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Ladies and Gentlemen
we are for now and ever @
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I Love You, Man
by Molly Lambert
I Love You, Man
Wr/Dir: John Hamburg
Critics were split on I Love You, Man and so was the crowd I went with. Half thought it was funny (if not memorable) and inoffensive and the other half thought it was bland and misogynistic. I remember a similar argument after Knocked Up where a female friend defended Leslie Mann’s character’s actions against a guy arguing that Paul Rudd’s husband character had done nothing wrong. Bromantic passions run high.
run, run, run from adult responsibilities
What’s bland is not Paul Rudd’s character, who’s actually quite well sketched out, but Jason Segel’s. Which is strange because Segel’s brand of creepy-funny seems like an ideal match for Rudd’s muddled adorableness. I was expecting something more along the lines of The Zoo Story or The Cable Guy.
oh no, not another big set piece!!!
Instead what happens is that Segel’s character seems to shift from scene to scene to suit the needs of the questions posed to Rudd’s character. Which could also be funny, but it’s just kind of confusing. Lots of ideas are set up and never returned to again. There are some really funny bits in the movie and the chemistry between Segel and Rudd is charged with a first date giddiness, but the film never quite makes the leap from good to great.
Andy Samberg and Paul Rudd demonstrate two different delicious flavors of handsome Jewish guyness
Comedies have focused on male immaturity for more or less all of time. What is so weird about these movies to real life slacker girls like me is the way they all portray women as inherently responsible. I must have slept through that memo. Women are always shown being driven endlessly towards goals of marriage, responsibility, financial security, with the men bucking against it.
Jon Favreau as Alex Carnevale in the future
Besides Charlyne Yi, girls in these comedies tend to all get cast in this light. The single friend in I Love You, Man (the charming Sarah Burns, memorably from a FOTC episode) is typed as desperate for a man, any man. Most of her laughs come from this, and she’s really funny. But in a movie where a single male character who doesn’t have his shit together is portrayed as having a life worthy of emulation, it feels a little bit sexist.
they live in Silverlake, naturally
Rashida Jones is as winning as she can possibly be, but she is meant to be the Ralph Bellamy of this love triangle and has no chance against a Rush covers montage. By the time the movie gets to the couple questioning their decision to get engaged I was pretty sure they ought to break up. Like in Apatow movies, a lot of timely and sensitive real life issues about gender and relationships are touched upon and then buried under jokes.
Segel and Rudd display two brands of feminine masculinity
The only trailer that ran before the movie was for Inglorious Basterds, which was strange. Despite the fact that I finally just saw (and loved) Death Proof, I can’t feel myself getting that stoked for a war movie, even a Quentin Tarantino war movie. I’m just not sure I care yet about B.J. Novak and Samm Levine murdering Nazis. Can I give you a maybe? If it were a World War One movie I’d be so down.
even though Mahnola Dargis really hated ILYM, she agrees with all of humankind that Paul Rudd is the fucking cutest ever
War movies are the ultimate bromances. They have the same message as most of these comedies; that nothing in the world is better, more fun, or more awesome than the not-gay but gayish close friendships between straight men. Most movies violate Bechdel’s rule so flagrantly that it’s depressing to talk about.
What we need are more girlmances. I guess Sex and The City is a girlmance. Big Love is definitely a girlmance. Gossip Girl is a gossip girlmance. Little Darlings is a great classic girlmance. I have high hopes for the long-rumored Amy Poehler and Isla Fisher collaboration Groupies if it comes to fruition.
One thing I Love You, Man got completely right: Sunday night programming on HBO really IS amazing. Or at least it was until ten last night, when Big Love and Eastbound & Down wrapped up their seasons. I was already subjected to one Entourage promo tonight and had to wash my eyeballs out with Axe bodyspray. When does Curb start again?
Ashton snaps a pic of Demi bending over at Bruce Willis’s wedding to a fetus. Planet Hollywood, bay bay!
Ciara and Justin Timberlake make love and sex and magic
Rachel McAdams reads Haruki Murakami
Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording
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We will come to a point.
We can’t overcome that.
This is a bad matchup.
This Recording. What happens on the island stays on the island.
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Top Ten Battlestar Galactica Moments
by Jessica Gold Haralson
And so it frakking ends.
Seven years after Ronald Moore and David Eick transmogrified a cheesy late ’70s space opera into a naturalistic speculative-fiction masterpiece, Battlestar Galactica ends with a bang — literally — on tonight’s series finale, “Daybreak Part Two.”
We’re crying into our octagonal beer steins and wringing our replica Starbuck dog tags in despair, but we’re happy that a show that wrestled international terrorism, torture, identity, and every-ism under the sun existed in our lifetime. With that in mind, here’s a tribute to the best moments of this four-season opus.
The show is so complex (a robot-caused nuclear war, followed by deep space chase, followed by a corrupt election and a robot-human hybrid-God-baby, followed by an Iraq-like invasion followed by finding Earth a post-apocalyptic wasteland) that it’s hard to lay out its genius in a listicle. But frak it, we’ll try, in a way comprehensible to fanboys and the sci-fi shy alike. So say we all.
