This Recording

In Which My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me by Molly Lambert
October 31, 2008, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Monster Mash Ups

by Molly Lambert

My brother and his DJ friend Capski made this amazing Halloween Mix full of spooky jams for Samhain from the likes of Black Sabbath, Three 6 Mafia, Massive Attack, UGK, Radiohead, Ludacris, The Pixies, The Geto Boys, and the hitchhiking ghosts from The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Download it meow. We said meow!

We Mix On Your Grave Pt. 1 – Capski & Lambo: mp3

We Mix On Your Grave Pt. 2 – Capski & Lambo: mp3

We Mix On Your Grave Pt. 3 – Capski & Lambo: mp3

Speaking of Samhain, the petite prince of darkness Glenn Danzig and Shakira in one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the internets.

Strange Maps is what the name implies

The Best Show on WFMU recaps at Recidivism

Jonathan Rice video directed by Autumn De Wilde, whose book of Elliott Smith photos (with a foreword by Beck) is out in stores now. Amazon suggests we buy it with the Elliott Smith bio by our esteemed pal Ben Nugent. Ben’s book American Nerd is also out now.

Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford are competing for Most Dramatic Gay Midlife Crisis. Rage on, fierce dragons of Chelsea.

One of my favorite music blogs and blog names, Crying All The Way To The Chip Shop, from former Number One Songs In Heaven blogger. Great nostalgic writing from a self-described “ageing British ex-pat” about The Bay City Rollers and a lot of things much too British for us to completely understand.

The rise and fall (and rise) of The Fall, year by prolific year at Daily Reckless

New British Music at Nothing But

Selma Hayek in From Dusk Til Dawn, that oughta be good for a couple search hits

Jason Stone IS the Stepfather Of Soul

the always informative Houston So Real

R.I.P. Big Moe!

Indie MP3 is just what it says. Same goes for Just Gimme Indie Rock.

From The New Yorker, on LD’s mental health: “Or the one where Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen invite Larry and his wife to a concert: the night arrives, they don’t call, Larry assumes they don’t like him, then it turns out he got the date wrong. It’s a classic example of a major social cognitive error–jumping to conclusions–that schizophrenic patients are prone to.” As the patients watched David flub situation after situation, they laughed, and they willingly discussed with Roberts how they might behave in the same circumstances. “That bald man made a mountain out of a molehill!” one woman called out during a session.

Scienfeld? Seintology? Xenu Costanza?


Cover songs and more at 17 Seconds

Dusty Sevens

The Roaring Machine

Manic Pop Thrills

Song By Toad and 3hive

Pop Head Wound has a great post on how Bruce Springsteen supplanted Brian Wilson as the indie snob’s namecheck reference of choice. I saw Springsteen two nights in a row around this time last year. It was awesome.

Molly Lambert is Senior Editor of This Recording.


I cast Ryan Gosling in The Harry Nilsson Story, talked up the Georgia music scene, and compared Peanuts to German literature and Will Oldham.

Rachael played where are they now with the cast of Freaks and Geeks. Danish luvs glipsters Hot Chip.

Alex girled out with the superhawt Michelle Obama, the indiefag musical Once, and the weird world that is fashion.

Ready and steady yourself for the return of inimitable nymphet and prose priestess Molly Young.

batty batty batty batty batty batty batty batty batty bat

In Which We Were All Situationists Once by mollyyoung
October 30, 2008, 10:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Five Hours of Sleep

by David Noriega

When I was fourteen I would stay up late every night numbing my brain at the family computer. Not unusual, of course, but it caused my mother great distress — not because of the brain-numbing, or out of any fear of cyber-debasement or indoctrination, which would have been reasonable, but simply because she was afraid I wasn’t getting enough sleep. One morning, as I poured tabasco on a bagel coated with melted cheese, she looked at my puffy eyes and said, in that crippling tone native to mothers: “Now David. How much sleep did you get last night?”

“Um… Like five hours?”

“Davey dear, that is simply not enough. You need at least eight hours of sleep every night,” she answered, stat, citing that oddly ubiquitous figure that seems to enjoy the backing of the entire scientific community. (Why eight? I often wondered. Why not seven, or nine?)

The next morning, after another night of rigorous and purposeful e-research, I had an air-tight retort ready to fling like a paving stone through the drifting clouds of tear gas:

” ‘COMRADES,’ ” I said, ” ’5 hours of sleep a night are indispensable. We need you for the revolution!’ “

“Where the hell did you get that?” She was bewildered.

I told her. It came from a website listing, in blue comic sans font, scores of graffiti left on the streets of Paris after the riots of May 1968. (The site, charmingly antiquated, still exists.)

My romps down the information superhighway weren’t usually this content-heavy. You can imagine. But two or three times a week I wound up image-searching shots from the famous and famously photogenic riots, or, if my handful of open IM windows stopped flashing long enough to allow it, actually reading about them. My main point of interest was The Situationist International, the band of Marxist, avant-garde artists, writers and political agitators who were the principal theorists of the uprising, and whose slogans comprised most of the graffiti I read like mantras.

I had just moved to an Upstate New York strip-mall suburb from a huge city in a different country; my street was named after a kind of tree; I lived three blocks (if you can call the spaces between suburban streets blocks) away from a Jo-Ann Fabrics; I hated mowing the lawn. Now I call this by name: alienation. Not really in the Marxist sense, given that I wasn’t actually producing anything, but mostly in the teenage angst kind of way, standard and risible: I was generally happy and definitely comfortable, and yet things felt inauthentic. People seemed fake. School was run like a furniture factory. If I walked anywhere all I’d see was Blockbuster, Starbucks, houses, trees, Applebees.

Within a year or so I started discovering some of the requisite American-kid palliatives – punk shows in American Legion basements in neighboring towns and the like — but before these things were known or available to me I spent a good amount of time thinking myself a little Situationist-in-Training. Never mind that I hardly understood the bulk of what they were actually saying: I bought a copy of Guy Debord‘s The Society of the Spectacle (arguably the founding text of the Situationist International), read five pages, underlined everything, and went right back to the computer.

There I found things adequately paraphrased and condensed. What I understood, vaguely: capitalism has made a deadening spectacle of everyday life, within which authentic, visceral experience is no longer possible; and yet we must try, deliberately and creatively, to generate such experience for ourselves – to construct, control, and live within our own ‘situations.’ Here lay the road to individual emancipation and, eventually, collective revolution. It made sense and the slogans were great: “You will end up dying of comfort,” “Live without dead time,” and my favorite: “Humanity won’t be happy till the last capitalist is hung from the guts of the last bureaucrat.”

The Situationists theorized the Spectacle under the belief that it could be resisted and eventually dismantled — through art, mostly, and also critical thinking and political organizing, but more importantly through a practical and personal cultivation of a “radical subjectivity” in everyday life. This could be as simple as the psychogeographic dérive — a drift, an aimless walk, a means of re-perceiving and re-imagining urban space and weakening the dead grip of routinized daily experience.

I never did much to apply these little revolutionary lessons. I wasn’t a very good Situationist. I signed up for the Adbusters email newsletter, and I took aimless walks (which I was doing anyway), but that was about it. I did well in school, where I was obedient. Sometimes I watched movies at the local Loews, which was next to the Applebees. I slept five hours a night, but only on weeknights, and not because I was busy plotting the revolution.

It wasn’t until college that I found a number of other guys — always guys — who’d been equally enamored of Paris ’68 and the Situationists as adolescents. Our infatuations were comparably superficial: we weren’t practicing daily acts of resistance and we certainly couldn’t tell you much about Marxist critical theory, but we did think those guys in the pictures building barricades in the streets of Paris looked fucking cool.

How depressing: we went ahead and proved Debord right. The Spectacle appropriates all; we young would-be Situationists were entranced by images and slogans; the revolution was a bunch of dandies chucking rocks. (It’s true: May ’68 is in the books as a monument to disappointment, a major historical ice-on-the-boner, and all that’s left is some cool posters.)

In my case, at least, those nights reading Situationist graffiti eventually led down some worthwhile roads, aesthetically speaking, even though those roads are populated almost exclusively by dead French dudes (Baudelaire, Tzara, Jarry). Moreover, there are a few of us, tattooed psychogeographists mostly, who’ve managed to take those youthful leanings and turn them into something good. And finally, no matter how thoroughly hijacked our lives may be by the soulless Spectacle, there’s always this:

David Noriega is the senior contributor to This Recording. He last wrote about The Melvins in these pages. More about him here.

“The Amazing Sounds of Orgy” – Radiohead (mp3)

“Fog” – Radiohead (mp3)

“Transatlantic Drawl” – Radiohead (mp3)


Bridget Moloney: Tell Her You Love Her

Molly Lambert: Feminism Is So Hott

Becca Weiner: Three-Ways & The FK

In Which They Must Eat Sardines by mollyyoung
October 29, 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

What Are We Looking For If Not to Please?

by Molly Young

The men at the next table are talking politics. “Nixon got elected because his head was so big,” one of them says. Starbucks has emptied out and each occupied table makes a conspicuous contribution to the ambient noise.

This is how I hear the couple next to me speaking Portuguese. A man and a woman, each partner picking up exactly where the other left off so there is no pause in conversation.

The two are short and dark, with the butter-dense volume of moneyed Europeans. Like Picasso. Thick and virile, even the women. They must eat a lot of sardines.


picasso & his wife

Anyhow. The woman is lovely.

She acts as though she’s young and beautiful, even though she’s not. It’s a kind of confidence that makes Americans resentful of Europeans. For them, I guess, looks are incidental to attractiveness. I’m generalizing here.


birkin, gardner

This is what I am thinking as I watch the Portuguese couple. They have drinks but barely touch them, and this strikes me as another important distinction between Them and Us. When Americans buy drinks, we drink them fast. My cup has been empty since I got here. I drank it quickly in order to finish it before I realized that I wanted something else.


dora maar au chat

This, incidentally, is one of the reasons Americans love buffets. Because we think that satisfying an appetite is about having a lot of choices. Ditto malls. These things prey on the anxiety that if you don’t get to see everything you’ll miss out.

But then, of course, that anxiety doesn’t go away even after you’ve seen everything. Instead you wind up feeling anxious AND glutted – a horrible combo.


alt, casta

The Portuguese couple finish their drinks and get up to leave, still talking. The man takes his wife’s cup and throws it away for her. They amble out the door and I return to my Starbucks brochure that I found near the Splenda, and which I am reading because I forgot my book. It tells me that Starbucks offers up to 87,000 different drink combinations, and at the same time I read this someone orders a raspberry hot chocolate with gusto.

Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. Her website is Magic Molly, and you can read her past work on TR here, here, here, here, here, and here.

“Until We Bleed” – Kleerup ft. Lykke Li (mp3)

“Chords” – Kleerup (mp3)


Personal ads are a tough business.

Absolutely the greatest Craigslist post ever.

