaHoWah13 and the Source Family, one former member, Yahava, recalls her first encounter with the family. "I saw a group of angels standing in golden sun rays singing with all their might. Their bodies appeared completely translucent in the night, as if they were all in golden white clothes and had golden white long hair: men, women, and children. I could not make this apparition real. I thought I was really tripping."



Father Yod


The sixties saw a proliferation of these groups that often walked the line between cult and commune. The Love Family, a Seattle based outfit run by Love Israel (born Paul Erdman) was one, as was the Renaissance Community in Western Massachusetts - of which my parents were members.



The Love Family



The Renaissance Community


No one was coerced to stay in these communes, but I think the influence of the leaders was remarkable at times. The Renaissance Community went through many phases, and during one of the more cult-y periods the leader, Michael Rapunzel (born Michael Metelica), bought a bunch of sweaters in different colors - white, maroon and brown. Those he considered part of his inner circle were told to wear the white sweaters (since they were spiritually pure), those who were only at a medium level of spiritual enlightenment were told to wear maroon, and those who were deemed unenlightened were instructed to wear brown. Despite whatever inner bullshit-o-meters may have been going off, most people went along with this, my parents included, a fact I find mind-bogglingly hard to fathom. The obvious irony here is that spirituality, which is supposed to be about transcending the material world, was being dictated through clothing, something so clearly superficial.



Renaissance Commune women in sweaters


In The Source, Isis Aquarian (born Charlene Peters) talks about the stylistic differences between the Love Family and the Source Family. "Love's family was earthy: they tilled the land and grew their own food and lived simply, Love's women were dressed plainly and demurely. We, on the other hand, had a house in Hollywood and served organic cuisine to rock stars; our women wore custom-designed jewelry and ran around the house with low cut gowns with our breasts bursting out." The sensual nature of Source Family dress spoke to their custom of polyamory or "sex magic" as they called it. I showed my Dad the Source Family book and he said, "Oh yeah, I remember this guy coming to visit - the Father. They were totally into group sex." He flipped through the pages, stopping at a picture of Father Yod holding a scepter and remarked, "This is just charlatanism." Members of the Source Family recall outings with Father Yod where they felt he was parading them around to get attention. One tells of a time when they went out to eat at an expensive restaurant and were seated next to Ronald and Nancy Reagan, much to Fathers delight. I think Father Yod may have taken things over the top at times, but I also think he was sincere in his spiritual beliefs and, as one former member put it, "he was the best show in town."



Michael performing with Spirit in Flesh


Members of the Renaissance Community wore pretty standard hippie styles - headbands, bellbottoms, ponchos, flowing skirts. They were more like the Love Family, being in a rural area and engaged in carpentry, gardening and other non-glamorous activities. However, Michael certainly had a flair, and when performing with his band Spirit in Flesh, tended to have a more rock and roll look, with a little biker sensibility mixed in for good measure.



Members of the Renaissance Community meditating in standard garb


In a commune where material goods are supposedly shared equally, clothing and other adornments can cause deep conflict. At one point Ahom (born Robin), Father Yod's original wife and one of the managers of the Source Restaurant (the business which supported the entire family), was accused of spending too much money on clothing and jewelry for herself. As a result, Father Yod made everyone pool everything they had and sell it, keeping one piece of jewelry each. At the Renaissance Community, there was a period when Michael had a Rolls Royce and an airplane and mothers would have to ask him for money to buy shoes for their kids. Clearly, confusion can ensue when religion and money get together.



Michael getting in the Rolls


Looking at behavior around clothing in the context of these groups brings into relief the patterns people demonstrate in mainstream society. Outside of cults, it seems like people are ever eager to impose rules on themselves. Kids join cliques that are largely based on dress - goth, punk, skater, preppie, etc. As adults, people spend fortunes to impress their co-workers with office attire - to look competent, prosperous, and promotable. The fashion obsessed look for themes running through designer's collections that can be construed as the season's "rules" to follow. Clothing signifies group identification as well as hierarchies within those groups.



Gladiator sandals: Do or don't?


It is as though people feel more comfortable, in fact, with structure than with total freedom. The same desire for belonging that drives individuals to join cults pushes them to mold themselves into the season's latest trends or the attire of whatever group they want to be a part of. Even those who believe they are outright rejecting fashion are expressing something very specific, their desire to be seen as not influenced by fashion's whims and to be accepted by people who share their disdain.