10. Secret Agent Boomer: Number Eight Shoots Adama The twelve (or maybe thirteen?) models of humanoid Cylons look like humans, act like humans, talk like humans — are genetically identical to humans. And some are programmed to think they’re human so they can shoot the military leader of the remaining humans at a critical moment. Our jaw was on the floor at this whammy of a season one finale. (Little did we know that compared to Season Two’s, Boomer’s Cylon-icity would look like a game of pattycakes.)
9. Chief Becomes The Man He Wants to Be“We’re Cylons,” Galen Tyrol – a.k.a. the Chief – says at season three’s end, to three members of the Final Five revealed as Cylons. “And we have been from the start.”
But does Galen turn to robot-mode, abandoning humanity forever? Frak no. And that’s why we love him. “We have to be the people we want to be,” he says. And as Season Four progresses, what were once moral quandaries become ethical convictions etched in stone, principles for a better way. He knows he’s a Cylon. But he’s going to keep being Galen Frakkin’ Tyrol.
Galen’s name is identical to that of a famous Renaissance physician who clearly mapped out human anatomy in a rational manner. I believe this to be no coincidence.
As Galactica’s chief repairman — and a literal machine himself — Galen’s journey has a special meaning. After figuratively dissecting himself, he doesn’t let biology determine his destiny. He’s a Cylon, but he’s also an ex-husband, a father, a Chief. He is finally the man he always wanted to be.
8. Cylon-Invaded New Caprica: Flipping the 9/11 ScriptThe creators of Battlestar Galactica were recently part of a United Nations panel (yes, you read that right) about the show’s grappling with “real-world” issues. One year after the newly elected President Gaius Baltar takes his people to their “New Caprica,” a group of Cylons show up to imprison the humans: in order to “win” their love. “This is the only way,” say the invaders. “We want peace and harmony — on our terms.”
Sound familiar? It should. When the Cylons nuked the human’s world, Caprica, the echoes of Al-Qaeda and 9/11 were obvious. Yet by acting as invaders and captors and turning the humans into insurgents doing anything to escape invasion, the show asks us to identify the Cylons — the enemy! — as Americans. “New Caprica” may as well be New Iraq.
BSG‘s ethical shades of gray are remarkable. The Cylons really, truly believe that imprisoning the humans will “free” them — that they can somehow create freedom from the top-down. And they sound reasonable when they say so. But once you hear from the horrified humans, it’s clear that occupation is no answer, making you question the viability of America’s real world colonies.
7. Earth Was a Lie: What the Frak Now?Guided by a vision from their holy Book of Pythia, the thirty-thousand odd remaining survivors Roslin to a vague promise of their original home: Earth. The final episode of Season Four’s first part — “Sometimes A Great Notion” — showed the ecstatic crew waiting to meet their new old homeworld.
Ron Moore has said the show provides the characters with “everything they want,” but in the worst possible way. This moment was no exception. The survivors found Earth — as a post-apocalyptic, nuked-out wasteland. Just like Caprica. “Earth,” Roslin says, with the same grit as if she were cursing their Cylon attackers.
Everything you want. In the worst possible way.
6. Starbuck’s ReturnGandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White, BSG-style.
After we witnessed the death of Kara Thrace via explosion in the latter part of season three, she shows up for the season finale in a newly minted Raptor, to the strains of “All Along the Watchtower,” saying she found Earth and would take everyone there.
(Oh, and later? She finds her own dead body on the nuked out planet Earth. Frakkin’ Hell.)
5. The Ghost Pirate Saul Tigh: “We’re the Devil’s Men”
We’re the devil’s men, spreading death and destruction wherever we go.
– Saul Tigh
If “Cylon-occupied New Caprica” is a direct Iraq parallel, Saul Tigh is the leader of the band of insurgents. He commands his faithful to commit suicide bombings against Cylons — an act considered horrendous in our world. Here in New Caprica Tigh’s reasoning makes perfect sense.
If you were imprisoned by unjust rulers with no options, no freedom, no escape, what would you do? Are there moral justifications for terrorism? What is “right” when it comes to fighting for freedom? Instead of drawing old lines in the sand, Battlestar nukes them, redraws them, turns them into circles, and changes the sand’s color entirely. What other program has shown the ambiguities so clearly?
4. Adama Rescues Everyone Off Frakkin’ New Caprica
Before his ship FTL-jumps in a blaze of fire into the atmosphere to save the New Capricans, then-Admiral Adama says this to his pilots:
This is the Admiral. You’ve heard the news, you know the mission. You should also know there is only one way that this mission ends: and that’s with the successful rescue of our people, off of New Caprica. Look around you. Take a good look at the men and women that stand next to you. Remember their faces, for one day you will tell your children and your grandchildren that you served with such men and women as the universe has never seen. And together, you’ll accomplish the feat that will be told and retold down through the ages, and find immortality as only the gods once knew. I’m proud to serve with you. Good hunting.
3. Ellen Tigh is the 5th Cylon
Who’d expect that Saul Tigh’s drunkard floozy of a wife — affectionately titled “Lady MacTigh” by fans — would turn out to be the fifth Final Fiver and the original architect of eight Cylon models? We sure didn’t.