Tess had a Carrie Bradshaw moment.


julio pomar

In Which You Should Totally Do Your Own Clothing Line by Molly Lambert
October 28, 2008, 9:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

You Ruined My Pants

by Molly Lambert

Gossip Girl
Season 2 Episode 8
“Pret A-Poor-J”

Some people think we write about Mad Men too much at This Recording. And to them I say, relax, the season is over. Sure we’ll probably run retrospectives until next summer but you don’t have to read them. Shouldn’t you be out playing sports?

To those people not watching Mad Men, it’s not like you can make excuses at this point. You can watch all of both seasons for free here on Surf The Channel. Whatever else you’re doing is less important and not as good. Go ahead, treat yourself.

Anyway as a break from our non-stop coverage of the Mad Men season finale, here’s a liveblog review of the latest episode of fellow sophomore show Gossip Girl, “Pret-A-Poor Jenny”

From Jean Baudrillard’s “Seduction”:

Seduction can most easily be seen when things do not try to confuse themselves with the real (things with meaning), but instead use play and artifice to mimic and exceed the effects of the real. Things are seductive when they undermine the world’s apparent factuality.

For example, trompe l’oeil exists only in the realm of appearances, mimicking the third (missing) dimension: by creating the illusion of the third dimension, one thinks there is more reality than there really is.

Thus there is an excess of appearance. Thus there is appearance with no reality behind it. And this is the secret of seduction: signs with no reality behind them, devoid of the “latent meaning” that the Law model wants. “Seduction is a radical surprise borne of appearances, from a life prior to the mode of production of the real world.”

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

New character Aaron The Artist from RISD is cute. Serena has a total fetish for hipsters. She is just as bad as Dan with his fetish for rich white girls. Aaron’s wearing plaid and little fey scarves and makes sound sculptures.

this groovy kid is a sophomore at RISD right now

If GG were more accurate Aaron would be wearing tie-dye and doing power point art like fellow RISD grad David Byrne. Remember when Vanessa made a video art installation to help Serena and Dan get together? That seemed unnecessarily martyrly. Whatever, Vanessa. Cry me a river, make me a video art installation of a bridge and get over it.

Aaron, artist from RISD

Blair and Chuck’s courtship is, as per usual, the best part of the show. Blair gets the best lines. Somebody pointed out that it seems like Blair has a better writer than the other characters. But part of it is that she just is the most interesting character.

Mindy Kaling objects to candle-light seduction scenes because they are gross. I agree, but Blair is obviously a total cornball with her burlesque strip show and Audrey Hepburn thing. She and Chuck both have a rococo fashion sense and their personalities are by far the most complicated and layered.

“I can skip dinner now that I’m so full of humiliation”

Mini-Cooper’s gross party photographer man-friend wearing a keffiyeh taking shots of Little J in her jaunty fashion bowler. Wouldn’t it be fun if these two little teenage coke whores just partied until they died? Omg this PSA with Jenny McCarthy is insaaaane. omg the Twilight previews are insane, gay vampires!

Looking at myspace photos is not a telegenic activity. “Do you know how to weld?” omg Dan watch out, Serena is totally going to f this artist dude in your cool alt-dad’s Brooklyn gallery.

As per usual, Dan Humphrey is a total Brandon Walsh about everything. He gives square advice that never works because it assumes everyone else is a morally righteous person just because you are, Seth Cohen/Dan Humphrey/Brandon Walsh.

Sure, we could make out. But how about we talk geopolitics and then head to The Peach Pit for some shakes and fries instead?

Serena’s been wearing such boob-shirts since she turned into a “bad girl.” She is still kind of boring though. Vanessa is also really boring. She is the Andrea Zuckerman of Gossip Girl. Being the moral center of a fictional universe is so dull.

Chuck Bass, amoral center of Gossip Girl

C’mon “Aaron From RISD.” No real artisty guy asks a girl out that straight-forwardly. He’d just sort of stare at his feet and mumble until Serena realizes he’s into her. Which would be even harder in this case because Serena mumbles.

Anywhere u go Rufus Humphrey, I’ll follow u down

The hottest guy on this show is not Aaron the RISD artist with his dog the Mets fan, or any of the upper east sider boys, or Dan. It’s RUFUS HUMPHREY. I would let him sing Gin Blossoms covers for me all night. He’s no Sandy Cohen but he makes up for it by being really handsome. Look at the way he can hold all of these animals at once!

I was talking with somebody about how there is a lot of sexual tension between Vanessa and Rufus. I can’t imagine they’ll capitalize on it, because Rufus is the other moral center of the show (booooring) and not a male Julie Cooper. God I still miss Julie Cooper. They should write Melinda Clarke onto GG as Blair’s drunk aunt or Bart’s new mistress or something.

Ooh the dramatic music of Blair’s feelings. Molly McAleer more or less explained sex and dating in this video. Apparently the hip photographer also went to RISD, and he’s into fassssshion. Nate Archibald is also a complete square. He’s pretty but he’s not funny enough yet. He will never be Luke from the OC.

Chuck would be a lot hotter if he STOPPED WEARING BOWTIES. Gossip Girl is obsessed with seduction, to the point of absurdity. Chuck and Blair need to stop acting like a couple of theater kids. Seriously. Enough with the sexy mind games and furtive grasps. Just fuck and call it a day.

Meanwhile, on 90210, a bunch of white people make out at a dance and Michael from The Wire is there. Meanwhile, back on Gossip Girl Dan sabotages Chuck and Blair, because he is a little bitch who hates the pleasure of others. Wow, the Tatu cover of “How Soon Is Now”! You really know me, show.

Chuck Bass and Bart Bass both talk in the same voice as GOB and Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock. God Serena, don’t tell Dan you’re going to date Aaron, you asshole. Now that Serena’s ditching Dan, he’s going back to Vanessa for a pity cuddle.

Chuck Bass appears out of the shadows in a Pee-wee suit. I don’t really understand what he’s going for here with the extended self cock-block. Is it just for our narrative pleasure? Some kind of crazy super extended neg? Not so latent gay?

Jenny thinks her brother’s Brandon Walsh influence has rubbed off on Nate Archibald, but it turns out he’s just trying to get into Little J’s shirt-dress. Apparently he likes really bad haircuts.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording

I Can’t Make It Home – Devin The Dude (ft. L.C.): (mp3)

I Don’t Chase ‘Em – Devin The Dude (ft. Snoop Dogg): (mp3)

In My Draws – Devin The Dude: (mp3)

Let Me Know It’s Real – Devin The Dude: (mp3)

Thinkin’ Boutchu – Devin The Dude: (mp3)

Chuck Bass Is The King Of Bitch Mountain


Punk Rock Purity With The Jonas Brothers

Archie And Friends On The Internet

David Foster Wallace On John Updike

In Which We Guess We Lost All Our Picnic Spirit by georgeducker
October 27, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sports Corner: Return of the Hunters

by George Ducker

It grieves me to no end that the above photo, featuring the New Orleans Saints trudging through the pastoral density of Northwest London, couldn’t be found in a larger size or higher resolution. Maybe my mastery of the internet isn’t as far-reaching as I thought. Believe me, I tried, and believe me, you can’t find the thing higher than 250 or so. I’ll be calling Julian Finney first thing tomorrow morning for a poster-sized image that I can frame and put on my wall.

Sir  Linton, “Mary Queen of Scots About to Be Executed…”

Yes, the second annual foray of the NFL into England happened today, and the Saints took the Chargers for a ride 37-32.

Although this game, played at Wembley Stadium to a sellout crowd of 83,226, was notable for higher scoring and more on-field dramatics than last year’s soggy, fumbling match-up between the Dolphins and the New York Giants, there was less of the patented ridiculousness that peppered last year’s debut on the pitch. There was no streaker in a referee’s cap and there was most assuredly no 26-foot Jason Taylor robot scaring the hell out of unsuspecting pedestrians in Trafalgar Square.

Fred McAfee in the Eye

And the NFL isn’t pussyfooting around with their aims at foreign pigskin colonization.

The impressed Independent snorted, “If you wanted to organize a small war, there’s a chance that America’s National Football League could do a better job than the Pentagon.”

John Seymour Lucas, “Armada in Sight”

Rather than ravaging sleep patterns and jetting in midweek, the teams spent the whole week, jetting straight over after dreadful losses in the Eastern time zone…Some even had the guts to review those games in flight, as with Brees, who said, “I popped an Ambien and sat there and thought about it for 30 minutes and fell asleep.”


Both teams had time for their share of London sightseeing, but San Diego’s Antonio Cromartie offered the best, most succinct itinerary: “Man, we’ve been to T.G.I. Friday’s, Angus Steakhouse, McDonald’s. That’s where we’ve been.”

Oxford McDonald’s

But what of the weekend’s results on this side of the pond?

J.T. O’Sullivan

San Francisco lost 13-34 to Seattle in new coach Mike Singletary’s mid-season debut.

Chad Johnson

The Bengals lost 35-6 at the ruthless hands of the Houston Texans. Now the Bengals and the Detroit Lions should arm-wrestle to see who gets last place, as both teams have yet to win a game all season.

Shaun Rogers

Cleveland took down David Garrard and the Jaguars 23 – 17. More depressing for Jaguars fans was the last second, non-catch that Matt Jones made, securing them the non-win.

Joey Porter

Miami moved to 3-4 with their 25-16 win over the hot, happenin’ Redskins.

Cowboy cheerleader Abigail Klein

The Elder Bush

And speaking of Presidential figures, you can read all about Barack Obama’s stint as ESPN writer Rick Reilly’s fantasy football partner here.

This photo of Michelle is deeply mysterious to me

And you can read here about the stink surrounding another ESPN writer, Bill Simmons, and the failed Obama podcast.

There’s a new book out on sportswriter and man-about-town George Plimpton. It’s title is the heartwarming (at least to me) George, Being George, and it culls together a ton of interviews (Plimpton-on-Truman-Capote-style) with folks who knew him.

In 1963, Plimpton, then the 36 year-old editor of the Paris Review, wrote to six football teams in the NFL, with the hopes that one of them would take him on as a “last-string” quarterback during their summer/fall training season. The Detroit Lions “an older and experienced team, imbued with a lot of the devil-may-care attitude of Bobby Layne, the roustabout quarterback who’d been there a few years before” took the bait.

The resulting book, Paper Lion, which you should most certainly read if you haven’t, presents early-’60s pro football through the writerly lens of a fan with all the admitted athletic inadequacy of an Ivy League graduate.

Although most of the book is spent on the gridiron and in late-afternoon locker room sessions with the players, it culminates with Plimpton’s one and only appearance as the Lions’ QB during a scrimmage, in which he famously managed three plays and lost yardage on each and every one.

