In Which We Open Up All Of Our Office Hours


Red Dust


Office hours begin at three. Who knows how long they’ll last?

I run into my therapist at the opening of a local juice bar. She does not see me, but I notice that her hair is done in a completely different fashion than what I have come to expect. I am so shaken I have to sit down.

On a bus downtown, a man carries a thousand little parcels and packages, attached to each other by string, cord and tape. A teenager asks him if it is an exhibit or something. The man opens one of the packages and inside is a business card.

My friend Stacy is a major theme of this essay. She has a very useful test that I have sort of made my own. If she meets a new person, she has these two restaurants that are very easy to confuse and not far from each other. She shows up at one, and if he doesn’t, well that’s just too bad.

Instead of finding out what someone is like when they are really, truly angry, make them a little angry.

My therapist recently discovered some of the things I had written about her. She says, “Your depiction portrays me as sounding weird.” She says, “Self-expression is the most innocent form of flattery,” and then she rotates a mug in her hands upwards of ten times. I say, “Your hero is Kafka? Your summer palace is on the Rhine? You say you have questions for me?”

In Agata & Valentina, Emmy Rossum asks an employee for aspargus. My dad called to tell me to watch the full moon tonight. “Did you ever think there were so many types of lettuce?” he says. His version of being retired is like a bird who has had a wing repaired, but doesn’t know it.

My brother is getting married in the fall. I am very happy for him, the way you go to one store in a strip mall, and another store is celebrating their grand opening. You wish and don’t wish the attention was elsewhere. I am so tired of the concept of attention. It seems like a modern conceit, maybe the only modern conceit. One that demands we be observed or acknowledged.


Stacy has a boyfriend now. When she tried the restaurant trick on him, he said he doesn’t like to meet women at restaurants. Stacy says that it’s because he feels uncomfortable eating in front of other people, like he is a pig at the trough. Do you see the connection between this anecdote and the line about attention? Would you even notice if the moon in the sky was upside down.

Lately I have been doing a lot of whispering. Nattering quietly to myself is the function of living alone, in the apartment I am renting. It was just built, and so no one in the building expects anything to break. I’d like to own a place, but not in New York City. Maybe somewhere upstate.

My therapist wants to know my evaluation of her. “I love how available you make yourself,” I begin. “Once I saw you in a juice bar… Never mind, never mind! I think that you are great at staying internally consistent. Sometimes I wonder if you are remembering what I said or remembering what you said. Then I think, what’s the difference? If you hear one side of the conversation, you can probably reconstruct the other! It will be as if one person is there, and the second participant exists only as a shadow of the initial act.” She says, “I’m not a shadow of you, Linda,” and sips Tropicana.


Last night I walked along 60th at the bottom of Central Park. Rats sprang out of the greenery to feast upon all the leftover horse feed. They are mad to be satiated, wild with abandon. In order to start a new thought, it takes more than simply matching the taste to the palate.

Stacy thinks she is in love with her boyfriend. “He’s kind of a weird guy,” she confesses. I ask if it something other than his apparent eating issues. She says that when they went to the movies the other night, she found herself massaging his temples and touching his dick. I ask if he told her to do that. “It seemed implied,” she says, cutting celery into the smallest possible pieces.

I want you to know that standing there is no more than an affectation.

My dad asks me to choose a color. He’s painting my old room. “What goes on in there now?” I ask. “Mostly the same stuff as when you were here,” he says, even though that was very long ago now. “Self-loathing. Pride. Catnaps. Sometimes I come in here when your mother is snoring.” I say, “Imagine being invisible only at night.” Half the shades he forces me to compare I can’t manage to see any difference. I imagine that for a god, the variation between the worst human being and the best would be this kind of tiny shift in color.

For example, have you looked at the Periodic Table of the Elements lately? Has there ever been a more outright obvious scam?