We’re not surprised that the Tighs have been married for two thousand years. Despite their drunken caterwauling and Ellen’s cheating and Tigh’s rampant alcoholism, those two have the best love story on the whole damn show. Scratch the surface and BSG is a typical episode of Jerry Springer. With robots.
2. Lee Adama Breaks It Down: “We’re a Gang on the Run”
This case, this case is built on emotion, on anger, bitterness, but most of all it’s built on shame. It’s about the shame of what we did to ourselves back on that planet. It’s about the guilt of those of us who ran away, who ran away. And we are trying to dump all of that guilt and all that shame onto one man, and then flush him out the airlock, and just hope that that gets rid of it all. So that we can live with ourselves. But that won’t work. That won’t work. That’s not justice, not to me. Not to me.
After Gaius Baltar signed a death warrant on New Caprica — at gunpoint — the civilians wanted his head once they had escaped occupation. And heck, they’ve got a point. But despite hating Gaius’ guts, Lee points out that the vestiges of their civilization are gone — and if Gaius gets the axe, so should everyone else.
“We’re not the human race, we’re a gang on the run,” argues Lee in a surprisingly passionate defense of a Saddam-esque Baltar. The younger Adama points out that Laura Roslin rigged an election, that Boomer’s twin Athena is forgiven despite, you know, attempting to murder Bill Adama, that everyone’s doing what they need to do to get by. To survive. And that sometimes results in terrible acts that would land any person a death sentence in easy times. But these aren’t easy times — this is survival.
Gaius walks free, then turns into metaphorical Jesus, then writes a Hitler-like manifesto titled My Triumphs, My Mistakes. Oh, show.
1. Adama’s Final Call to Arms: Taking a Stand, Choosing to Fight
After Helo’s daughter Hera is kidnapped by Boomer for dissection by the evil Cylons (as opposed to the good Cylons – Season Four has those), Commander Adama appears to have lost the will to fight in last week’s “Daybreak, Part One.” He orders the decommissioning of a crumbled Galactica, which seems unrelated.
In this show, however, everything is related. And packing up his boxes, Adama realizes that he’s giving up. That his years of survival, of leading his flock, of looking for a home — will crumble away like Galactica’s hull if he doesn’t take a stand.
And so he draws a line in the ship’s bay and calls a volunteer mission to rescue Hera. To take back a child. To stand up to the Cylons once and for all. This wouldn’t seem special on such a drama-filled show: but it is, because the fleet is no longer running, escaping, and avoiding – they’re going to take the Cylons on, mano a mano.
In Season Two, a defiant Boomer is asked why the Cylons nuked Caprica. She answers to the effect of, “Why should humanity survive?” No one ever offered a convincing answer.
But this? This is convincing. This is the evidence of humanity’s crowning triumph: the urge to do what’s right, to rescue a child, even if it means losing the fleet, even if there is no personal gain, even if nothing comes of it. To have the courage to speak truth to power and refuse to accept victimization. To stand up and fight. To refuse cowardice and seek the face of the enemy. I have never been prouder of this show’s characters.
We’ll find out if the fleet survives on tonight’s finale. I hope they do. But if not, I will have no doubt that humanity ended with a triumphant bang — not a whimper. That rallying cry is more than I could ever ask for from series television.
Jessica Gold Haralson is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She tumbles here.
“Faking the Books (Dntel remix)” – Lali Puna (mp3)
“Alienation (Alias remix)” – Lali Puna (mp3)
“Grin and Bear It (To Roccoco Rot remix)” – Lali Puna (mp3)
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Molly came to the defense of Diablo Cody.
Alex finally came around to Bon Iver.
Will kinda came a little on Jane Birkin
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Crank Dat Lost
by Dick Cheney
Winston Churchill tried to spend most of each day in bed. He took his meals there, read the newspaper there. He was a man like any other. Getting name-checked on last night’s Lost was the finest moment of his life after death.
Never trust a man who thinks reading is a waste of time: Jack Shepard clearly isn’t aware of how common illiteracy is among island populations when he chastises LaFleur for reading appears to be a biography of Merce Cunningham. Come on, Jack. You’re against reading?
For example: I have heard Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is functionally illiterate. What other reason would he have for not knowing that he gave AIG a blank check to compensate the executives that destroyed their company? Meanwhile, things are better in Iraq than ever. Vindication baby, one time.
Our leaders can be called a strange bunch. When I first met George W. Bush, he was a snotty undergraduate at Yale. He called all his male friends ‘cowboys’ and he called all the girls “puppies.” There was little evidence of the man he would become. Who knew that someday he would ask Vladimir Putin to kill a thirty rack of Milwaukee’s Best with him? The world is a strange place; I shot and killed a guy and nothing came of it, for example.
Cool and calculating, James LaFleur is more Winston Churchill than George W. Bush. He’s made the strongest move in the book: he forced one chick to watch him get with another. Although this did not work in the seminal Ryan Reynolds film Just Friends, it did indeed work in the seminal Ryan Reynolds film Definitely Maybe. In either case, we have so much to learn from Mr. Reynolds.
Doug Feith dropped by the other day, and he asked me why it was that women responded so much better to him when he was getting regular action. Did they subconsciously know they had to go out of their way to take him from another? Soon enough, he was able to demonstrate this principle. (We were in a Cracker Barrel and the waitress was practically gargling his testes at the table.)