He acknowledges that this, while humiliating, was also the best possible outcome: “If by some chance I had uncorked a touchdown pass, there would have been wild acknowledgement–because I heard the groans go up at each successive disaster–but afterward the spectators would have felt uncomfortable. Their concept of things would have been upset. The outsider did not belong and there was comfort in that being proved.”

George Ducker is the senior Sports Consultant for This Recording although he defers to A.C. in all matters NBA-related, so don’t even ask.


“Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” – Bob Dylan (mp3)

“Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell (mp3)

“Hand of Doom” – Black Sabbath (mp3)

“Ut Oh! It’s Mourningtime Again” – Mount Eerie (mp3)

“Needle of Death” – Bert Jansch (mp3)


Robots can do it all the time, anywhere.

Jellyfish nearly always rub you the wrong way.

A day of the Triffids is closer than you think.

In Which Door to Door We See If They Can Win This One by alexcarnevale
October 25, 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Drive for Change

by Maria Diaz

You see in the time leading up to this coming election for president, you are going to meet somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 white girls telling you that you should vote for Obama for president.

Alex wrote that awhile ago, and I can confirm it’s a number which is almost entirely accurate. I’d like to add the following to: you’ll also meet abut 50 former hippies who drive hybrid SUVs, about 500 thin, passive white men who graduated from liberal arts colleges, and a few lesbian couples. Oh, and one Dominican girl who sounds like a white girl. That’d be me.

I went to Reno, where I canvassed for Obama, or “drove for change.” Or rather, sat in the passenger seat of a really old BMW and knocked on doors for change. I’d never been to Reno before, and as a person who enjoys eating meat and looking at flashy lights, I loved it.

As if they knew an annoying San Francisco resident was coming with a cheap digital camera, a laptop and a Moleskine, that same weekend was also the Reno Street Vibrations festival. The bikers there were not the manorexic dudes you fantasize about when they come to your office to drop off packages, but bikers that are in actual gangs and roam in packs wearing jackets with their gang’s name.

The first night, I played nickel slots and watched a cover band play in the hotel bar of the Sands Regency Hotel with about 100 dancing biker women. After the required AC/DC and Skynyrd covers, the band asked : “There any Nickelback fans here!?”, and the crowd roared back. And off they went into a rendition of “This Is How You Remind Me.” I ordered another whiskey and ginger ale and switched to playing the eBay penny slots, a huge rip off which I can’t recommend.

The next morning, while walking around downtown Reno in desperate search of coffee that didn’t taste like poison, I spotted an enormous McCain/Palin sign. Two doors down is the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. One for passive aggressive notes? You decide.

Spotted outside the Sands Regency: a canvasser, competition! I wanted to challenge him to a fight, I looked him dead in the eye and he just smiled and asked the biker standing behind me if he wanted to register. The biker declined. He didn’t ask me if I needed to register. I wonder if the Obama/Biden sticker on my notebook can be picked up through his x-ray vision (it is a power they are assigned, along with the ability to send 1 million mass emails a day).

One person we talked to told us that she was also hit up by McCain/Palin canvassers. I signed up for McCain’s site (McCainSpace!) under a fake Gmail address to see if I could find out more. You have to apply for their program, where you can be a “McCain Maverick” or a “McCain marshal.” My profile on McCain space has yet to be approved, but I have been receiving messages from Sarah Palin. I keep reporting her to spam.

Annoyingly, this election will be decided by the undecideds. By the people who will wake up on November 4th and decide they didn’t like how Obama looked during a rally on TV. Or by people who aren’t educated in one way or another, who think that by voting for “the hot chick”, the hot chick will sleep with them (are these the same people inspired to drink shitty beer by watching Bud Light commercials or who actually purchase Axe Body Spray?). who perhaps were rejected by Harvard Law. When we asked them, what is the most important issue, most people couldn’t name it.

I think the reality is that most people are decided, they are just ashamed and can’t trust their own feelings. Case in point: the couple who tells us they are undecided, but the minute we close the door, yell out so we can hear them: “We’re voting for McCain! YAY MCCAIN!!!”

There are a lot of bikers in the sub development we visit and most of them aren’t home because of the bike festival. One biker answers the door and towers over us, two stereotypes of blue state liberals there ever was: unpolished, messy hair, dark rimmed glasses, dark tshirts. We are terrified as he tells us that everyone in his house has made up their mind. He says: “We’re all voting for Obama.” We breath a huge sigh of relief and thank him for his time.

Only one door got slammed in our face out of about 100 doors knocked. I knew it was coming when I saw the multiple pick up trucks in the garage.

My favorite people to talk to are the old lady Democrats, the 90 year olds who slowly answer their door in full makeup. They do not hesitate to tell us they’re voting for Obama. They like him, they say. And besides, they tell us, McCain is too old.

The next day, while playing nickel slots, waiting for my ride and enjoying a lunch time cocktail, I spot one of our McCain voters, also at the nickel slots. We’re all the same, united by a love of throwing our money into a toilet. Or a machine with flashing 7′s, all in a row.

Maria Diaz is a contibutor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here.

portrait of the author

“Mr. Universe” – Aqualung (mp3)

“Good Goodnight” – Aqualung (mp3)

“Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” – Aqualung (mp3)

“On My Knees” – Aqualung (mp3)


Josh experiences the fun of bun.

Stalking becomes so easy it’s barely worth the effort.

The truth about the sexes.

In Which The Password is “SUGAR RAY” by mollyyoung
October 24, 2008, 10:24 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Feeling Elbows, Rubbing Queasy

by Molly Young

Through a couple of flukes (acquaintances, a cousin involved in the ownership) I’ve ended up at The Box twice in one week. The Box is a club in downtown Manhattan. It has a live burlesque show and a drinks list featuring $13,000 champagne (did I read that correctly?)

As with many such places, The Box adheres to a mystical door policy. On Visit #1 I was told to say “SUGAR RAY” as a password. On Visit #2 I was not allowed inside until my cousin poked his head out the door and identified me like a perp in a police lineup. Casual humiliation: a staple of the nightlife.

On both visits the atmosphere inside reminded me of an Edith Wharton novel. It is moneyed, socially complex, and devoted to elaborate carousing. The club is full of thoughtful details: paper bags of popcorn, servers in old-tymey costume, live music and a red velvet curtain. There are bottles of Grey Goose the size of rain sticks. It is the kind of thing that sends a ticker tape of WHOA! through your mind.

Whenever I find myself in an elevated position, I always look for something to throw at the people below me. Peanuts, popcorn, coupons.

It is a bizarre place to be – a spectacle with all the theoretical implications of that word. “Fellini-esque circus” works too. Like any cultural Petri dish, The Box felt emblematic and puzzling all at once. Worthy of a witness, certainly, and some documentation. I’ll give a little overview of the show we saw on Visit #2 (it was mostly the same show as Visit #1, but shuffled around.) Analysis will follow.

The first act (though it changes from night to night) had a Persian theme. There was a naked blonde babe wriggling on a chaise while a sultan tickled her with a pink feather. Throughout the room men leaned toward their friends and said, “Check it out.”

Oh, a brief interruption. On the first night we’d been seated in a balcony booth. The second night we were on a sofa directly in front of the stage. From the balcony, the performers had appeared perfect. From up close the show was less magical. You could see backstage, for one thing, and you could tally the natural flaws of the performers’ bodies: stray zits, heavy makeup, pubic stubble.

I hope that crop is made of licorice!

After the Persian act a contortionist came onstage and balanced his entire body on a strap-on penis attached to his assistant. Cool. Then there was a medley featuring a comic midget and some vaudeville renditions of Billy Idol and Rolling Stones songs.

The best acts were the ones with some sort of intellectual component. A girl dressed as Hitler performed a skillful striptease that felt like antique political satire. One routine had a dancer in traditional costume emerge from a Matryoshka doll to perform a Russian dance. At one point she lifted her dress, squatted over a pedestal, and ejected a mini doll from her vagina. (Cue hooting.) More traditional dance. As a finale, she squatted again over the ejected doll and hoovered it back up. The final routine that I can remember was incest-oriented. Details elided here.

Now, let me ask you a question. Do you have a switch in your head that you can flick in order to extinguish moral judgments? Like for when you go see stand-up comedy or a Wayans brothers movie, or when you listen to George Carlin on headphones? There are certain things you can’t enjoy, I mean, without suppressing your moral responses. Turning off the switch is the equivalent of playing a game: you acknowledge that it is a temporary situation in which certain rules need to apply in order to have fun.

Shoes on the bed: uncouth.

Well, The Box presents quite a challenge to this switch. There is so much to delight in: the naked girls, the atmosphere, the drinks, the show. And yet, there is so much to panic over! One thing that is apparent from the start is that There Are No Rules For the Rich. Inside the club you can smoke cigarettes and ash them on the floor, straddle your boyfriend amid 300 strangers, laughingly refer to the financial straits of third-world countries and do drugs. No one is held accountable for their bad behavior. Outsiders like us will always find such an atmosphere uncomfortable. At some moments it felt sinister.

“Decadent” might be the exact word for The Box. I should clarify, though, because “decadent” is so often misused as an adjective. Molten chocolate cake, for instance, is not decadent (though it is tasty.) For something to count as decadent, it has to have a strong element of waste and disregard. A touch of pre-apocalypse. Images that recurred to me at The Box: sinking of the Titanic, court of Louis XVI, Tsar Nicholas II.

Allegory alert!

With the economy dissolving into paste, the bar for decadence is falling. Things that used to seem like standard elements of celebrity glamour (private jets, $30,000 handbags) are quickly becoming distasteful. What was glitzy is now gauche. I wonder how Kanye West will adapt.

And what about The Box? Hard to say. When we took the J back to Bushwick at 4 AM (sprinting from the subway stop all the way home because it was the first chilly night of the season), I had that metaphysical hangover you get when you’ve snooped through someone’s journal or eaten your roommate’s peanut butter straight from the jar. Bad feelings, both.

Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. Here is her website.

Get that dog out of frame, pls.

“We Have To Respect Each Other” – Department of Eagles (mp3)

“Forty Dollar Rug” – Department of Eagles (mp3)

“Family Romance” – Department of Eagles (mp3)


Danny on the double feature.

Danish burned Malibu to the ground.

Barely safe links for work.

In Which We Wade Into The Ocean And Try To Start Fresh Again by alexcarnevale
October 22, 2008, 11:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I Feel How You Look

by Alex Carnevale

We were born the adopted son of Pete and Trudy Campbell. We aged, but thinly.

We asked, “Should Don Draper throw a courtesy bang to the one-legged widow of the guy whose name he stole in the shit? Should Joanie get peeved off at her fiancee for pulling an Irreversible in her boss’ office?”

Our teenage years were not notable, except when our mother forced us to suck on melting cool phalluses str8 out of the fridge.

Is American life all alienated, we surmised, letting our bodies drift among the waves? I don’t want to end up signing my life away in a board meeting to a guy named Duck. I just don’t. I miss Duck’s dog. Shit, I miss Duck.

