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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
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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Wednesday
Mar292017

In Which We Felt Complete In The Air

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

My boyfriend (of four months) Ian, and I were at a movie last week. He brought into the theater a massive box of popcorn slathered in butter and ate the entire thing himself. I could barely focus on the film given the show that was occurring in the seat right next to me  To make things even worse he offered his sticky hand to me afterwards and I was too shocked to vocalize my disapproval. I still feel like there is butter on my hand.

I know I'm nitpicking a little and other aspects of this new relationship are a lot more positive, but it is difficult to completely put this experience in the past. Am I overreacting?

Janine H.

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Dear Janine,

A lot of binge-eaters prefer to do their most important work in the dark. The fact that Ian allowed you to view him in his natural environment was from his perspective, an important step. You can bet that Ian has serious issues with his food, all beginning when he was a young Ian growing up in the Hamlet of Saw City, Missouri. Children often escape domineering parents or uncomfortable home situations through the magic of cinema, and if they are not getting the requisite calories at home, a folksy theater vendor might slip a young boy an extra bucket of popcorn that some finicky theatergoer rejected for being too buttery.

Personally, I feel that butter is an abomination, a story that begins in Fountainhead, Montana....

There will always be things about other people we don't like or fully understand. Getting closer to our knowledge of others and accepting them constitutes some level of personal growth.

If you're not at that point yet, don't blame yourself.

Hey,

 

As a heterosexual woman, I was wondering what the best way to give a guy your number and basically let you know that you are interested in is? In college I was used to meeting people naturally and developing a friendship. In my new city a lot of people are already in relationships and thus it's awkward. I just wondered if there is a simple way to convey availability without coming on too strong?

I'm starting to think that there must be something wrong with me, to be made so angry but such routine and common frustrations.

Kelsey U.

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Dear Jackie,

If you are talking about people you slightly know as acquaintances, the best thing to do is state plainly that you just broke up with your boyfriend. They will ask the reason, which is a decent conversation starter although you will quickly want to move onto other things, and so will they. The made-up reason that you should give for the breakup is usually, you moved here and did not want to do long-distance. If you have some other dealbreaker you can also mention that up front, e.g. "He wouldn't abandon his cat Meeples!" or "He wanted me to get a hysterectomy!"

If you are talking about randoms, it is usually best to get to know them in a general sense, after which you can use the dumped gag. Telling other people your own relationship status generally gets them to reveal theirs without a minimum of fuss. If they suggest they are single, then you can offer a friendly drink. When they arrive, they will quickly realize they are at the beginning of the most important sexual and emotional journey of their lives.

 

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Tuesday
Mar282017

In Which We Were Jewish Once And Young

Passed Over

by ETHAN PETERSON

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
creator Amy Sherman-Palladino
Amazon Studios

Until she takes the stage Midge (Rachel Brosnahan, House of Cards) is unlike any character we have ever seen before on television. Her outward face, delicately applied during the early morning while her husband believes her to be asleep, is that of a Manhattan housewife whose parents (Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub) live floors above her in the same building. Her two children consist of a young boy named Ethan who may be autistic and a baby with a massive head. Her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) depends on her completely, and so when he announces he is leaving, we are not the least bit surprised.

Midge measures her calves and thighs, and claims she goes through this intense process on a weekly basis for ten years. When she cooks, it is with a hat that a woman twenty years older would be far more comfortable in. In other words, she is not really comfortable with herself at all.

We saw far more of truly ethnic portrayals of Jews in decades past. Most were contrived by Woody Allen, who did the work of the ADL in showing that traditional stereotypes about the characters of Jewish people were sometimes true, sometimes false. The ways in which they were true were charming personality quirks which allowed them to survive the difficulties if their lives as American immigrants, Allen explained, and the ways in which they were false painted Jewish-Americans as hard-working, patriotic citizens in therapy for the rest of their lives.

Midge Maisel is also somewhat religious – she refuses to eat nuts in the early morning of Yom Kippur, for example. It will be intriguing to see if she leaves her religion behind as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel goes to series, since almost every white person we see on the small screen has zero relationship with religion of any kind. Amy Sherman-Palladino's father was Jewish, and to some extent her ways of speaking have always been rooted in the cultural and environmental proximity that forced Jews to adapt by talking quite a bit.