David Koresh



Anna Wintour


"Fashion cults" - groups that define themselves purely according to dress are a manifestation of the powerful draw of clothing. In this type of situation, clothing is the primary focus of a social group, not simply a secondary concern after religion or work. Japanese teenagers who dress in the Gothic Lolita style are good examples of this. Here, the emphasis is on fantasy and dress-up, and group acceptance is based on how well you dress the part. In this instance, clothing is not a means to the end of social control, it is the end itself, a form of entertainment like sports. Unlike spiritual cults, there is no higher meaning attached to the style of dress, it is valued in itself, not for its signification of something deeper. One could say that this is pure materialism, but at least it's not hypocritical.



Japanese Gothic Lolitas


I often wonder what it was about the late 60's and early seventies that made people so susceptible to membership in cults. Some would say it was the spiritual energy of the Aquarian Age. I suspect it was a searching quality on the part of the young, a yearning to re-define the rules of society. Inextricable from this desire to remake the world is an arrogance, a belief that you can actually accomplish this sort of re-formulation. Ironically, in trying to create a better world, rules that would have seemed repellent in the context of normal society suddenly became acceptable.


Yet, I wonder if the type of rules that are set up in cults are really much different from the rules of dress in society as a whole. The only difference I can see is that in a cult they are explicit, whereas in the mainstream they are inferred. Their main similarity is their arbitrariness. Just as cult leaders create random strictures to force their members into obedience, the fashion industry lays down edicts each season for people to follow, lest they be deemed unfashionable. It is this arbitrariness that lends the rules their power, making them all the more unpredictable and mysterious. Fashion, in its non-verbal, non-analytical way can instill more slavishness than other expressions of loyalty precisely because of this random, inexplicable quality that implies that those who are making the rules understand something that those who are following them can't grasp.



Geek glasses: inexplicable


In his book, Beloved Son: A Story of the Jesus Cults, Steve Allen writes about his experience visiting his son Logic Israel, a member of the Love Family, during a trip to the Source Family (the two groups had become friendly at this point). Remarking on the dizzying combinations of Eastern and Western religious thought in one of Father Yod's sermons - blending everything from Judaism to Christianity to Astrology to Tarot to Buddhism and everything in between, Allen wonders, "How does one differentiate between various aspects of the non-rational?" All cults and communes depend on a certain suspension of rational thought to exist, as do all religions. Thereign lies their allure, as well as their danger.


In the same way, fashion and personal style have nothing to do with rational thought, or we would all be wearing uniforms with air vents and pocket protectors. As with religion, in fashion there is always a temptation to go overboard, to lose the ability to think rationally before buying a $20,000 Birkin bag or platform heels that are impossible to wear. Is Anna Wintour David Koresh with a bob? Certainly not, but if something seems ridiculous, it probably is.


Anna Dever-Scanlon is a contributor to This Recording. She lives in Brooklyn. Her blog is here.



"Junk Queen" - Catherine Feeny (mp3)


"Santa Ana Wind" - Catherine Feeny (mp3)


"The Mighty Whale & Abraham" - Catherine Feeny (mp3)






Cheney tackles Lost really hard.


Magic Molly visits hep clubs.


What to enjoy about New York.



In Which Our Bones Protrude In All the Right Places

Our series on New York continues today with Molly Young on fashion week. Enjoy the rest of the series here and in the days to come.

Model Explosion 2008

by Molly Young

There's a Russian proverb that goes: "Don't blame the mirror if your face is crooked."

For brief periods in fall and spring, however, it is acceptable for us to blame the mirror. During the periods designated as Fashion Week in February and September, Manhattan fills up with models and industry types in town for the shows. The proportion of good-looking pedestrians rockets skyward. Everyone looks symmetrical. It is OK to feel a droop in self-esteem.

Like monarch butterflies and zucchini blossoms, models have a brief but explosive season. At some hours you can't go a block in Lower Manhattan without seeing a model marching industriously toward her next go-see, hair in a ponytail and portfolio in hand. Some of the models are so young they travel with their mothers.