Women and minorities dump us on bus trips to protest their disenfranchisement, and we stand for it? It’s lonely in that little office, Peg-Leg. It’s damn lonely.

When we go to check on our vampire’s resting place, nothing’s there. We try but it makes our boner too big, too quickly. We prefer working with a margin for error.

When I was a young man, I met Roger Sterling. “You wouldn’t be the kind of man to dump your wife the second she showed a wrinkle and refused to get a vaginal rejuvenation, would you?” I asked him. He stared me straight in the eyes and said, “No.”

That was one way to handle the situation, Don. The other way is to start piling up the bodies.

Somewhere along the line, our daughter starts up with a gross dude. He’s in advertising. Our daughter is barren, so we say it’s all right.

Don Draper’s daughter is on the phone. I don’t care if she has an Emily Watson thing going on, I’m not taking her call.

It hurts to talk, breathe and sleep like this.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


Talking is a crutch

Beck Hansen, hopefully not a FishbowlLA reader

Let’s go retro

In Which We Curb Your Enthusiasm For The Deceptive Façades Of Modern Day Living And Its Many Disappointingly Unkept Promises by Molly Lambert
October 21, 2008, 10:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

You Let Pete Campbell Set You Up On A Blind Date?!?

by Molly Lambert

I don’t feel like doing this in paragraphs or real sentences, so in the style of a pitch meeting, get ready for BULLET POINTS!

- The funniest thing about Mad Men from a few weeks ago was that it was sponsored by Revolutionary Road, the Sam Mendes directed adaptation of the seminal Richard Yates tome about feeling bad in the suburbs in the early sixties, which is like 24 being sponsored by ads for the military (which it probably is).

Richard Yates Funfacts

Richard Yates Funfacts is almost certainly an oxymoron. There are facts, but not much in the way of fun. He is pretty therial.

a. From Wiki: “He is regarded as the foremost novelist of the post-WWII Age of Anxiety. Yates came from an unstable home. His parents divorced when he was three and much of his childhood was spent in many different towns and residences.

b. Yates’ first novel, Revolutionary Road, was a finalist for the National Book Award that year alongside Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

c. Yates was championed by writers as diverse as Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Parker, William Styron, Tennessee Williams and John Cheever. Yates’ brand of realism directly influenced writers Andre Dubus Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.

d. Yates wrote acclaimed short stories. Despite this, only one of his stories appeared in the The New Yorker (after repeated rejections). This story, “The Canal,” was published in the magazine nine years after the author’s death to celebrate the release of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates .

e. For much of his life, Yates’ work met almost universal critical acclaim, yet not one of his books sold over 12,000 copies in hardcover first edition. All of his novels were out of print in the years after his death.

f. Yates was portrayed in an episode of Seinfeld as “Alton Benes”, Elaine’s taciturn and hard-driving father who has George and Jerry scared of him. Yates’ daughter, Monica, once dated Larry David, the show’s executive producer. Richard Yates intimidated Larry David. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

George is still singing “Master of the House” as they enter Alton Benes’s hotel. Elaine hasn’t arrived. They sit down with her father and nervously order drinks. George doesn’t order ice with his drink, which prompts a shocked Alton to order extra with his. The conversation gradually gets more and more awkward.

g. In Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, Lee (Barbara Hershey) thanks Elliott (Michael Caine) for lending her The Easter Parade, which she says was great.

Richard Yates in ’91

h. Tao Lin’s second novel is called Richard Yates. About this novel, Tao says “The main characters are Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning, maybe 40% of it is Gmail chats.” Lin wrote about “K-Mart Realism” on This Recording earlier this year.

Bullet Points On Mad Men Over The Last Few Weeks:

Hi my name’s Joy. I come from ‘reality movie’ The Real Cancun

1. The fact that nothing from last week’s weird Californian odyssey was alluded to at all is awesome and fairly realistic. Most people expatriating to Los Angeles have an early experience that is comlpletely bizarre, unlike anything from their old life. At the time it seems totally alien, but years later they are able to interpret it in context. It usually involves a hot tub.

2. I do really like how David Lynch/Twin Peaksy the Los Angeles stuff has been. Even as a native I still agree that L.A. is very often surreal, inexplicable, and deserving of a Martin Denny score. In a moment of pre-cognition I had a conversation about San Pedro on Saturday with a friend from there. San Pedro is the setting of the second leg of Don’s Californian odyssey.

Joan got draped in Drape’s office

2. The Joan plotline with her handsome but rapey jewish doctor fiancé is necessary for Joan’s presumably soon to be burgeoning feminism. Whoever puts Christina Hendricks on the cover of Esquire is going to be a wealthy individual, because people will buy that shit. They won’t care that they don’t know who she is or have never seen Mad Men. You could sell anything with a picture of Christina Hendricks.

Mad Men has a YouTube and so does This Recording

3. Yes I do think Anna Draper is a ridiculous deus ex machina that allows us to feel comfortable not thinking Don is such a bad guy. Honestly I think we all agree that the Dick Whitman/Don Draper thing is the weakest arc of the show. It is, like many other show mythologies, both the most important and least interesting thing going on. Seeing Sterling-Cooper operate without Don is more entertaining. Peggy Olson is the 1960s Liz Lemon, climbing the corporate ladder and accumulating gay boyfriends.

Geoffrey Arend and girlfriend Xtina Hendricks

4. Danish wants me to tell you that Christina Hendricks is dating a half-Pakistani guy who is, more importantly “The kid from Super Troopers who they force to eat the bag of weed and shrooms. The one who says ‘I’m freaking out man.’”

Geoffrey Arend, Christina’s boyfriend of 18 months also appreciates her killer curves. The two met through her Mad Men co-star Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell), and they’ve been smitten ever since. “He’s amazing,” she gushes. “He’s half Pakistani, and he has these thick, gorgeous curls that drive me crazy. He’s like, ‘My curls to you are like your boobs to me.’ ”

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording

Miserlou – Martin Denny: (mp3)

Quiet Village – Martin Denny: (mp3)

Jungle Madness – Martin Denny: (mp3)

Yesterday’s Dreams – The Four Tops: (mp3)

In My Dreams – The Action: (mp3)

It’s A Dream – Neil Young: (mp3)

California – Shocking Blue: (mp3)

California Blues – Merle Haggard: (mp3)

California – DJ Quik: (mp3)


Mary Tyler Moore

Tess’s Favorite TV Characters

Mad Men In Revue

Spoiler Alert! The American Dream Is A Big Empty Scam

In Which We Arbitrate The War of the Worlds by Molly Lambert
October 20, 2008, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is the latest entry in our series about New York. Here we let the multi-talented Bridget Moloney decide whether exactly we want to spend the remainder of our life. Enjoy.

Los Angeles v. New York

by Bridget Moloney

Comparison-shopping is something I could do forever. I like it best online, switching between products, comparing user reviews, prices, shipping costs, color selection. As I considered a move from New York to L.A. I would’ve been well-served by a buyer’s guide. Sure, I have a massive internal database for the comparison, but it helps to see these things written down. Granted, this is my personal perspective, but since we have the exact same subjectivity, this should be helpful.

I am a second generation Los Angeleno, which is very rare, like an albino bison. I lived in the Valley, and then Brentwood, until shortly after my 18th birthday. After four years in Evanston, Illinois I moved to New York where I have been moving and shaking for the past three years.


Let’s start with the obvious. L.A. is a company town. As a child, I was ignorant of that fact. Even though I grew up the daughter of a television writer-producer and a real estate agent (a classic Southern Californian combination). L.A. Story is still (fairly) funny for a reason. When I was in town during the Writer’s Strike I went to brunch at Hugo’s in Studio City and there were three separate parties with their picket signs leaning against the tables. I was too blasé to stare. What this does mean is that there are a lot of people in Los Angeles who think they are funny or deeply high concept and therefore moved to the city to create hit television shows. It is also full of attractive people who moved there to be on these television shows.

Not everyone succeeds in creating or being on these imagined television shows. There are a lot of people who once thought of themselves as attractive and high conceptual/funny, who are now opening Pilates studios, or teaching English, or moving back to Pennsylvania. But it’s not all show business all the time. I have a friend who moved to L.A. to get his PhD at UCLA because he loves to surf and do biochemistry! Plenty of people live and work in L.A. who are not in “the business.” I try to avoid using that phrase. Evidently, sometimes I fail at that.

New York has its industries. They seem to be finance and publishing. Again, that is oversimplifying but there are a lot of people I know who are white and went to college and live in New York and work in finance or publishing. I’m including magazines and any affiliation with SNL when I say “publishing.” New York is more diverse. You can’t help but spend time with people who aren’t doing the exact same things you are doing. When I say spend time I mean ride the bus, eat in certain diners, drink in certain bars and wait on line. Sometimes in L.A. the only people you see are just like you.


Los Angeles, according to certain people, is full of vapid illiterates. That is, of course, completely ridiculous. Southern Maryland is full of vapid illiterates—as are large swathes of San Diego County. The flip side is New York is full of hustling poseurs. People think of New Yorkers as acting too busy or being too busy to show the least bit of compassion. As an experiment I’m ordering my next iced coffee in New York with “room for the milk of human kindness.”

Are people’s coastal stereotypes gendered? If L.A. and New York were rendered in cartoon form (beyond what’s in the New Yorker’s pages) would Los Angeles be a bimbo (female) and New York a douche bag (male)?

Is L.A. is wearing a low cut baggy tank top and flipflops drinking coffee and vocal frying about parking and New York is ordering vodka redbulls in a suit talking about how much his roommate sucks now that he got fired from Bear Stearns?


When people used to ask me about L.A. or moving to L.A., they always asked about car-jacking. This makes me think that the Los Angeles of 1993 is the one that exists in everyone’s mind.

To be honest, I feel safer in NY. There are so many people on the street, at least in the neighborhoods I frequent, I feel safe walking around at most times. Although I don’t wear headphones if it’s super late and I walk in the middle of the street if I see anyone I feel looks unsavory approaching me on the sidewalk, thank you very much.

In L.A. walking from your car to a restaurant, especially if you avoid valet, can feel a little creepy sometimes. The darker side of New York’s diverse throngs is the fact that many of them are crazy people like Spike Jonze, Barbra Streisand and Graydon Carter.

In Los Angeles, one is usually well insulated from crazy people: roll your windows up, don’t take a table closest to the sidewalk. In New York they are wherever you are, bumping into you, screaming and occasionally exposing themselves. That sort of thing doesn’t worry me but it can be a problem for sensitive individuals. I like to think of it as colorful. One afternoon a man carrying a tire seemed to be following me for a block calling me Scott. I crossed the street and he kept going – not scary, just very interesting. Cars, if not being carjacked, do offer a nice respite and are a great place to keep many things like books and changes of clothes.