Since my name recognition among loose waitresses at chain restaurants is better than Doug Feith’s, getting ass outside of my marriage is difficult. LaFleur has a similar conundrum.
If he starts fucking around on Juliet with Kate, he’s going to start a shitstorm with a former doctor doing janitorial work, and sporting a kewt little flash of gray. Is it really Sawyer’s fault that women are drawn to his khaki Head of Security jumpsuit?
never trust an asian billionaire
Making yourself the center of the action ensures complications. Ben got an oar to his head after he found Sun a way back to her husband.
the tasty little treat behind sun needs a bigger role
Women want to be around exciting men, but once things get too exciting, they bail and take up with Seth Rogen’s character from every single one of his movies.
Note: I am waiting for someone to do a YouTube remix of Sun cracking Benry over the head with “Crank Dat” as the soundtrack. Don’t let me down internet.
Ben and Sun made tromping through the woods reminded me of the two dogs in Homeward Bound. But back to our hard talk about LaFleur the leader and the two women that cherish his long con.
Here’s my advice, guy: raw, sweat-laden charisma can only take you so far. The second you start showing a woman you’re actually a person, you’ll be watching her cozy up to some d-bag named Kurt who’s super-into moe. and dumped his girlfriend to take yours. Whoa, sorry. I had a bad experience and now everytime I meet someone named Kurt I want to scratch his eyes out. Meow. You know.
bitch you don’t want to fuck with me
LaFleur has to decide between two very different pieces of tangy woman. Kate provides the thrill of ex-convict baby-abandoning intercourse – she wants a new fetus in her stomach so bad you’re likely to catch her poking holes in your Dharma-brand Magnum condoms.
girl you ain’t nothing but a slut to me
With Kate, the foreplay is awkward. She’s used to having guys never say a bad word to her in the sack, and as a result, she’s strange and salty-tasting. Her skin is worse than you can imagine up close; on the other hand, her vagina is shaped like a perfect circle. She still loves to run.
Juliet provides the thrill of ex-doctor baby-delivering intercourse. She’s openly admitted to wanting a child as well, but she’s already told you she’s on the pill, so no worries until you wake up in a cold sweat one night and realize that the pill might not have been invented yet.
She’s like all doctor types in bed – quiet, thorough, devoted and onstage. Scientists never quite let go: you can always see the analytical part of their brain turning and turning as they guzzle your swizzle stick. Juliet’s vagina is shaped like a question mark, lending credence to the theory she may indeed be Mysterion.
How to decide? I think it’s way too soon to dismiss Horace Goodspeed’s betch from the equation. With her lazy attitude and proven fertility, she could make this a three way race. Her post-pregnancy hormones are still going high, and she’s clearly the kind of woman who is invested in her own pleasure, the mere fact of which is a turn-on to the male of the species.
She’s a dark horse in this competition, kind of like American Idol’s Megan Corkrey. Fortunately when you bang Amy, you don’t have to look at a godawful tattoo descending down her right arm. Due to natural childbirth, Amy’s vagina is now shaped like a capital O. I guess what I’m saying here is I like Oklahoma to win it all.
Dick Cheney, the former vice president, is the senior contributor to This Recording. He previously discussed Jason Mesnick-Sawyer LaFleur concordance here.
“Everything Reminds Me Of You” – Emmy the Great (mp3)
“Bad Things Coming, We Are Safe” – Emmy the Great (mp3)
“Hold Onto What You Own (for Colin)” – Emmy the Great (mp3)
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from his second collection of short stories, I Would Have Saved Them If I Could
In the Fifties
by Leonard Michaels
In the fifties I learned to drive a car. I was frequently in love. I had more friends than now.
When Khrushchev denounced Stalin my roommate shit blood, turned yellow, and lost most of his hair.
I attended the lectures of the excellent E.B. Burgum until Senator McCarthy ended his tenure. I imagined N.Y.U. would burn. Miserable students, drifting in the halls, looked at one another.
In less than a month, working day and night, I wrote a bad novel.
I went to school—N.Y.U., Michigan, Berkeley—much of the time.
I had witty, giddy conversation, four or five nights a week, in a homosexual bar in Ann Arbor.
I read literary reviews the way people suck candy.
Personal relationships were more important to me than anything else.
I had a fight with a powerful fat man who fell on my face and was immovable.
I had personal relationships with football players, Jazz musicians, ass-bandits, nymphomaniacs, non-specialized degenerates, and numerous Jewish premedical students.
I had personal relationships with thirty-five rhesus monkeys in an experiment on monkey addiction to morphine. Thy knew me as one who shot reeking crap out of cages with a hose.
With four other students I lived in the home of chiropractor named Leo.
I met a man in Detroit who owned a submachine gun; he claimed to have hit Dutch Schultz. I saw a gangster movie that disproved his claim.
I knew two girls who had brains, talent, health, good looks, plenty to eat, and hanged themselves.
I heard of parties in Ann Arbor where everyone made it with everyone else, including the cat.
I knew card sharks and con men. I liked marginal types because they seemed original and aristocratic, living for an ideal or obliged to live in it. Ordinary types seem fundamentally unserious. These distinctions belong to the romantic fop. I didn’t think that way too much.