Agyness Deyn always looks like she was just hit with a snowball

Seeing a model with her mother is always cause for relief, since I imagine the moms offset some of the unpleasant effects of an industry based entirely on appearance. Are there any other professions so closely bound to a person's looks? Perhaps a few: body doubles, jockeys, celebrity impersonators and the men hired at Christmas to dress up as Santa Claus.

Once you get used to the sight, there are pleasures to be had in model-spotting. Most important is the demystifying experience of seeing one in real life. Models, it turns out, seldom look the way they do in photographs. That is the whole point, of course, and the reason why "beautiful" and "photogenic" aren't synonyms.

The eerie-eyed Jessica Stam

Another thing is that most models are striking but not attractive. Attractive, I mean, in the literal sense of drawing people close: theirs is the kind of beauty you want to appreciate but not engage with. The model physiology of broad shoulders and narrow limbs is just not one that emanates warmth. Many of them have tiny heads.

In other words, do not be threatened by the biannual model influx. Enjoy it as a spectator. Once you've acclimated yourself to model standards, you'll begin to see how amazing they look. Not amazing in the way of normal women, but amazing like phosphorescent bacteria or ice floes. Nothing intimidating about that.

Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. She tumbls here and frolics here.

"Seven Days and Seven Nights" - The New Year (mp3)

"Body and Soul" - The New Year (mp3)

"Wages of Sleep" - The New Year (mp3)


Molly defines a new genre.

Thursty for more Michael Cera.

When he left the beach the sea was still going on.

from here


In Which Rust Is The Color Of Blood When It Dries

The Gingestrel Show

by Molly Lambert

Mad Men fever continues to sweep the nation, which is awesome not least of all because Sterling-Cooper would love any product that spawned so many advertising tie-ins. Harry Crane and the television division would be all over it.

So I wonder if red hair dye is spiking due to Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway? While in a recession women cut back on most beauty luxuries, they also get depressed. And what better way to fight depression and malaise than to dye your hair? I wouldn't know, I'm all natural. Have I mentioned that before?

There is still no known cure for true Gingerism

I am always looking for a new Shirley MacLaine to cling to, but even she was not really a redhead. Consider how much upkeep goes into dyeing and maintaining hair color, especially red which fades out super quickly, it's incredible how many of the most famous gingers are actually totally faux. I'm sure blondes have the same complaint, but who gives a fuck about them?

I'll Always Love You Fran Kubelik

So many notable redheads are just practitioners of the old racist tradition known as gingestrelsy, attempting to cash in on the edgy outsidery cachet of red hair. Sometimes I see fake ginger hipsters out parading as redheaded stereotypes, pretending all the while that they are authentic, and I feel like I'm watching the montage from the end of Bamboozled.

this is what being naturally Ginger is really like

For shame, would-be rangas. You might pass in polite society, but when it comes time for the annual Council Of Gingers Red Sabbath you will all be ferreted out and exposed for fakes. O how the blood will flow! As red as your real hair color is not.


Lucille Ball: This most famous icon of redheads was naturally brunette, and spent a long time as a peroxided blonde before going ginger. She was also a model and Chesterfield cigarette girl early on in her career.

O Lucy, U Wacky Blondehead!

During the HUAC communist blacklisting trials, husband Desi Arnaz testified that the "only thing red about his wife was her hair, and even that was fake."

Margarita Hayworth, before her studio makeover

Rita Hayworth: Was not only brunette, she was Hispanic. Born in Brooklyn as Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino, her parents were of Irish, English and Spanish descent.

After deciding she'd look better de-ethnicized, Columbia Pictures had Cansino's widow's peak permanently electrolycized, her hair dyed bright red, and she became the "Love Goddess" bombshell and popular wartime pin-up known as Rita Hayworth.

Heyyyyyyyyy Faaaaaaaaake Gingerrrrrrrrrrrr!

Shirley MacLaine: star of Sweet Charity, older sister of Warren Beatty, new age kook, and natural brunette.

Ann-Margaret: the Kitten With A Whip was a natural brunette. Also that was a prosthetic rack in Carnal Knowledge. I know, I know, I'm ruining all of your fantasies. Sorry!

Christina Hendricks: Don't worry, I'm completely sure the naturally blonde Christina Hendricks doesn't have implants. Even though her red hair color is fake, her gigantic boobs and the rest of her ridiculously proportioned figure is all real. Now you can sleep at night. Or not sleep and think about Joan.