I ask my therapist about Stacy’s boyfriend. “They were in line at Starbucks,” I say, “and someone stepped in front of them. He got all up in the guy’s face and smacked down his coffee cup.” She says, “So?” I say, “Isn’t that kind of reckless and unwarranted?” She lets out a sigh that could inflate a balloon.

Full moon tonight. I whisper it and text everyone I know (the list is not long – as I get older it is more difficult to meet new people, and even when I find someone I like, the context is always wrong). In my text I detail how much more fun it will be when we are all wolves. Imagine the licking alone! I crow and cackle. Feeling like I could run up the face of a mountain, I start crumpling up all the useless pieces of paper I keep around here. Everything made or unmade was with my hands.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.


In Which We Don’t Have The Energy For Another Flight

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Give Everything


Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can
be attained only by someone who is detached. — Simone Weil

By that time there were two of them, and I lived in a pointless fear that one would see me with the other.

Neither of them thought he was my boyfriend, but I knew in my heart one was.

I saw Michael with his dog in a park. She died, struck by a car, a few weeks later. You can imagine my surprise.

From New York, I moved to San Jose and back. Flights take too long.

Michael had this crest of hair, and when he touched silverware, he always turned it over in his hand. Are you good enough to touch my body?

See if you can figure out who is my boyfriend, I don’t know.

OK, but so I imagined what would happen if Michael saw me with Luis. Eventually I thought of a proper solution: I would say that Luis was an attorney, I was making a will, and I would give him everything.

Some other shit was going on, too. I don’t know if it is my fault, or maybe just the way the world is, but every single thing feels like a distraction from something else.

Luis did not feel that way, but I do not say it was a good thing. He had the straightest teeth I had ever seen, and he brushed them religiously. His dark hair was kept short, and he took vitamins every morning.

It took him so long to take them all.

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Michael, perched on the edge of the escalator of some store he took me to. His family had money, and he never knew what it was to be without it.

The thing is, I always did like taking pills. This all happened after I stopped taking them, but I still liked them.

I never mentioned it to Luis, but Michael knew about my habit. He asked me what it was like, and I said that it was like I was a honeybee that finally found the nectar.

He said, “Did you know Russia doesn’t have honeybees?”

He knew a lot of little things, like how to wear a scarf and where to eat on Tuesday night.

Luis was not like that, although he was far from the creative type.

You can probably tell I have moved on from both these men.

I liked the idea of one telling me what I did not like about the other, but I knew they would find out about each other eventually.

OK, so Luis’ mother died. It was March, his hands were calloused from moving all the stuff out of her house and sanding down the floors. His mother was a smoker, and sometimes, but not all the time, she ashed on the floor.

I asked Luis how his mother could do that. Was there anything particularly difficult about an ashtray? Then I closed my mouth.

I wasn’t overly celebrating my sex life with either one of these men. That is not to say we did not have moments. They were both very serious people.

It is wonderful to think of life that way, like you are Anna Karenina or Hamlet, or both wrapped up into a sad package. I am not that type of person, so I aspire to be with someone who is like that, and stay nearby.

Michael’s dog was named Rye. He said that she was a willful dog. I threw out the golden’s collars. He didn’t need them anymore, but he thought he did.

It took me awhile, maybe a few cross-country trips, to realize I am a judgmental person. I think most people evaluate others on their words and deeds, which is a fine way of doing things, I’m sure.

I prefer to focus on what people are not doing or saying.

Let me start with Michael. He did tell me he loved me, but he did not do it all the time. He did not introduce me to his family until much later. He never prayed, he never shot pool, he never rode the bus.

All the straight rows of houses out here. It bothers me sometimes. It is fun to observe normal things only if you are irregular, which is the attraction of such drugs. I could have taken them forever, and on some level I wish I was taking them now.

Luis’ mother developed lung cancer. It progressed rather quickly.

He never held out much hope.

He did not know how to drive, he had a horrible sense of direction, he never wore jeans, never drank coffee after noon. He never said, “I love you,” but honestly he did not have to, and it would have ruined things.