I suffer from something known in the therapeutic community as “catastrophic thinking.” The basic breakdown for me is Earthquakes vs. Terrorism. People who have not been in earthquakes often express interest in experiencing one. Heck, I have friends who lived in Pasadena during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and have almost fond memories of it. Not I. I developed PTSD as an eleven year old. I spent the first months of college leaping from my desk and running to the doorway every time our upstairs dorm-mates dropped something (which, upon reflection, seemed really often). The rumbling of the subway can cause an elevated heart rate. When I’m in California and I wake up in the middle of the night my first thought is, “we are about to have an earthquake.”

I do not want to understate the immensity of the tragedy and horror of September 11th. I cannot begin to imagine what the victims and the survivors feel. I operate under the pretext that acts of terror are not inevitable. Some horrific plot could be hatched, but hopefully not. Also, I could be hit by a taxi or an AC could crush me. The world is an unpredictable place.


New York has better restaurants. I’m sorry it’s true. But L.A. has better produce (this cannot be overstated) and better Mexican food. For some people produce and Taquerias are more important than Momofuku. I will weep for David Chang’s distance when I move to Los Angeles.


The weather is better in L.A. I really tire of that, “don’t you miss seasons?” bullshit. First of all, there are seasons in California, they are just subtler than the seasons east of the Mississippi. I do love the fall in New York, and the first couple of snows (I enjoyed the blizzard of ’06) and the warm evenings when restaurants first open up the outdoor seating.

February is bleak and endless, the longest 28ish days. I have never had more terrible allergies than I did this March in New York (supposedly the roach feces—ubiquitous in New York—makes one more susceptible to seasonal allergies.) Also, it can be really humid, which makes the chances of sitting in someone else’s sweat slick on the subway that much greater.


The L.A. River is not much of a river, whereas the Hudson and the East River are far more impressive. But you should not swim in any of them, so that’s a draw. There is a lot to say about this but basically it comes down to: do you like bigger spaces? Then L.A. it is. Do you like awesome architecture? Then it’s New York. Do you like Mid-Century neatness? Then L.A. Do you like Frank Lloyd Wright? Go to Oak Park, Illinois.


May I recommend E.B. White, Joan Didion, Raymond Chandler, Jonathan Lethem, Chet Baker, Rodgers and Hart, Bobby Short, Frank O’Hara (redundant I know, I have a thing) and Francesca Lia Block?


The supermarkets are just nightmarish in Manhattan any time except 10 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are better in Brooklyn and I imagine Queens, but have no personal Queens-market-going experience. The grocery stores also smell like wet cardboard. However, bodegas, for all their stale Butterfingers and overpriced supplies, are very convenient. In Los Angeles supermarkets are Xanadu! Large aisles! They smell great!

Traffic is terrible in Los Angeles and you can’t read while you commute. You can read while you commute in New York but you can also be groped (unfortunate). It can be lonely in your car but it can be unpleasantly scented on the train. Friends might be more concentrated in one city or the other. Family might be on one coast or the other, which might be good or bad depending on your particular dynamic. The cost of living is slightly less in Los Angeles, but you spend a lot of time thinking about the price of gas. There are many, many rodents in New York; sometimes they are in your apartment. In Los Angeles there are sometimes lizards in your house. Lizards vs. Rodents?

It’s not the things we already know, but the things we imagine we can have there, and might not yet feel certain of.

Bridget Moloney is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages.


Part One (Will Hubbard)

Part Two (Matt Lutton)

Part Three (Brian DeLeeuw)

Part Four (Molly Young)

Part Five (Alex Carnevale)

Part Six (Rachel B. Glaser)

Part Seven (Brittany Julious)

Part Seven (Andrew Zornoza)


“I Was Wrong” – Badly Drawn Boy (mp3)

“You Were Right” – Badly Drawn Boy (mp3)

“All Possibilities” – Badly Drawn Boy (mp3)


Molly on The Emperor’s Children.

Will on poetrie and painters.

Dick Cheney’s favorite book.

In Which We Whisper to The Dog Whisperer by alexcarnevale
October 18, 2008, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Saturdays can be so boring. That’s why we’re pleased to announce our editor-in-chief will be blogging every sabbath about emerging trends and people. Now you won’t have to be bored if you’re not a college football fan. Hallelujah.

Dog Wars

by Alex Carnevale

If you watch television and film, you see all manner of assertive, confident people. You rarely meet the meek ones.

Cesar Millan doesn’t train dogs, he trains people.

Even though they’re supposed to eventually inherit the earth, the meek ones go on living. They work jobs, they go home. They don’t yell at anybody, they don’t diss a proud American woman on their tumblr, and they don’t whine about their iPhones. They just exist. They watch American Idol. They raise children quietly, helping them when they can.

These folks depend on the kindness of others not for sustenance, but to make their lives a little more pleasurable. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being this kind of person. But you may not be as good with dogs as say…


While the rest of the dog training world focuses on making your dogs more like the meek, Cesar brings the pack mentality to daily life.

He is willing to stretch his pack metaphor to his wife, who is named Illusion purely for my own entertainment, and to his children, who he sometimes treats as he would a dog on his own show. To raise a dog that both has good behavior and loves you is easier than raising a child with those characteristics.

We are far too buddy-buddy with our children. When you are as rich as the characters on your favorite sitcom, you can afford to be flip. When you grow up in the hood or on a farm, the stakes are higher.

Cesar’s approach is that you must be the leader of the pack, and the rest will follow. Aided by his trusty pitbull Daddy – quite clearly the happiest dog in the free world – Millan goes into homes and explains whatever bad behavior is going on using this metaphor.

Cesar’s training methods aren’t universally admired:

There is a quiet battle being fought in dog-training circles, and Dunbar, though he didn’t pick the fight, represents one side. The mild, very mannered Dunbar is armed with degrees and scientific study: a veterinary degree and a Special Honors in physiology and biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College of London University, a doctorate in animal behavior from the psychology department of UC Berkeley and a decade of research on the olfactory communication, social behavior and aggression in domestic dogs. All this, plus decades of dog-training experience.

The return to dominance training such as Millan’s, Dunbar says, is a disservice to dogs more than anything else. Though Millan gets results, Dunbar notes that most people don’t have Millan’s strength or skill, and even fewer keep dozens of dogs. “I teach methods that a supervised 4-year-old can use,” Dunbar says. Having been called as a witness in high-profile Bay Area bite trials – he was one of a team who evaluated one of the dogs involved in the deadly attack on Diane Whipple in 2001 – he is all too familiar with the violent underbelly of dog aggression. Fear, he underscores, doesn’t train a reliable dog.

Claudia Kawczynska, editor of Bark magazine, is one of Dunbar’s many fans. “It’s irritating to see Millan treated as the expert. Ian is an animal behaviorist with decades of experience,” she says, “He should be where Millan is.” Kawczynska likens the Millan cult of personality and popularity to the anti-science, anti-academic sentiment she sees prevalent in American culture and politics. “Millan lived on a farm, so what? He’s good looking, but he’s not smart about dogs. It seems people don’t want their experts to be educated.”

Daddy and Cesar

Daddy helps dogs that visit the Dog Psychology Center – parked bizarrely in the South Central section of Los Angeles. Daddy is a nice dog, always willing to sniff the appropriate ass. Millan himself has an incredible story. Like many of our best Americans, he entered this country illegally.

Cesar’s use of his own physical prowess was described by someone as boring as Malcolm Gladwell, who somehow managed to glorify a dog trainer into a 10,000 word article. Fortunately, he gets the good deets:

“He’s beautifully organized intra-physically,” Karen Bradley, who heads the graduate dance program at the University of Maryland, said when she first saw tapes of Cesar in action. “That lower-unit organization—I wonder whether he was a soccer player.”

When Cesar was twenty-one, he travelled from his home town to Tijuana, and a “coyote” took him across the border, for a hundred dollars. They waited in a hole, up to their chests in water, and then ran over the mudflats, through a junk yard, and across a freeway. A taxi took him to San Diego. After a month on the streets, grimy and dirty, he walked into a dog-grooming salon and got a job, working with the difficult cases and sleeping in the offices at night. He moved to Los Angeles, and took a day job detailing limousines while he ran his dog-psychology business out of a white Chevy Astrovan. When he was twenty-three, he fell in love with an American girl named Illusion. She was seventeen, small, dark, and very beautiful. A year later, they got married.

“Cesar was a machoistic, egocentric person who thought the world revolved around him,” Illusion recalled, of their first few years together.” His view was that marriage was where a man tells a woman what to do. Never give affection. Never give compassion or understanding. Marriage is about keeping the man happy, and that’s where it ends.”

Early in their marriage, Illusion got sick, and was in the hospital for three weeks. “Cesar visited once, for less than two hours,” she said. “I thought to myself, This relationship is not working out. He just wanted to be with his dogs.” They had a new baby, and no money. They separated. Illusion told Cesar that she would divorce him if he didn’t get into therapy. He agreed, reluctantly. “The therapist’s name was Wilma,” Illusion went on. “”She was a strong African-American woman. She said, ‘You want your wife to take care of you, to clean the house. Well, she wants something, too. She wants your affection and love.’” Illusion remembers Cesar scribbling furiously on a pad. “He wrote that down. He said, ‘That’s it! It’s like the dogs. They need exercise, discipline, and affection.’” Illusion laughed. “I looked at him, upset, because why the hell are you talking about your dogs when you should be talking about us?”

“I was fighting it,” Cesar said. “Two women against me, blah, blah, blah. I had to get rid of the fight in my mind. That was very difficult. But that’s when the light bulb came on. Women have their own psychology.”

Cesar truly is one balanced mofo, until a dog starts really misbehaving. Then he starts tssting the hell out of them and grabbing them by the collar and rssting, which he refers to “the way their mother grabs them.” Usually the dogs look more surprised than submissive.

“I teach owners how to practice exercise, discipline and then affection, which allows dogs to be in a calm, submissive state,” he explains when asked to clarify. “Most owners in America only practice affection, affection, affection, which does not create a balanced dog.

“Training,” says Millan, “only teaches the dogs how to obey commands – sit, roll over – it does not have anything to do with dog psychology.”

james herriot

“He has nice dog skills, but from a scientific point of view, what he says is, well … different,” says Dunbar. “Heaven forbid if anyone else tries his methods, because a lot of what he does is not without danger.” “Don’t try this at home” messages are flashed throughout the show, and in September, the American Humane Association requested that the National Geographic Channel stop the show immediately, citing Millan’s training tactics as “inhumane, outdated and improper.”

Writer Mark Derr, in a recent New York Times editorial, went as far as to call Millan a “charming, one-man wrecking ball directed at 40 years of progress in understanding and shaping dog behavior.

We’d suggest Mark Derr is wasting his energy ripping the wrong person. For the people that Cesar meets, they generally grow to love and respect him. Hell, Cartman’s mom even thought they were friends.