Isla Fisher: Natural (Top), Amy Adams: Dye Job (Bottom)

Amy Adams: The Enchanted star is a natural blonde. She dyed her hair red for Junebug and never looked back.

Susan Sarandon: Janet Weiss, Annie Savoy, Brunette

Debra Messing: Grace, Starter Wife, Brunette

Molly Ringwald: Breakfast Clubber, Brunette,

Clara Bow: It Girl, used henna, Brunette,

Kate Walsh: from Private Practice/Grey's Anatomy Brunette

Tori Amos: Piano Lady, Cornflake Girl, Brunette

Cynthia Nixon: Miranda Hobbes, Little Darling, Blonde

Neko Case: Torch Singer, Brunette

Gillian Anderson: FBI Agent Dana Scully, Lily Bart, Blonde

Julia Roberts: Liz Phair's camp frenemy, Blonde

Emma Stone: from Superbad and The Rocker, Brunette

Ginger Spice: Girl Powerer, Brunette


Laura Prepon: That Seventies Scientologist

Lindsay Lohan: famously betrayed her red roots for blondehood after Paris Hilton called "firecrotch" a few thousand times. You take advice from Paris Hilton? She has nasty Fraggle hair!

Nicole Kidman: who was maybe a blonde to begin with

Molly Lambert is managing editor of This Recording


At The Same Time - R. Kelly: (mp3)

Skin - R. Kelly: (mp3)

Son Of A Bitch - R. Kelly: (mp3)

Two Seater - R. Kelly: (mp3)

Wanna Make A Baby - R. Kelly: (mp3)


Historical Ginger Dynasty

Call Me Shirley (MacLaine)

We Know Who Killed You


In Which The Analytically Minded Might Conclude That Persons With Red Hair Tend To Be Either Dangerous Or Funny

Real Gingaz Do Real Thangz

by Molly Lambert

Mad Men's sexy secretary Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is not a natural redhead. But I'm pretty sure her giant rack is real, which is cool since she is built like a luxury ocean liner. Hendricks says she's been dyeing her hair since high school, going back and forth from red to black, because she's a goth.

When I found out Hendricks's hair color was fake, I decided that the character of Joan is not intended to be a natural redhead either, and that her ginger dye job is just another part of her wasps' nest of feminine artifice. Then I was like "Man I am thinking about televisual intertextuality way too much for someone who is not a grad student in media studies. I should really go outside and ride my bike or something."


As a bona fide redhead, I self-identify with anything red. Which means sometimes I end up in very deep conversation with stop signs and ladybugs. The first ginger I loved (post-mirror phase) was The Little Mermaid, but to tell the truth I probably identified more closely with Sebastian the crab. He was also red, and I could not comprehend for a second why Ariel, who was lucky enough to live underwater, would want to trade that in for some stupid legs and life on land with a boring bohunk.

Sebastian De Crab: THAT'S RACIST

Gingers may have more sex than other hair colors (according to some random German study), but this also might be because women dye their hair red to signal to men that they are currently sexually available.

Frieda is me when I played right field

Natural redheads love to talk smack about poseurs with dye jobs. There's a character in Peanuts strips from the sixties named Frieda whose main attributes are talking about her naturally curly red hair and holding a cat that sort of flops in her arms. She bears no relation (aside from hair color) to the Little Red Haired Girl that Charlie Brown fruitlessly crushes on.

Lucille Ball: Not Really A Redhead

The highest percentage of natural redheads in the world is in Scotland (13%), followed closely by Ireland with 10%. In the US, about 2% of the population are natural redheads.

A study found that redheads are harder to sedate than any other people requiring 20% more anesthesia. Inadequate doses cause people to wake up during surgery and have increased recall of procedures.

Christina Hendricks topless as Saffron on Firefly

The idea that redheads are witches is a folk belief in Germanic culture. From 1483-1784 thousands of suspected witches were nearly always stripped and searched for “marks of the devil.” Red hair was certainly considered an abnormality.

Tom Robbins loves redheads and possibly also is one.
He had this to say about them:

"Redheaded women! Those blood oranges! Those cherry bombs! Those celestial shrews and queens of copper! May they never cease to stain our white-bread lives with super-natural catsup."