I don’t have the energy for another flight. I actually still take drugs, just none that are any fun, except klonopin, which makes me feel like a bean bag.

I miss Luis, and probably the Michael I am writing about a bit more. I think they both knew they were not the only one, and that ruined things.

I admire people who can keep such things separate in their mind, discrete partitions of experience. I find myself going back there, stretching through the flimsy walls. I would not like to be a man.

B.H. Dansforth is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New Jersey.

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In Which We Have An Excuse Ready For You At All Times

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


My daughter Jessica is two years old. Recently, we’ve made an arrangement with another couple in the building that also has a child around the same age named Theo, e.g. he will come over to our home and vice versa on certain days.

Theo’s parents are wonderful, educated people. They are very focused on teaching him all sorts of things. A recent lesson I walked on concerned me, though, as it did not seem terribly age appropriate. Theo’s mother was explaining the historical plight of the Jewish people to the kids. Maybe they can’t process it at this age, anyway, but I’m not sure I want my daughter hearing about this stuff without me  or my husband present. 

Am I crazy, and is it all right to say something to Theo’s mother about that?

Janet S.


Ideally you would just be near your daughter at all times to mitigate what Theo’s mother is saying. “Many other minority groups faced similar discrimination!” you could crow as a kind of victory lap. I don’t know what you think you are protecting your daughter from, but she lives in the world. Lots of stuff will happen to her that she can’t control. I mean, who knows, in a decade she could be referred to as a member of the Trump generation. 

If you want to give her a different narrative to latch onto, consider the work of the Catholic writer Garry Wills. I believe he does a fantastic set of flash cards.


I have been dating this guy I will call Nate for around five months. He is very difficult to make plans with and will often want to do things on the spur of the moment. I am the type of person who needs to know where I am going to be and what I am going to be doing at all times. At first it was nice to be around someone capable of spontaneity, but recently Nate and I have gotten in fights because he claims I don’t make him a priority, like I should be waiting by the phone for him to call?

Is this a fundamental lack of compatibility or is there something we can do to make this work?

Ilana W.

Dear Ilana,

I think probably you just need to think of better excuses. When you tell Nate that you can’t do something that he suggests, here are some foolproof ways to get out of that activity without hurting this man-boy’s feelings:

– it’s the mensies oops

– I have a strigoi in my hymen (“feel better honey”)

– I’m going to see a local production of The Cherry Orchard. Would you like to come?

– I have to work on a long research project that could be a useful excuse for the next six months

– Actually, it’s Uncle Vanya. Still want to come?

– I want you so much. But like, not at this time.


Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

In Which There Is A Secret Loathing For The One She’s With


Not In Love


creator Sharon Horgan

Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is very upset in her marriage with Mr. Robert Big (Thomas Haden Church). She explains that when she comes home early from work and she sees Bob’s car in the driveway, her heart sinks. She says that she wants to save her life while it still means something to her. The next morning Bob Big shows up in her bedroom and asks to give her an orgasm. “I’m going to lick your vagina and tongue dart your anus,” he explains while she begs him to stop.

Subsequently, Mr. Big suggests counseling. “We’ve been to counseling,” Carrie explains. She no longer does very much writing, although she still asks rhetorical questions out loud and never receives an answer. Carrie now has a twelve year-old daughter who she rags on a lot about brushing her teeth, and a teenaged son who takes the school bus, I guess because they don’t want him driving a car. Carrie used to love New York City but now she only sees it from the distance.


In a bit of shock, it turns out that Carrie wants to be in a love relationship with Julian (Jemaine Clement) who makes the most phenomenal granola. He orders a pizza for her. Sure, he seems little unconventional, but he is able to bring her to orgasm. When she tells him that she is getting a divorce, he says he is surprised. “You have kids,” he says. “I still have kids,” she responds. “We can’t even watch TV together because he repeats the jokes right after he hears them.” He loses his appetite for the pizza shortly thereafter.