I worked for an evil vanity publisher in Manhattan.
I worked in a fish packing plant in Massachusetts, on the line with a sincere Jewish poet from Harvard and three lesbians; one was beautiful, one grim; both loved the other, who was intelligent. I loved her, too. I dreamed of violating her purity. They taked among themselves, in creepy whispers, always about Jung. In a dark corner, away from our line, old Portuguese men slit fish into open flaps, flicking out the bones. I could only see their eyes and knives. I’d arrive early every morning to dash in and out until the stench became bearable. After work I’d go to bed and pluck fish scales out of my skin.
I was a teaching assistant in two English departments. I graded thousands of freshman themes. One began like, “Karl Marx, for that was his name…” Another began like this: “In Jonathan Swift‘s famous letter to the Pope…” I wrote edifying comments in the margins. Later I began to scribble “Awkward” beside everything, even spelling errors.
I got A’s and F’s as a graduate student. A professor of English said my attitude wasn’t professional. He said that he always read a “good book” after dinner.
A girl from Indiana said this of me on a teacher-evaluation form: “It is bad enough to go to English class at eight in the morning, but to be instructed by a shabby man is horrible.”
I made enemies on the East Coast, the West Coast, and in the Middle West. All now dead, sick, or out of luck.
I was arrested, photographed, and fingerprinted. In a soundproof room two detectives lectured me on the American way of life, and I was charged with the crime of nothing. A New York cop told me that detectives were called “defectives.”
I had an automobile accident. I did the mambo. I had urethritis and mononucleosis.
In Ann Arbor, a few years before the advent of Malcolm X, a lot of my friends were black. After Malcolm X, almost all my friends were white. They admired John F. Kennedy.
In the fifties, I smoked marijuana, hash, and opium. Once I drank absinthe. Once I swallowed twenty glycerine caps of peyote. The social effects of “drugs,” unless sexual, always seemed tedious. But I liked people who inclined the drug way. Especially if they didn’t proselytize. I listened to long conversations about the phenomenological weirdness of familiar reality and the great spiritual questions this entailed—for example, “Do you think Wallace Stevens is a head?”
I witnessed an abortion.
I was godless, but I thought the fashion of intellectual religiosity more despicable. I wished that I could live in a culture rather than study life among the cultured.
I drove a Chevy Bel Air eighty-five miles per hour on a two-lane blacktop. It was nighttime. Intermittent thick white fog made the headlights feeble and diffuse. Four others in the car sat with the strict silent rectitude of catatonics. If one of them didn’t admit to being frightened, we were dead. A Cadillac, doing a hundred miles per hour, passed us and was obliterated in the fog. I slowed down.
I drank Old Fashioneds in the apartment of my friend Julian. We talked about Worringer and Spengler. We gossiped about friends. Then we left to meet our dates. There was more drinking. We all climbed trees, crawled in the street, and went to a church. Julian walked into an elm, smashed his glasses, vomited on a lawn, and returned home to memorize Anglo-Saxon grammatical forms. I ended on my knees, vomiting into a toilet bowl, repeatedly flushing the water to hide my noises. Later I phoned New York so that I could listen to the voices of my parents, their Yiddish, their English, their logics.
I knew a professor of English who wrote impassioned sonnets in honor of Henry Ford.
I played freshman varsity basketball at N.Y.U. and received a dollar an hour for practice sessions and double that for games. It was called “meal money.” I played badly, too psychological, too worried about not studying, too short. If pushed or elbowed during a practice game, I was ready to kill. The coach liked my attitude. In his day, he said, practice ended when there was blood on the boards. I ran back and forth, in urgent sneakers, through my freshman year. Near the end I came down with pleurisy, quit basketball, started smoking more.
I took classes in comparative anatomy and chemistry. I took classes in old English, Middle English, and modern literature. I took classes and classes.
I fired a twelve-gauge shotgun down the hallway of a railroad flat into a couch pillow.
My roommate bought the shotgun because of his gambling debts. He expected murderous thugs to come for him. I’d wake in the middle of the night listening for a knock, a cough, a footstep, wondering how to identify myself as not him when they broke through out door.
My roommate was an expensively dressed kid from a Chicago suburb. Though very intelligent, he suffered in school. He suffered with girls though he was handsome and witty. He suffered with boys though he was heterosexual. He slept on three mattresses and used a sun lamp all winter. He bathed, oiled and perfumed his body daily. He wanted soft, sweet joys in every part, but when some whore asked if he’d like to be beaten with a garrison belt, he said yes. He suffered with food, eating from morning to night, loading his pockets with fried pumpkin seeds when he left for class, smearing caviar paste on his filet mignons, eating himself into a monumental face of eating because he was eating. Then he killed himself.
A lot of young, gifted people I knew in the fifties killed themselves. Only a few of them continue walking around.
I wrote literary essays in the turgid, tumescent manner of darkest Blackmur.
NYC from Jersey, 1950.
I used to think that someday I would write a fictional version of my stupid life in the fifties.