Cesar might as well be asking them, “What don’t you like about yourself?” because for most of the people he helps, he’s fixing them. Sure, sometimes Cesar heads out to a farm to spay a ferocious feral dog, but mostly he teaches poodles to get off the bed.

I think Cesar is a good man, but sometimes this dude gets in a room and just has no idea what the fuck to do, so he just starts ad-libbing. He has done things with dogs in small rooms that just make absolutely no sense, and then the show cuts to him explaining why he’s doing what he’s doing. The people who have the troubled dog are like, “whatever, when can we visit him, 3 months?”

Dogs are a lot of work, which is why I cringe whenever someone is like, “I want a puppy like on the site with the LOLcats!!!” I personally think it’s weird to have a dog in New York City. If I was a dog I wouldn’t want to live in New York City, so I don’t have a dog.

People don’t care about their dogs. If you’re a good dog owner, you need to monitor your dog’s behavior, and you absolutely need to say Tsst to that fucking dog every time it does something you don’t like. This is the brilliant philosophy of Cesar Millan.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He blogs here and here.

“Bitch” – The Vaselines (mp3)

“No Hope” – The Vaselines (mp3)

“Oliver Twisted” – The Vaselines (mp3)

“The Day I Was A Horse” – The Vaselines (mp3)


The King Of Comedy

Jayne Mansfield

Photosets Galore

In Which You Should’ve Invested In Blogs by Molly Lambert
October 17, 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This Recording’s series on films of the 1980s continues with Jacob Sugarman’s take on Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Read up with This Recording’s complete Eighties Movie archives.

Wall Street

by Jacob Sugarman

When asked why he sought the company of prostitutes, Charlie Sheen, then an A-list movie star, famously responded: “You don’t pay them for sex, you pay them to leave after sex.” Fans of the man born Carlos Irwin Estevez might dismiss this kind of remark as “Charlie being Charlie,” but I’d argue that these words are a small testament to the spectacular decadence of the times.

If Sheen is the quintessential movie star of the 1980’s then Wall Street and its covert celebration of capitalism may be the decade’s most iconic film. With both presidential candidates railing against corruption on Wall Street, it’s only fitting that we take a moment to re-examinee the Hollywood melodrama that taught us “greed is good.

Stone presents his film as a cautionary tale. Bud Fox, played by a baby-faced Sheen, hopes to make it big as a stockbroker and ends up running with the bad crowd. And honestly, what can be worse than Michael Douglas dressed up like Pat Riley and Darryl Hannah without a mermaid’s tail?

at least she is near the ocean

Under the tutelage of Gordon Gecko (Douglas), who is roughly based on Wall Street pirate Michael Milkin, Fox commits a host of goofy crimes. He spies on Terrence Stamp (a major no-no for anyone who remembers his turn as ‘General Zod’ in Superman), ruins his father’s airline, commits security fraud and furnishes one of the ugliest apartments in film history for good measure.

When Fox is ultimately sent to jail, his father, cleverly played by Martin Sheen, proposes: “Maybe in some screwed up kind of way it’s the best thing that could have happened to you…Create instead of living off the buying and selling of others.” Parental wisdom at its finest. Regardless, Stone’s message is clear: if you try to “earn enough money to ride your motorcycle across China” or let a coked-out vamp like Darryl Hannah decorate your home with gold foil, you will go to jail.

Say what you will for Stone’s loopy, leftist politics, but none of his films are as fundamentally dishonest as Wall Street. Contrary to the heavy-handed message of its third act, Stone’s film ultimately glorifies the culture of excess that it pretends to abhor.

# of 80s movies in which James Spader plays this dude: infinite

Can anyone really empathize with Carlos Irwin Estevez’s Bud Fox? In the midst of his ill-fated quest for financial glory, his character even has the audacity to muse aloud: “Who am I?” 15 years later, Ben Stiller’s Derek Zoolander asked himself the same question while staring at his reflection in a puddle of brackish water.

While Sheen may be the movie’s hero, Wall Street belongs to the gloriously serpentine Michael Douglas. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott compares him to the figure of Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. I think Scott might be giving screenwriter Stanley Weiser a bit too much credit but I’ll concede that Douglas cuts quite a figure of evil in his suspenders, two-toned shirts and Oliver Peoples glasses. Patrick Bateman, eat your heart out.

21 years later, Gordon Gecko is aging like a fine wine. We Jews, for instance, always like to be reminded that WASPS “love animals and hate people.” In one especially prescient scene, Gecko lashes out against the management of Teldar Paper at the company’s stockholder’s meeting:

“You are all being royally screwed over by these bureaucrats with their steak lunches and Huntington fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes.” Does Reagan-era greed give us a proper lens with which to examine the corruption of today? Perhaps, but there’s still no account for the putrid pastels of 1980’s interior design.

Jacob Sugarman (pictured with our EIC) only gambles to win

Just Getting My Money – Crucial Conflict: (mp3)

Easy Money – Charlie Rich: (mp3)

My Baby’s Just Like Money – Lefty Frizzell: (mp3)

New Cash Money – Lil’ Wayne: (mp3)

Rockin’ Chair Money – Hank Williams: (mp3)

Scared Money – Kelis: (mp3)

She Want That Money (Ft. Odd Squad) – Devin The Dude: (mp3)


In Which We Would Go On To Know Each Other Quite Well by alexcarnevale
October 17, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dry Storeroom No. 1

by Richard Fortey

This book is my own store room, a personal archive, designed to explain what goes on behind the polished doors in the Natural History Museum.

All our lives are collections curated through memory. We pick up recollections and facts and store them, often half forgotten, or tucked away on shelves buried deep in the psyche. Not everything is as blameless as we might like. But the sum total of that deep archive is what makes us who we are.

I cannot escape the fact that working for a whole lifetime within the extravagant building in South Kensington has moulded much of my character. By the same token, I also know the place rather better than any outsider. I am in a position to write a natural history of the Natural History Museum, to elucidate its human fauna and explain its ethology. There are histories that deal with the decisions of the mighty, and there are histories that are concerned with the ways of ordinary people. An admirable history of the Natural History Museum as an institution, by William T. Stearn, was published in 1981.

What Stearn largely left out was an account of the achievements, hopes and frustrations, virtues and failings of the scientists who occupied the “shop floor” — the social history, if you like. My own Dry Storeroom No. 1 will curate some of the stories of the people who go to make up a unique place. I believe profoundly in the importance of museums; I would go as far as to say that you can judge a society by the quality of its museums.

But they do not exist as collections alone. In the long term, the lustre of a museum does not depend only on the artefacts or objects it contains — the people who work out of sight are what keeps a museum alive by contributing research to make the collections active, or by applying learning and scholarship to reveal more than was known before about the stored objects. I want to bring those invisible people into the sunlight. From a thousand possible stories I will pick up one or two, just those that happen to have made it into my own collection. Although I describe my particular institution I dare say it could be a proxy for any other great museum. Perhaps my investigations will even cast a little light on to the museum that makes up our own biography, our character, ourselves.

At first glance the Natural History Museum looks like some kind of cathedral, dominated by towers topped by short spires; these lie at the centre of the building and at its eastern and western corners. Ranks of round-topped Romanesque windows lie on “aisles” connecting the towers which confirm the first impression of a sacred building. Even on a dull day the outside of the Museum shows a pleasing shade of buff, a mass of terracotta tiles, the warmth of which contrasts with the pale stucco of the terraces that line much of the other side of the Cromwell Road. Courses of blue tiles break up the solidity of the façade. The entrance to the Museum is a great rounded repeated arch, flanked by columns, and the front doors are reached by walking up a series of broad steps. Arriving at the Natural History Museum is rather like entering one of the magnificent cathedrals of Europe, like those at Reims, Chartres or Strasbourg. The visitor almost expects to hear the trilling of an organ, or the sudden pause of a choir in rehearsal. Instead, there is the cacophony of young voices. And where the Gothic cathedral will have a panoply of saints on the tympanum above the door, or maybe carvings of the Flight from Egypt, here instead are motifs of natural history — foliage with sheep, a wolf, a muscled kangaroo.

The main hall still retains the feel of the nave of a great Gothic cathedral, because it is so high and generously vaulted. But now the differences are obvious. High above, where the cathedral might display flying buttresses, there are great arches of steel, not modestly concealed, but rather flaunted for all they are worth. This is a display of the Victorian delight in technology, a celebration of what new engineering techniques could perform in the nineteenth century. Elsewhere in the Natural History Museum, a steel frame is concealed beneath a covering of terracotta tiles that completely smother the surface of the outside and most of the inside of the building; these paint the dominant pale-brown colour.

Only in the hall are the bones exposed. This could have created a stark effect but is softened by painted ceiling panels; no angels spreadeagled above, but instead wonderful stylized paintings of plants. It does not take a botanist to recognize some of them: here is a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), there is a lemon tree (Citrus limonum), but how many Europeans would recognize the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao)? Many visitors, and most children, don’t even notice these charming ceiling paintings. Their attention is captured by other bones: the enormous Diplodocus dinosaur that occupies the centre of the ground floor, heading in osteological splendour towards the door. Its tiny head bears a mouthful of splayed teeth in a grinning welcome.

The Diplodocus has been there a long time. It is actually a cast of an original in Pittsburgh, which was assembled in the Museum during 1905. The great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie presented the specimen to King Edward VII, who then handed it over to the Museum in person at a grand public occasion. Diplodocus was proudly in place when I first came to the Natural History Museum as a little boy in the 1950s, and it was still there when I retired in 2006. I am always glad to see it; not that I regard a constructed replica of an ancient fossil as an old friend, it is just consoling to pass the time of day with something that changes little in a mutable world.

But Diplodocus has changed, albeit rather subtly. When I was a youngster, the enormously long Diplodocus tail hung down at the rear end and almost trailed along the floor, its great number of extended vertebrae supported by a series of little props. This arrangement was not popular with the warders, as unscrupulous visitors would occasionally steal the last vertebra from the end of the tail. There was even a box of “spares” to make good the work of thieves so that the full backbone was restored by the time the doors opened the following day. Visitors today will see a rather different Diplodocus: the tail is elevated like an extended whip held well above the ground, supported on a brass crutch which has been somewhat cruelly compared with those often to be found in the paintings of Salvador Dalí; now the massive beast has an altogether more vigorous stance.

The skeleton was remodelled after research indicated that the tail had a function as a counterbalance to the extraordinarily long neck at the opposite end of the body. Far from being a laggard, Diplodocus was an active animal, despite the smallness of its brain. Nowadays, all the huge sauropod dinosaurs in films such as Jurassic Park show the tail in this active position. Many exhibits in a natural history museum are not permanent in the way that sculptures or portraits are in an art gallery. Bones can be rehung in a more literal way than paintings.