It seems like even after matrimony, Carrie’s relationships with men are still basically surface-level. She has many of the economic goals she wanted to reach when she was a hot single in Manhattan, but she is still unhappy. “When did it start to go off the tracks in your mind?” he asks. Given a lack of other options, she has sex with her husband one last time. He is on top, kissing her forehead.


When Carrie’s friend Samantha finally tried to pursue a committed, monogamous relationship, it unraveled apart rather quickly. She tried to give him a three-way for his birthday, and she became really jealous that he looked so good for an older man. He ended up cheating on her and she forgave him, a couple times I think. She seems to have learned nothing from this.

When Mr. Big finds out about his wife’s affair, he locks his wife out of their house. It’s neat how Horgan begins her story in the deep of winter, making Long Island feel like a real place at times. Haden Church is a pretty ugly villain as Mr. Big, but you can totally believe that he would become a paunchy suburban father with no discernible personality of his own.


Parker herself looks almost exactly like she did so many years ago. Her haircut is a lot better, and she is a lot more believable when it comes to being a vulnerable woman in late middle age. Her sweaters look so soft, and while Divorce tries to tell us that she is really an unhappy person, we get the opposite impression from her general mien and how she carries herself. She rarely fidgets or sighs; she just is.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which No One Took This News Better Than Billy Bob

Ally McShame


creators David E. Kelley & Jonathan Shapiro
Amazon Studios

Crisis in Six Scenes
creator Woody Allen
Amazon Studios

Were you wondering how white people were handling this difficult and emotional period in American history? I was, so I watched a lot of Chris Wallace and sobbed briefly during Blackish. Those queries were not answered satisfactorily, but at some point when Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) is hammering his blonde client missionary-style as he pursues a wrongful death case against a conglomerate called Borns Technology, I felt the merest inkling of a familiar phenomenon: white guilt.

Thornton can’t even enjoy the golden haze that surrounds the immediate aftermath of intimacy with a woman twenty years his junior. He hops on his computer and researches his enemies. He has to do something, anything, but he does not know what. When he finds out his latest conquest has googled him, he is embarrassed, ashamed and a little excited.

Thornton is a magnificent and subtle actor, and he is a lot less believably crotchety than usual in Goliath. White hair and a shit goatee has turned him into this vague version of a decent human being. There are only so many actors who can switch from light/hearted to emotionally serious in a single moment, and this elasticity tends to overwhelm its most charismatic proponents: (Cruise, Hanks, Gosling). Thornton’s timing in contrast is completely impeccable — no one is better than he at playing utter basics.

The rest of the cast of Goliath is just as exquisite. William Hurt is in god-tier mode as Donald Cooperman, the legal titan behind McBride’s former firm. Mario Bello always deserved more from this industry and as McBride’s ex-wife you get the idea of an entire history that can’t be unpacked in just one episode. Olivia Thirlby and Molly Parker are equally amusing as high-powered corporate attorneys.

David E. Kelley’s typical chatty dialogue is everpresent here, but what’s missing is the extensive backstory he always felt forced to attach to every single character. Goliath never tiptoes around or struggles – it proceeds forward like a bullet-train, never letting a single joke outstay its welcome. It is the best thing Amazon has ever done, and thankfully no one wants to go more than a season. There is nothing to hold off on — this is so clearly a one-shot that Kelley can afford to pace things more like film than television. His efforts at movies were always underappreciated. Buried among a spate of mediocre offerings, it would be a shame if the superb Goliath meets a similar fate.

In contrast, Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes has a far better concept with substantially lesser results. Allen’s projects are always hit-or-miss depending on what side of the bed he woke up that day. Crisis in Six Scenes has a lot in it that you would think can’t go wrong: Elaine May as Woody’s good-natured therapist wife, Miley Cyrus as their houseguest. Every performance in Crisis in Six Scenes is just on the verge of being amusing without ever getting there.