I was a waiter at a Catskill hotel. The captain of the waiters ordered us to dance with the female guests who appeared in the casino without escorts and, as much as possible, fuck them. A professional tummler walked the ground. Whenever he saw a group of people merely chatting, he thrust in quickly and created a tumult.
I heard the Budapest String quartet, Dylan Thomas, Lester Young, and Billie Holiday together, and I saw Pearl Primus dance, in a Village nightclub, in a space two yards square, accompanied by an African drummer about seventy years old. His hands moved in spasms of mathematical complexity at invisible speed. People left their tables to press close to Primus and see the expression in her face, the sweat, the muscles, the way her naked feet seized and released the floor.
Eventually I had friends in New York, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Berkeley & Los Angeles.
I did the cha-cha, wearing a tux, at a New Year’s party in Hollywood, and sat at a table with Steve McQueen. He’d become famous in a TV series about a cowboy with a rifle. He said he didn’t know which he liked best, acting or driving a racing car. I thought he was a silly person and then realized he thought I was. I met a few other famous people who said something. One night, in a yellow Porsche, I circle Manhattan with Jack Kerouac. He recited passages, perfectly remembered from his book reviews, to the sky. His manner was ironical, sweet, and depressing.
I had a friend named Chicky who drove his chopped, blocked, stripped, dual-exhaust Ford convertible, while vomiting out the fly window, into a telephone pole. He survived, lit a match to see if the engine was all right, and it blew up in his face. I saw him in the hospital. Through his bandages he said that ever since high school he’d been trying to kill himself. Because his girlfriend wasn’t good-looking enough. He was crying and laughing while he pleaded with me to believe that he had really been trying to kill himself because his girlfriend wasn’t good-looking enough. I told him that I was going out with a certain girl and he told me that had fucked her once but it didn’t matter because I could take her away and live somewhere else. He was a Sicilian kid with a face like Caravaggio’s angels of debauch. He’d been educated by priests and nuns. When his hair grew back and his face healed, his mind healed. He broke up with his girlfriend. he wasn’t nearly as narcissistic as other men I knew in the fifties.
I knew one who, before picking up his dates, ironed his dollar bills and powdered his testicles. And another who referred to women as “cockless wonders” and used only their family names—for example, “I’m going to meet Goldberg, the cockless wonder.” Many women thought he was extremely attractive and became his sexual slaves. Men didn’t like him.
I had a friend who was dragged down a courthouse stairway, in San Francisco, by her hair. She’d wanted to attend the House Un-American hearings. The next morning I crossed the Bay Bridge to join my first protest demonstration. I felt frightened and embarrassed. I was bitter about what had happened to her and the others she’d been with. I expected to see thirty or forty people lke me, carrying hysterical placards around the courthouse until the cops bludgeoned us into the pavement. About two thousand people were there. I marched beside a little kid who had a bag of marbles to throw under the hoofs of the horse cops. His mother kept saying, “Not yet, not yet.” We marched all day. That was the end of the fifties.
Leonard Michaels died in 2003. He was one of the most talented writers of the short story in the form’s history. He also wrote novels, including The Men’s Club, a brilliant satire, and Sylvia, about his first wife, Sylvia Bloch.
THINGS REALLY WERE BETTER THEN
“Artificial Fire” – Eleni Mandell (mp3)
“Personal” – Eleni Mandell (mp3)
“Needle and Thread” – Eleni Mandell (mp3)
eleni mandell website
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Filed under: Uncategorized
Stop In the Name of Love
by Meredith Hight
The assault caused Robyn F ’s mouth to fill with blood and blood to splatter all over her clothing and the interior of the vehicle. Brown looked at Robyn F and stated “I am going to beat the s–t out of you when we get home! You wait and see!”
– the police report on the night of Chris Brown’s alleged assault on Rihanna
You want to say, this is unbelievable. How could he do that?
A few weeks later, and they are back together. How could she stay with him? You want to be surprised, but the truth is, you find this not altogether surprising. How it hurts to watch it all unfold, though — because you know what she is feeling. You know why she stays. She loves him, despite it all. And he loves her. They are young, they are confused, and they think they have found themselves in what feels like love.
I waited for Gloria Steinem, Anna Quindlen, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Naomi Wolf, someone, to write the seminal essay on the Chris Brown and Rihanna incident, about what it means. I wanted to hear a clear voice, to parse through the media’s breathless reaction to every report about Diddy’s beach house or the supposed duet, a primer on domestic violence, someone who will adamantly but not righteously condemn abusers. I haven’t seen it.
Oprah came close with her special on domestic violence with the sometimes obnoxious and occasionally insightful Tyra Banks. But I wasn’t entirely satisfied by the show, in part because the phrase “domestic violence” makes me cringe a little. Violence is violence is violence. Deeming it “domestic” seems to suggest that it’s a personal, private matter, of the home and to be dealt with by those in relationships.
To start, Oprah was clear about a couple of things. Love doesn’t hurt, and a man who hits you once is going to hit you again. But she also did not condemn Brown directly or specifically, which I actually appreciated. Tyra explained how she became involved in an emotionally abusive relationship, even at a time when she was at the height of her career as a supermodel.
Tyra’s self-esteem was low, because a man had recently rejected her. She felt if she did not “win” this other man in particular, then, she was a failure —even though he was abusive and controlling.