Now animatronic dinosaurs flash their teeth and groan, and carry us back effectively to the Cretaceous period, a hundred million years ago. Small children shelter nervously behind the legs of their parents. “Don’t worry,” say the parents, “they aren’t real.” The kids do not always look convinced. The bones that caused such a sensation in Andrew Carnegie’s time a century ago, and that still command attention in the main hall, are now sometimes considered a little too tame.

There is, to my mind, still something eloquent about the Diplodocus specimen: not merely its size, but that it is the assembled evidence for part of a vanished world. All those glamorous animations and movie adventures rely ultimately on the bones. A museum is a place where the visitor can come to examine evidence, as well as to be diverted. Before the exhibitions started to tell stories, that was one of the main functions of a museum, and the evidence was laid out in ranks. There are still galleries in the Natural History Museum displaying minerals, the objects themselves — unadorned but for labels — a kind of museum of a museum, preserved in aspic from the days of such systematic rather than thematic exhibits. Few people now find their way to these galleries.

The public galleries take up much less than half of the space of the Natural History Museum. Tucked away, mostly out of view, there is a warren of corridors, obsolete galleries, offices, libraries and above all, collections. This is the natural habitat of the curator. It is where I have spent a large part of my life — indeed, the Natural History Museum provides a way of life as distinctive as that of a monastery. Most people in the world at large know very little about this unique habitat. This is the world I shall reveal.

I had been a natural historian for as long as I could remember and I had always wanted to work in a museum. When there was a “career day” at my school in west London I was foolish enough to ask the careers master, “How do you get into a museum?” The other boys chortled and guffawed and cried out, “Through the front door!” But I soon learned that it would not be that easy. Getting “into a museum” as a researcher or curator is a rather arduous business. A first degree must be taken in an appropriate subject, geology in my case, and this in turn followed by a Ph.D. in a speciality close to the area of research in the museum.

When I applied for my job in 1970, this was enough, but today the demands are even greater. A researcher must have a “track record,” which is a euphemism for lots of published scientific papers — that is, articles on research printed in prestigious scientific journals. He or she must also be described in glowing terms by any number of referees; and, most difficult of all, there must be the prospect of raising funds from the rather small number of public bodies that pay out for research. It is a tall order. Even so, the most important qualification remains what it always was: a fascination and love for natural history. There is no other job quite like it.

The interview for my job was conducted in the Board Room. It was 1970. To reach the rather stern room on the first floor of the Natural History Museum I had passed through several sets of impressive mahogany doors. A large and very polished table was in the middle of the room, the kind of table that is always associated with admonishment. On one wall there was and still is a splendid portrait of the first Director of the Museum, the famous anatomist Sir Richard Owen, by Holman Hunt.

He was an old man when he sat for the portrait, and is dressed in a brilliant scarlet robe, beautifully painted to show the glint of satin, indicative of some very superior doctorate. His glittering eyes survey the room, intent on not tolerating fools gladly. Each candidate was interviewed by the Keeper of Palaeontology — who was the head of the appropriate department — and his Deputy Keeper, together with the Museum Secretary, Mr. Coleman. The Secretary was a rather grand personage at that time, who more or less ran the museum from the administrative side. There was also a sleepy-looking gentleman from the Civil Service Commission, who was there for some arcane purpose connected with the fact that the successful candidate would be paid out of the public purse. I was dressed in my best, and indeed only, suit and very nervous.

I was applying to be the “trilobite man” for the Museum. The previous occupant of the post was Bill Dean, who had gone off to join the Geological Survey of Canada. He left behind a formidable reputation. Trilobites are one of the largest and most varied groups of extinct animals, and being paid to study them is one of the greatest privileges in palaeontology. I had not yet completed my Ph.D. thesis, and was young and inexperienced. My fellow candidates were ahead of me by a few months or years. We would all get to know one another well over the course of our professional lives, but for the moment conversation was restricted to twitchy pleasantries. We sat on uncomfortable chairs in a kind of corridor and awaited our turn in the Board Room.

Eventually, I had to go in to face the piercing eyes of Sir Richard. The questioning began. Fortunately, I had made some interesting discoveries in the Arctic island of Spitsbergen where I had been carrying out my Ph.D. research at Cambridge University, so once I got going I had a lot to talk about, and my general air of nervousness began to subside. I had discovered all kinds of new trilobites in the Ordovician age rocks there, and studying these animals seemed a matter of pressing excitement. Youthful enthusiasm can occasionally count for more than mature wisdom. The man from the Civil Service Commission stirred himself once and asked if I played any sport. The answer was no, except for tiddlywinks. He then sank back into apparent torpor. The Keeper smiled at me benignly. Hands were shaken, and it was all over. Did I imagine something less severe in Sir Richard Owen’s expression as I left the Board Room?

Several weeks later I was offered the job. In view of my youth I was taken on as a Junior Research Fellow, which meant, I think, that if I did not work out I could be politely escorted out of the cathedral. But important to me was that I was entitled to go behind the mahogany doors into the secret world of the collections, and to receive a modest salary for doing so. I was being paid to do work that I would have done for nothing. I had a season ticket to a world of wonders.

Richard Fortey is a paleontologist. His book is available here.

“I’m Always Hot” – Two Dead Cats (mp3)

“Two Dead Cats” – Two Dead Cats (mp3)

“Acoustic Delirium” – Two Dead Cats (mp3)

the great chicago fire


Stand up comics we can tolerate.

Becca got knocked up. Oh sorry, Knocked Up.

Indulging oneself.

In Which Robots Are Your Homies by Molly Lambert
October 16, 2008, 10:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Scarier than E.T.A. Hoffman‘s The Sandman, more terrifying than Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, realer than Blade Runner, the complete horrific history of Robots and Replicants, courtesy of Molly Lambert’s Science Corner at This Recording.


Special Edition: History Of Humanoids

by Molly Lambert

A.E. reborn as a HUBO in A.I.

PART ONE: The Uncanny Valley

Since 30 Rock is throwing out references to The Uncanny Valley and in preparation for WALL•E, I thought I’d take some time to discuss one of my all-time favorite subjects. Androids, Gynoids, and all kinds of robotic horrors to give you a Frankenstein complex. Step into my Wunderkammern

The Uncanny Valley is a hypothetical concept introduced by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970, and has been linked to Ernst Jentsch’s concept of “the uncanny” as first identified in his 1906 essay, “On the Psychology of the Uncanny.” Jentsch’s conception was famously elaborated on by Sigmund Freud in his 1919 essay “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche“).

The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley is the hypothesis that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost, but not entirely, like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion in human observers. The “valley” in question is a dip in a graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot’s lifelikeness.

“Please don’t make me go to Auschwitz Mr. CGI Tom Hanks”

A similar problem arises in 3D computer animation that attempts realism, especially with motion capture methods as used in Final Fantasy, The Polar Express and Beowulf. Most CGI suffers from this to some extent. For my money nobody (including, especially, Peter Jackson and LOThR) has surpassed the realism of fifteen year old movie Jurassic Park, which heavily augmented computer graphics with traditional animatronics.


Some theorists and scientists (and Tess) think crossing the Uncanny Valley will lead to accepting the possibilities of Transhumanism. These are the folks who think that steroids aren’t necessarily bad for sports, that nootropics aren’t cheating nature but enhancing it, and that the fear of post-humans is just alarmism about the future and what is as yet unfamiliar or unknown.

The Second Uncanny Valley

Transhumanists support the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and fix what it regards as undesirable or unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death.

Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings will eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “posthuman.” It recalls eugenics with a modern technological twist, the racism against mutants in the Uncanny X-Men, and the Mecha suit of Iron Man.

PART TWO: Early Innovations In Automatons

I. Al-Jazari

Abū al-’Iz Ibn Ismā’īl ibn al-Razāz al-Jazarī (1136-1206) (Arabic: أَبُو اَلْعِزِ بْنُ إسْماعِيلِ بْنُ الرِّزاز الجزري) was an important Iraqi Artuqid Muslim scholar, artist, astronomer, craftsman, inventor and mechanical engineer from al-Jazira, Mesopotamia who flourished during the Islamic Golden Age (Middle Ages).

Al-Jaziri’s Elephant Clock replicated in Dubai’s Ibn Battuta Mall

He is best known for writing the Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices in 1206, where he described fifty mechanical devices. Al-Jazari invented automated moving peacocks driven by hydropower, the earliest known automatic gates, which were driven by hydropower, and created automatic doors as part of one of his elaborate water clocks.

Al-Jazari’s musical automatons

Al-Jazari created a musical automaton, which was a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. Professor Noel Sharkey has argued that it is quite likely that it was an early programmable automata and has produced a possible reconstruction of the mechanism.

Diagram Of The Floating Musical Automatons

It has a programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bump into little levers that operated the percussion. The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs were moved around. According to Charles B. Fowler, the automata were a “robot band” which performed “more than fifty facial and body actions during each musical selection.”

II. Pierre Jaquet-Droz

Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790) was a Swiss-born watchmaker of the late eighteenth century. He lived in Paris, London, and Geneva, where he designed and built animated dolls, or automata, to help his firm sell watches and mechanical birds.

I know why the caged bird sings. It’s a robot.

Constructed by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son were The Writer (made of 6000 pieces), The Musician (2500 pieces) and The Draughtsman (2000 pieces). His astonishing mechanisms fascinated the world’s most important people: the kings and emperors of Europe, China, India and Japan.

Some consider these devices to be the oldest examples of the computer. The Writer has an input device to set tabs that form a programmable memory, 40 cams that represents the read only program, and a quill pen for output. The work of Pierre Jaquet-Droz predates that of Charles Babbage by decades.

The automata of Jaquet-Droz are also considered to be some of the finest examples of human mechanical problem solving. Three particularly complex, and still working and functional dolls are housed at the art and history museum in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, now known as the Jaquet-Droz automata. There’s a scene in (one of my favorite movies) The Thief Of Baghdad referencing this anecdote, which I’d never heard until now:

Droz built a clock which was capable of movement: when the clock struck, a shepherd played six tunes on his flute, and a dog approached and fawned upon him. This clock was exhibited to the King of Spain, who was delighted with it. “If your Majesty touch one of the apples,” said Droz “which you see in the shepherd’s basket, you will admire the fidelity of this animal.”

The King took an apple, and the mechanical dog flew at his hand and barked so loudly that the King’s real dog began also to bark; at this the Courtiers, hastily left the room crossing themselves, believing it to be witchcraft. The minister of Marine was the only one that ventured to stay.

III. Jacques de Vaucanson

Jacques de Vaucanson gained his interest in mechanical devices after meeting the surgeon Le Cat, from whom he would learn the details of anatomy. This new knowledge allowed him to develop his first mechanical devices that mimicked biological vital functions such as circulation, respiration, and digestion.

In 1737, he built his first automaton, The Flute Player, a life-size figure of a shepherd that played the tabor and the pipe and had a repertoire of twelve songs. The figure’s fingers were not pliable enough to play the flute correctly, so Vaucanson had to glove the creation in skin.