Set at the end of the turbulent 1960s, Allen actually has a lot to say about how white people react to events in the world around us. Crisis in Six Scenes feels like an incisive cultural essay penned by a fourteen year old. Seen in retrospect, Allen’s humorous jokes about the Vietnam War and his view of arts and culture seem far more mean-spirited than usual. It is like he is trying to show off a certain edge in a new medium and doesn’t realize he is working with a blunt knife.

Amazon has struggled to compete with the original programming efforts of Netflix, but they have substantial advantages over their competition going forward. Netflix has a ten billion dollar debt just based around the money they owe on licenses for television series they don’t own. Almost half of that is due next year, which means the size of the Netflix library is about to rapidly decline; it is already down substantially from what it once was.

Amazon has a lot more money with which to fight this battle. The direction they are taking now: avoiding niche shows in favor of projects that are more likely to appeal to the wealthy, white clientele that orders other products from them through the Amazon Prime service. Both Goliath and Crisis in Six Scenes fit this new bourgeois aesthetic, which makes it somewhat humorous that both shows are about underdogs.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan.

In Which We Despise Time Travel As A First Principle

Stop Time


Despite being a noted historian and a professor at a major university, Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) has the following reaction to the news that time travel exists and is possible: “Who would be foolish enough to invent something so dangerous?” When she thinks about it for slightly longer, she bails and heads out to her car. Ten minutes later she is heading straight back in time without signing any kind of contract or talking to her lawyer. It is the middle of the night.

Timeless was created by Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan. Given the events of the past fifteen years, I think we can look back in time and realize that maybe The Shield was substantially worse than anyone actually thought. The handcam aesthetic was pretty stupid, and Shawn Ryan probably has no talent at all given the awful shows he has been working on since then. When Lucy and her buddies, a scientist and soldier, head off to the location of the Hindenburg disaster, the camera shakes like they’re going through a tunnel on a train.

Abigail Spencer attempts to save this utter disaster entirely through her own charisma. On the completely weird, boring, pointless and brilliant telethon the Sundance Channel called Rectify, she played the sister of a man exonerated of a murder he may or may not have committed. She slept with his lawyer, and was generally an imperfect person that reminded us all of someone we might know.

I can’t help but feel bad for Spencer as she utters lines like, “Having President Lincoln as a father…what is that like for you?” In every single scene, Spencer brings the whole of her self into this thankless role, and she turns what should be a canceled pilot into something semi-watchable by selling absolutely everything as the most significant historical thing she has ever had the privilege to witness.

Let me get back to time travel, because it is the fucking drizzling shits. There have been one or two semi-decent novels about time travel. In the end, they were all magnificent disappointments, because their conclusion was, someone changed history. Whoop-de-doo. Is history so wonderful that the slightest alteration is going to make a difference to anyone? Maybe we can go back in time and allow Obama to run for a third term. Anything we do is going to be an improvement.

But no, Lucy’s handlers explain, try not to change anything! We don’t know what will happen. Like three people in a day could somehow alter the entire direction of the world. Admittedly, Lucy’s knowledge of the Hindenburg disaster is impressive given that this seems like a minor historical episode. By the end of the show’s pilot, Lucy is whining about fate like a Sunday School student and apologizing that her companion, a soldier named Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter) lost his wife.

When she returns home after her first time travel excursion, Lucy finds out that her mother no longer has cancer and that her sister never existed. Instead of celebrating, she whines briefly before heading back to the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Jack Finney wrote Time and Again in 1970. I am sorry if you liked this book, but read it again today, because god is it dreadful. At least there was some serious historical versimilitude in there. Timeless all takes place on a soundstage.

One scene really transcended the line from dull to seriously offensive. The scientist that Lucy and Wyatt have as their companion is an African-American man named Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett). In post-Civil War America he exhorts all the other black people he meets to “head North” (they presumably did not know there was slavery in the South) and that “it gets better.” Yes, those wonderful years after the Civil War.