The cultural expectation that you are not complete unless you are coupled, combined with applying a Type A personality to your personal life, is what can drive this feeling of failure, especially for women. I have held on to men, just for the sake of wanting to make something work. “Making it work” works for Tim Gunn on Bravo. This does not work in relationships. Especially when you realize you have been accidentally dating gay men.
Regardless, the real point of Tyra’s example is that there is a reason women enter into these relationships. Lifetime movies would lead you to believe that this could happen to any woman, at any time. That entering into a relationship with an abuser can happen as easily as meeting the man of your dreams at your neighborhood grocery store.
I disagree, and though I have no psychological training, no personal experience in having been a part of an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, I want to explain why.
As Oprah said, when you stay with a man who abuses you, it’s “because you don’t think you’re worthy of being with a man who won’t.” Most women (and some men), get involved in these relationships because they lack a sense of self, of worth.
But again, there’s a broader point. We have come to believe that most abusive relationships involve an abuser and a victim. But the fact of the matter is, an abusive relationship involves two victims.
Chris Brown talked about how scared he was as, from the impressionable ages of 7 to 13, he witnessed his mom being hit by a boyfriend. Asked what he learned from that experience, Brown said: “When a woman in love, she do anything.”
What Brown took away, is that if a woman is in love, she is willing to be hit. She is willing to endure abuse. For some women, this is sadly true. They believe that love validates them, makes them worthy and renders them whole, and the idea of losing that love, is terrifying. So, they stay.
I sympathize with these women, but I also find this infuriating. I have had enough of “love” being cited as a reason by women for accepting and enduring abuse and neglect.
Those feelings are just feelings: they are not a reason, especially if the way a man has actually treated a woman is not taken into account.
As Brittany, who also appeared on Oprah, said of her abuser, “He was the first guy I felt like, really understood me. And that really, I connected with.” The same guy is in prison now because of the abuse he inflicted on her, which included throwing her out of his apartment, naked in the night and shoving a shirt down her throat to suffocate her. She is pregnant with his child.
Men in these relationships seem to know the power of these “feelings.” But these men want and need love, too. Often they have not had a model for a normal, functioning and healthy relationship, but that doesn’t take away the very basic human need to be loved — and it is in this sense that they are a kind of victim, too. Not knowing the appropriate way to love, they seem to seek an all-consuming love. At the slightest threat to that love, to their control, they can become physically violent.
Let me be very clear. Abuse is absolutely, never acceptable. But when I consider how or why it happens, it seems to come down to a power struggle for love, between the two involved in the relationship. Which neither of them can really give to the other, because neither of them even knows or understands what real love means.
It does not help that we are as a culture swept up in a hopeless romanticism that seems to supersede the reality of relationships. Which is to say, they can be hard, and it is a lot of work, to bring two lives together – and that feeling, the romance, is the easy part. Life is far more complicated than any of those feelings.
We can judge Rihanna, or Chris Brown, or their publicists, the media, and righteously condemn violence. We can say, she should leave, he should be ashamed of himself, and he could have killed her. And we’re not wrong to say that. But what we should talk about is real love. How we need examples of that, in our culture, in the media, in our lives. Especially for those who grew up in an abusive environment.
Love means never needing to wipe the blood from your mouth after he’s hit you.
Meredith Hight is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here.
“Bitch, I Love You” – Black Joe Lewis (mp3)
“Hate That I Love You” – Rihanna ft. Ne-Yo (mp3)
“I Do Not Hook Up” – Kelly Clarkson (mp3)
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Filed under: Uncategorized
“One More Thing”
by Andrew Zornoza
Last weekend, Zack Kushner climbed the mountain of life and stood at the top. His crossword puzzle, “One More Thing,” appeared in the NYT: the Sunday edition. How did he get there? What follows is an interview with Mr. Kushner. . . .
Really a fun puzzle Zack. Are you a cruciverbalist, constructor or other?
Thanks. I’m going to go with cruciverbalist, but they’re really the same thing. Cruciverbalist just sounds better at parties. According to the definition, anyone who “enjoys crosswords” is a cruciverbalist, but in its normal usage (as if anyone uses the word normally) it means a constructor of crossword puzzles, or more literally, a “crosser of words.”
How does it feel knowing that thousands of people all across the globe are poring over your work?
Odd. To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It was such a long journey to get this puzzle published that having it actually sitting in front of me in the Sunday Magazine is just, well, odd. Also, being in Australia, most of the reactions are coming from far away. I don’t have much chance of seeing someone at the next table working on it. I started constructing with the goal of publishing a Sunday Times crossword, and now I’ve done it. I suppose I’ll have to find a new goal, now. . . .
Many writers feel the pull of their profession at a young age. Of course, we all start as readers. How did the transformation from solver to creator happen to you?
With love, of course! I’d been solving puzzles for a long time, but the first puzzle I ever constructed was for my then-girlfriend, now-wife. It was an interesting experience sitting on the other side of the desk, but not one I immediately found addictive. My favorite clue/answer was: “The worst kind of souvenir? / EBOLA”. It wasn’t until Wordplay came out in ’06 that I got it into my head to create a puzzle I could sell. It took me a year of hacking around until I really got the basics of cruciverbalism and another year until I put together a puzzle that met the NY Times standards.