The following year, in early 1738, he presented his creation to the Académie des Sciences. At the time, mechanical creatures were somewhat a fad in Europe, but most could be classified as toys, and de Vaucanson’s creations were recognized as being revolutionary in their mechanical life-like sophistication.

Later that year, he created two additional automatons, The Tambourine Player and The Digesting Duck, which is considered his masterpiece. The duck had over 400 moving parts, and could flap its wings, drink water, digest grain, and defecate. Although the duck supposedly demonstration digestion accurately, it actually contained a hidden compartment of “digested food,” so that what the duck shat out was not the same as what it ate.

While such “frauds” were sometimes controversial, they were common because scientific demonstrations needed to entertain the wealthy and powerful to attract their patronage. The Digesting Duck followed the principles of Descartes’s mechanistic universe, and bolstered the Enlightenment-era belief that animals were just meat machines, but automatons nonetheless.

The ability to create life no longer was the domain of God and of living organisms, but was now captive in the hands of man’s genius. These ideas terrified and excited many people, but were one of the major ideological changes from a natural to a mechanistic world view.

IV. Von Kemeplen’s Hoax

The Turk or Automaton Chess Player was a chess-playing machine of the late 18th century, exhibited from 1770 for over 84 years, by various owners, as an automaton but later explained in January 1857 as an elaborate hoax.

Constructed and unveiled in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1804) to impress the Empress Maria Theresa, the mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent, as well as perform the knight’s tour, a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard once and only once.

Publicly promoted as an automaton and given its common name based on its appearance, the Turk was in fact a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years until its destruction by fire in 1854, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was formally revealed in a series of articles in The Chess Monthly in 1857.

The Turk was visited in London by Rev. Edmund Cartwright in 1784. He was so intrigued by the Turk that he would later question whether “it is more difficult to construct a machine that shall weave than one which shall make all the variety of moves required in that complicated game.” Cartwright would patent the prototype for a power loom within the year.

Sir Charles Wheatstone, an inventor, saw a later appearance of the Turk while it was owned by Mälzel. He also saw some of Mälzel’s speaking machines, and Mälzel later presented a demonstration of speaking machines to Alexander Melville Bell and his teenage son. Wheatstone lent a book by Kempelen about the speaking machines to the son, Alexander Graham Bell; Bell would go on to invent the telephone.

Ajeeb, another chess playing automaton hoax

In Richmond, Virginia, the Turk was observed by Edgar Allan Poe, who was writing for the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe’s famous essay “Maelzel’s Chess Player” was published in April 1836 and is the most well-known analysis of the Turk, even though many of Poe’s hypotheses were incorrect.

In 1849, just several years before the Turk was destroyed, Edgar Allan Poe published a tale “Von Kempelen and His Discovery“. It also inspired “Moxon’s Master“, a morbid tale by Ambrose Bierce about a chess-playing automaton that resembles the Turk.

V. The Golden Age Of Automatons

a. Vichy

Vichy was known for the subtlety of motion their automata possessed. Vichy showed several automata at Paris Universal Exposition of 1878. One observer noted that, “…Vichy’s automata are distinguished by the flexibility and precision of their gestures…”. One hundred and thirty years later, they are still horrifically lifelike.

b. Leopold Lambert

Léopold Lambert, was born on October 8, 1854 in Aix-en-Provence (France). His parents were inn keepers. He worked some time in the Vichy society, where his competence and the quality of his work earned him the post of foreman. In 1886, Lambert formed his own company and sold musical mechanical toys and luxurious articles.

Toward 1876, he married a young parisian dressmaker who dressed the automata created by her husband. The Lambert pieces were of two kinds: those manufactured with few specimens, even single, and others, made in series; these last are, generally, of small girls with porcelain heads. They are in general equipped with three or four movements: they turned the head and greet, raise and lower the arms, and differ from each other mainly by their costumes and their accessories.

Lambert was rewarded with diplomas of honor in Liege in 1904, and Milan in 1905, then abruptly, his name ceases to appear among the participants in the international demonstrations. From 1910 the society started a slow but final decline. During the epoch of electric and advertising automata, Lambert had remained faithful to the mechanical automata. The sales slowed down and had difficulty earning a living at his trade. His automata survived him.

c. Roullet & Decamps

Roullet et Decamps, one of the most versatile and creative of all the Paris automaton makers, was in business for more than 120 years. Its remarkable accomplishments began in 1866 with mechanical toys, then musical automatons, and finally, in the first years of the twentieth century, electric automated displays for store windows.

O God help us they are self-replicating!

By 1995, when the firm closed its doors for the last time, the craft of the automaton maker was recognized as a cultural asset worthy of preservation. The French government established a state-of-the-art museum in the village of Souillac, a popular tourist destination in France’s scenic Dordogne Valley. The Roullet and Decamps collection of antique automatons and electrically-operated automated displays was saved, along with tools, machinery, molds, parts, and materials that were used in the workshops.

d. Phalibois

Jean Marie Phalibois was born on October 29, 1835 in Paris. In 1871 he set up his shop and devoted himself to the production of scenes mecaniques, which were little scenes placed on wooden bases featuring monkeys, tightrope walkers, conjurers, etc.

Phalibois took part in the Paris Exhibition of 1878. This year also marked a turning point in his firm’s orientation, for he began to produce more and more mechanical toys with music. In 1893, Phalibois retired from his business and turned control of the firm to his son Henry. In 1925, the family firm came to an end when Henry’s son, Raymond, sold off the firm.

VI. Leonardo Torres y Quevedo

El Ajedrecista (“The Chess Player”) was an automaton built in 1912 by Leonardo Torres y Quevedo. El Ajedrecista made a public debut during the Paris World Fair of 1914, creating great excitement at the time. It was first widely mentioned in Scientific American as “Torres and His Remarkable Automatic Devices” in November 6th, 1915.

Quevedo’s Niagara Falls Whirlpool Aero Car

Using electromagnets under the board, it automatically played a three chesspiece endgame moving a King and a Rook against a human opponent King. By today’s engineering standards, the automata built by Quevedo would not be viewed as remarkable. However, they were considered revolutionary in their day. If an illegal move were made by the opposite player the automaton would signal it. As opposed to The Turk and Ajeeb, El Ajedrecista was a true automaton built to play chess without human guidance.


Timeline Of Automatons

The Murtogh D Guinness Collection At The Morris Museum

Da Vinci Automata

Time To Get Transhumanist

Robot Fetishism

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording

Cabinet Of Wonders

La Cité De L’Automate

Automata/Automaton Blog

Historical Gallery Of Automatons


Many Moons (Trackademics Remix) – Janelle Monae: (mp3)

Violet Stars Happy Hunting! – Janelle Monae: (mp3)

Call The Law – Outkast ft. Janelle Monae: (mp3)


Tess Is Our Resident Transhumanist

George On Showbiz Pizza’s Rock-A-Fire Explosion

Molly On Prions And Ice-9

This Recording Is More Human Than Human

In Which You Don’t Have To Wait Up by alexcarnevale
October 15, 2008, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This Recording’s ongoing series about Films Of The 1980s continues this week with Claire Howorth’s love of Adventures in Babysitting. You can find the archives of the series here.

Something Unpredictable But In The End It’s Right

by Claire Howorth

Selecting one John Hughes from his 80s oeuvre is a task too difficult, too utterly arbitrary, and would no doubt result in a criminally wrong decision, forever burned into this site’s history. So I’m going the pragmatic route: a formative flick, one that’s subtly shaped my life over many tens of viewings. Paramount to and overarching all that: it’s how I learned the F-word. Adventures in Babysitting.

To start, it contains my favorite opening scene of any movie: Chris Anderson (Elisabeth Shue) swings around her four-poster in a hideously lovely drop-waist velvet frock singing “Then He Kissed Me” (NB: pivotal tune in Goodfellas). Ah, but no—her boyfriend’s “sick,” so Chris decides to babysit.

Over the course of the Odysseian evening, Chris & the kids head from the burbs (recalling my beloved Hughes, those affluent banlieus of Chicago) into the city to pick up her friend (a dowdy, hysterical Penelope Ann Miller) from the big bad bus station.

On the way—and the way back—they encounter a plethora of obstacles: gangsters, criminals, sexual avarice, brokendown cars, near-death, etc.

When the whitey cast is forced to use the gasp-black-people subway, the dialogue that changed my life occurs:

“Don’t FUCK with the Lords of Hell,” says a dark, dangerous man to the babysitter.

“Don’t FUCK with the babysitter,” replies Shue.

Mooooooommy, what’s ‘fuck’ mean? calls a 6-year-old me into the kitchen…

And thus into my life enters the critical noun/verb/adjective pasttime. Never would I be the same.

One of the other brilliant aspects of Adventures in Babysitting is what may be the most gloriously poetic high school slut name EVER: Sessalee Plexor.

It rolls off the tongue like a giant, fleshy lollipop. You can practically smell the backseat-sex through the TV screen when Chris finds fair Sessalee—swathed in a fantastic crepe-y, one-shoulder, purely-80s getup—chowing down at a chi-chi Chi-town restaurant with her man. Totally in the fabulous mold of other 80s-movie pouty-lipped, sometimes dubiously named sloooots, to whom, tangentially, I’d like to now pay tribute:

Here’s to you, Benny Hanson, of Pretty in Pink, who looked so luxuriantly loose in bra, panties, and James Spader’s linen blazer.

Here’s to you, Beth Truss, you bitch from Better Off Dead (How could any girl take John Cusack for granted?? Perhaps you were better off dead when Freddy Krueger killed you in Nightmare on Elm Street).

And here’s to you, Ginny Baker, Molly Ringwald’s sister on Sixteen Candles. Yes, your wedding was the subplot & all, but you were quite perceptibly a once-whore.

But back to the movie at hand. In closing, some also-greats about it: Playboy (is the babysitter really the centerfold?); sexual tension with one of Chris’ charges; budding romance with Hot College Guy Who Drives Jeep and Does Not Date-Rape Babysitter; wood-paneled Chevy wagon; incredible footage of the Smurfit-Stone building in Chicago; seemingly-sketchy-black-man-to-the-rescue storyline; rife teenage acne references; and, of course, ultimately tricking the Parents & making it home safely.

Claire Howorth is the senior contributor to This Recording. She also works for Vanity Fair, and you are permitted to view an appropriate image of her below for no longer than five seconds.

portrait of the author as a young elisabeth shue

“When Giants Fall” – Love Is All (mp3)

“Wishing Well” – Love Is All (mp3)

“Last Choice” – Love Is All (mp3)

“Sea Sick” – Love Is All (mp3)


The latest Thomas Pynchon got us thinking.

We told you our answers, we left you our dreams on your answer machine.

For her you would risk everything.


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