How tone deaf do you have to be to write something with this much garbage? You wrote a series about American history without knowing a single  thing about it. More to the point, Timeless concerns itself exclusively with American history — like there is no other existence outside of the one in this country which could possibly matter to the world. This USA-centrism is not only narratively impotent, it is immoral and dangerous for children and adults.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

In Which Tim Burton Never Gave Us A Chance


I Know Why The Caged Bird


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
dir. Tim Burton
127 minutes

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-9-52-08-amWhen asked why all of the children in his new film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children were white, Tim Burton answered that he finds it more insulting when diversity is needlessly shoehorned in. After all, the main villain here is Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), although he is a shapeshifter. Given that time travel is possible here through “loops” which are locations that enable passage to a specific time in the 20th century, it is likely Mr. Barron just found out about Samuel L. Jackson and wanted to look like him. So no worries – no actual individuals of color had to be inserted into this pale ménage.

Joseph Epstein had a essay earlier this year about the lunatic of one idea – how some people see the world through one lense which distinguishes everything they do. These simple-minded folk are led by Tim Burton, who is the lunatic of one aesthetic. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children builds to a climactic battle at a carnival, where monsters called Hollows attack the white children. To defend themselves, a boy named Enoch (Finley MacMillan), animates a group of skeletons to battle them. It looked almost exactly like a scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which Burton did not even direct. Everything else in the production design of this movie seems remarkably familiar.

Earlier, Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), or as he is referred to about 700 times in the movie by the gentile children, “Jake”, finds his grandfather (Terence Stamp) dead, his eyes torn out. Instead of being horrified or even mildly disturbed by what he has found, Jake decides to solve the murder. About twenty minutes of flashbacks follows with young Jake learning about his grandfather’s adventures during World War II. When he presents this information to his class at school, everyone laughs in his face and his parents tell him that his grandfather is a liar. He feels very alone.


Jake and his father Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) journey to Wales so that the boy can prove to himself that his grandfather’s stories were hot bullshit. Despite the fact that this movie cost $110 million, none of it was actually shot in Wales. You can tell, because this part of the movie looks far from glorious; more like a depressing beach town in the Tampa area.

When Jake meets all of these children, they each demonstrate their powers for him. Leading this white menagerie is Miss Peregrine herself (Eva Green). Disappointingly, Miss Peregrine declines the opportunity to become a romantic option for Jake, and turns into a falcon at times. Despite being a magnificent bird of prey, she only uses this form to hide.


Jake seems vaguely upset about the rejection, and sets his sights on a woman more his own age. Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell) most recently dated Jake’s grandfather which is pretty screwed up if you ask me. Perhaps understandably, she is very reluctant to kiss him.

Emma’s powers are massive: not only is her lithe body lighter than air, but she can also swim for hours just by manipulating air bubbles. The rest of the group feature powers of differing utility. One is strong, another likes bees, another is invisible. Another girl can start fires (hint: anyone can), while two of the children are Gorgons who wear masks to prevent turning everyone to stone. The moment when they take them off still makes me want to cry.


Burton is great at this kind of casual horror. Thank God for that, since he seems terribly bored with every other aspect of this script by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass). All of the children are kept pre-adolescent with no more agency than five year-olds. Miss Peregrine has had no adults in the vicinity for the half-century she has been reliving the same day, waiting for Jake to arrive. I suppose she is asexual, but maybe in her bird form she meets other falcons. I chose not to input the words “how do falcons have sex?” into google, but it is good to know it is there.

In many ways, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children feels woefully dated. Its character development is sub-Avatar level, and boy does it take its sweet time. Ultimately, in a film that should contain a lot of mystery and wonder for its magical world, everything about the fantasy aspects of the film seems woefully normal.


The most wild elements are actually the moments when the narrative interacts with historical truth. Burton specifically doesn’t want to go there — the Nazis bomb the home into oblivion, which is why Miss Peregrine keeps reliving that one day before the violence. But unlike in Pan’s Labyrinth, for example, no one talks about the war, or the world around them in the movie. It is all just background noise for magic tricks.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.