Can you give us some idea of your journey to the New York Times?
Outside of the puzzle I just mentioned, my next attempt was pretty ghastly. I tried to do a rebus puzzle using Greek letters. I wasn’t quite clear on all the rules of puzzle making and ended up with something that was unprofessional at best. Too many black squares, bad “fill” (the words in the puzzle that aren’t theme answers), etc. It was only after I finished it that I saw how unacceptable it was and so I shelved it and started again. My next attempt wasn’t as shoddy, a puzzle that included the names of the Rat Pack in the theme answers (i.e. SITS IN A TRANCE). This one I actually sent in, waited a few months, then got the rejection email. In retrospect, my theme answers weren’t quality; while SITS IN A TRANCE makes sense, it’s not really “in the language.” If it’s not a recognizable phrase, it won’t please editors. FALLS IN A TRANCE, for example, would be better, but still not as good as FALLS INTO A TRANCE. Try doing a Google search of all three terms in quotes and you’ll see what I mean. The more hits returned, the more common the phrase, the more “in the language.”
Sometime around this point, I realized I was an idiot for not using the specialized software available to cruciverbalists. Software that helps you create a grid, keep symmetry, clue, and most importantly, fill. I use Crossword Compiler but there are others. I also joined the cruciverb.com mailing list and started to soak up the knowledge.
Two years after first having a real go, I met with success. I’ve sold three puzzles so far: one to the LA Times, one to Simon & Schuster for Mega Crosswords 8, and this one to the NY Times. I’m securely in the novice-professional category. All are Sunday puzzles, which means they’re 21×21 instead of the weekday normal 15×15.
You’ve mentioned your Grandfather as an early influence. He would certainly be proud.
I used to watch him do the Times puzzles in ink, and that always impressed me. It’s hard to imagine how he would have reacted to seeing my puzzle in the Sunday Times. He was a quiet man, not overly affectionate. He probably would have made a few jokes about it, hugged me, and told everyone he met on the street.
How much of a personal expression is a single puzzle? Can you bend the clues to express more than a simple theme? Or does the puzzle have a mind of its own?
The way that a puzzle shows its personality is in the theme answers/clues and in the words you choose for the fill. For example, I liked the word CARJACK and worked to keep that in the fill. Someone else might have liked the name of an opera star or a baseball player. While the clues you choose do reflect your personality, it’s important to remember that the editor will change a mess of them. In my NY Times puzzle, the editor changed about half my clues including a bunch of theme clues.
Can you take me through some of these? How about 23 Across: Rachael Ray activity eliciting oohs and aahs?
I got some grief in the crossword puzzle blogs for this clue, even though it wasn’t one I wrote. My original clue was “Thrilling grilling?” Apparently people aren’t too fond of Rachael Ray, but I’ve no idea who she is. . . .
30 Across: Pantywaist
WUSS just sort of fit the bill in this corner. My original clue was “97-pound weakling.”
45 Across: Spacesuit worry
I liked this one too. Finally one of my original clues! TEAR can mean so many things and cluing a word like that is sometimes dull. You end up choosing between one of 100 standard clues (there’s a database of clues that have been published which you can pull from). In this case, I had a bit of brainstorm and found an original way to clue a standard word.
38 Down: “I don’t get no respect” to Rodney Dangerfield
A fun answer. A nice Yiddish word to get in the puzzle!
above, the novice-professional Cruciverbalist soaking up the knowledge
Will Shortz has said his favorite crossword clue of all-time is “it might turn into a different story.” The answer being “SPIRALSTAIRCASE.” Your favorite all-time clue?
Well, I certainly haven’t seen all of them, but one I recall is “Pole vault units” / ZLOTYS. I like the fun wordplay there. It’s the same kind of thing I was trying to do with “Ones concealing their aims” / SNIPERS.
You live in Australia. I was told that Aussie children wear ice-cream containers on their heads to protect themselves from the attacks of magpies. True?
Hah! I haven’t seen that, but I’d believe it. My wife says as a child she used to have to carry an umbrella to protect herself from dive-bombing birds.
Any taboos in your puzzle making?
Nope. I try to avoid crappy fill, like all cruciverbalists, but constructing a puzzle is very difficult and I’ve always been stuck with one or two words I wish I could have avoided (like REGRAB, ugh).
Last question. Scrabble. Are you formidable?
It’s all relative, I guess. I play a bunch and I’m good, but I’m not competitive and haven’t memorized all those weird words one needs to be a true Scrabble ninja.
I prefer to have fun with it.
Zack Kushner is a transplanted American in Oz. When he is not creating puzzles for the enjoyment of thousands, he pilots the helm of xZackly Copywriting.
“Smells Like Content” — The Books (mp3)
“New England” — Jonathan Richman(m4a)
“Take me to the Basement” (mp3)
Andrew Zornoza is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the author of the photo-novel “Where I Stay,” (Tarpaulin Sky Press 2009). His stories have been published in Confrontation, Porcupine Literary Arts, Capgun, SleepingFish and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in Gastronomica and H.O.W. His latest story is available here. You can e-mail him at azornoza at gmail.com. He lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
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