It is strange that the women Sherman-Palladino writes so well for rarely struggle with poverty. But then, few shows on television deal with this theme in general. There was a time in the past where Rory and Lorelai were really living hand-to-mouth, and I will never forget the astonishing episode when Lorelai's mother viewed the place her daughter and granddaughter were living all that time. Lorelai made it, however, and hopefully The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will show us what it takes a single mother to survive on her own.

Sherman-Palladino has never received sufficient credit for the amount of visual perfection she achieves in her hour-long dramas. Gilmore Girls had a wonderful camera and the small Connecticut town of Star's Hollow where Rory turned into such a tragic figure was particularly evocative. On her short-lived masterpiece Bunheads, she gave us the porcelain charm of California, although we were unfortunate to spend so little time there. Given the task of creating New York in the late 1950s, Sherman-Palladino spares no expense in detailed stormfronts and meticulously wrought apartments. She never forces her characters to inhabit anything less than a fully realized world.

After her husband peaces out, Midge takes up a stand-up career of her own. She is not completely terrible, but it is still hard to watch stand-up routines written for other people. Even being forced to view her husband stealing wretched Bob Newhart bits feels like an excruciating waste of time.

It would be better not to have to watch her perform at all, since her life off-stage is so much more exciting than what she explains of herself when she is on it. Her struggle relating to her children seems a mere proxy for her inability to directly address the world at large in something other than a costume. We completely understand why her husband left her, and we are surprised that he even made it this far. What kind of person toasts herself at her own wedding? We are wanting desperately to find out.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.


Monday
Mar272017

In Which Dan Stevens Is Your Rumpled Warden For Now

Attack by Wolves

by ELEANOR MORROW

Beauty and the Beast
dir. Bill Condon
118 minutes

Beast (Dan Stevens) looks like a vaguely unkempt man, the sort who sleeps on a couch. He is starved for female company, or any company at all to be completely honest. His bestial qualities are not many, basically he doesn't use utensils or say please. In this reenactment of the 1991 film, the fantastic songs of Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman are supplemented by new music that adds about as much as Emma Watson does to the role of Belle.

Now 26, Watson's girlish charm evaporated quickly. She is now a woman in middle age. "They think I'm strange in the village," Belle informs Dan Stevens, who is looking at her like, is it really kind to compare our two situations? The only odd thing about Belle is that she always wears the same dress. Belle does not seem to understand the reason she is stared at is because of a man: specifically her father (Kevin Kline).

Kline's role is rather thankless. The fact of his poor parenting makes substantially more sense in the Bill Condon version, since while an animated character pissing away her day reading books seems fine and dandy, Emma Watson doing the same is a less enviable life goal. Belle doesn't want to marry Gaston (Luke Evans), which makes sense, since in this version Gaston is a decade her senior and Evans' face implies he has had a hard life.

None of these actors can sing worth a shit outside of the specific ones that Condon has recruited for the purpose. Whoever is doing Watson's vocals is particularly inept, making some of the numbers sound like the sea chantys you might hear from actual reenacters at a local seaport. The visual look of the film also suffers from this pseudo-realist aesthetic. Instead of giving us these characters reimagined in an actual society, the environments look staged and reduced from their original versions.

Stevens is a fine Beast to the extent that he makes voice acting into a character beneath the effects. Watson is particularly awful as Belle – perhaps because she has never actually been anguished or agonized in life, her method of showing any displeasure comes to simply pursing her lips as if she is suffering a mild ulcer. She never really touches Beast or invades his personal space at all. During the sequence where Beast is recovering from an attack by wolves she seems vaguely uncaring towards him, like the main method by which any human being relates to her is one of inconvenience.

Using magic, Beast takes her to Paris, where the power of imagination allows Watson to whine about her mother dying in the city. Thus she does not ever want to return to society. Instead of forcing her to change and adapt to the world, as the lyrics of the film's signature song suggest Beast does, it adapts to her. In Beast's immense library, he tells Belle that she can have it if she wants. What isn't given to her? Given that theme, maybe the choice of Ms. Watson for the role does not seem so strange.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.