Famous Historical Natural Redheads (Mostly Evil)


King David

Mary Magdalene

Judas Iscariot

Margaret Sanger

The Red-Headed League

Woody Allen

Lizzie Borden

General Custer

Emily Dickinson

Vincent Van Gogh

Erik The Red

Vladimir Lenin

Henry VIII

Yosemite Sam

L. Ron Hubbard

Queen Elizabeth I


Molly Lambert is Red Queen of This Recording.


Red Headed Woman - Bruce Springsteen: (mp3)

Red Velvet - Outkast: (mp3)

Red Bird - Leadbelly: (mp3)

Red Apples - Cat Power: (mp3)

Red And Purple - The Dodos: (mp3)

Misery Is A Butterfly - Blonde Redhead: (mp3)

23 - Blonde Redhead: (mp3)

Raymond, Did You See The Red Queen? - The Moles: (mp3)

Blood Red Wine - The Rolling Stones: (mp3)

Walls Of Red Wing - Bob Dylan: (mp3)

Redmen And Their Wives - Guided By Voices: (mp3)



Phil Spector & R. Kelly Are Guilty As Sin

We Took Jack Nicholson To Task


In Which Why You Wanna Go And Do That Love Huh

Your Body Is A Wonderland

by Molly Lambert

I hate tattoos. I know this is not a particularly popular stance, it reminds people of being pro-life. "Keep your opinions off my body!" they say. And I say "Why not just keep your favorite quotes and song lyrics off of them too?" Some people have tattoos. Other people do not. Who am I to say which is better?

It is possible that I am just prudish about body modification in general. I have never been pierced, even in the ears. I do not disapprove of earrings or body jewelry, I just know that if I had any extra holes in my face I would neglect them out of laziness and let them get infected.

Some people look great with a nose ring, but they are usually people who are already beautiful to begin with. The nose ring serves to point out "look, I can put shit on my face and it just underscores that I would look perfect without it." Like when pretty girls wear ugly clothes and they seem even prettier.

For a while I thought about getting a piercing, mostly out of boredom with looking at my face. I think this is why people get body modifications, because they are bored of seeing their same selves all the time. But a new person would not be bored of your body. They would not find its lack of marks dull.

I could not pick one shirt to wear everyday, or one piece of jewelry. I could never pick a quote or a picture to put on my body permanently. I'd get sick of it, probably right away. I would want to scrub it off in the shower as if it were regular pen ink.

When I was in high school I drew on myself constantly. My mom gave me a hard time about it. "You're going to get ink poisoning" she'd say, but of course I never did. I drew mandalas on my hands and scenes on my calves. Anything I could do during class to avoid paying attention.

My standard line about tattoos these days is "your body is not a MySpace." But I know that I am wrong, and that it is. Your body is yours to do whatever you see fit to do with it. Perhaps my distaste for tattoos is because they remind me of the Nazis branding Jews as cattle in the Holocaust.

And yet there's something fascist about my desire for an unmarked body. Like Michael Chabon's essay about superhero costumes, I feel as if a lack of tattoos makes a figure its own ideal costume. Like the perfected unmarked human forms in Triumph Of The Will.

Or maybe it is just the humorlessness of most tattoos that offends me. Kurt Vonnegut quotes are popular, and yet I think he'd disapprove of being propagandized as such. Even joke tattoos are serious in their permanence. I know that is the point, I just can't stomach it myself.

Some people have beautiful tattoos. I have seen sleeves and back pieces that are absolutely gorgeous. But I have also seen grim reapers and Tasmanian Devils and eight balls that were nothing besides tacky, and to get tattooed seems to me to be putting yourself in a club with them somehow.

I do not aim to stop tattoos, or even really to make you reconsider them. If you have some and love them, that is great. If you are thinking about it and remain unsure, it's still really up to you. I'm just warning you that when you show it to me I will flinch, because you were already so lovely before.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording.

"Elegie" - Patti Smith (mp3)

"Sisters of the Moon" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

"Storms" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)

Herman Melville tat is pretty good


The Best Superhero Comic Books

Alex Dreams Of Stevie Nicks

Bridget On Frank O'Hara

Of Course There Are Always Exceptions To Rules