In Which We’d Like To Buy The World A Coke (Cake)

Oh, Relax! It’s Just a Little Coke!

By Tyler Coates

My father worked for the Coca-Cola bottling plant in my hometown, so we were strictly a Coca-Cola family. This with exception of my pre-teen years, when my acts of rebellion were calling my father by his first name, asking for a Dallas Cowboys Starter jacket for Christmas (our proximity to Washington, DC meant that everyone was supposed to be a Redskins fan), and drinking Crystal Pepsi whenever I had the chance.

Basically, I love Coke: It’s my soft drink of choice. I’ll drink a can in the morning while the rest of you “normal people” drink a cup of coffee (or, you know, something nutritious like orange juice). So when I found out that you could make a cake with Coke in my senior year in college, I decided that it would be my signature dessert.

I had made Coke cake four times before my most recent attempt: once in college with help from my roommate Martha, who was practically a Midwestern housewife, once with my former roommate Kristin, and twice with my ex-boyfriend. I tend to get really tense and worked-up whenever I make an attempt at cooking, so I always needed someone to hold my hand through the process.

I woke up on a recent Saturday morning (uhm, well, afternoon) in a funk: I’m underemployed, I’m single (again), and I have a general sense that I can’t accomplish a damn thing, even when I put my mind to it. Which is why I decided at the spur of the moment to make a Coke cake. By myself. For reals.


So here are my instructions for the best soft-drink enhanced cake you’ll ever have (with thanks to Southern Living for the recipe, and apologies to Emily Gould for the food-blogger’s shtick).

Coca-Cola Cake:


* 1 cup Coca-Cola
* 1/2 cup buttermilk
* 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
* 1 3/4 cups sugar
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup cocoa
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
* Coca-Cola Frosting

Coke II is not a recommended ingredient.

Since you don’t have any of the materials to make a cake (except a cake pan and – surprisingly! – sugar), make a quick list of ingredients and head out in the 13-degree Chicago weather to the Dominick’s, which you begrudgingly agree is closer than the Jewel (for once your roommate is right, and she shouldn’t rub it in every time she finds out you have shopped at Dominick’s). Also, buy a whisk and a spatula, since you have neither, and then make a quick stop at Walgreens to buy a hand-mixer for twenty dollars. (Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming an adult!)

Before you mixing your ingredients, make sure to clear the dishes out of the sink. Give your plastic mixing bowls – the ones that your mother bought you from Wal-Mart when you moved into your first apartment in college, which you have since turned into “popcorn bowls” – a good washing, as they have been sitting in your cupboard for months collecting dust. (It has been a long time since you have had the money to spend of frivolous snacks like popcorn.)


Pull out your first ingredients: the two liter of Coke and the smallest bottle of buttermilk you could find. Combine one cup of Coke and half-cup of buttermilk in the medium-sized mixing bowl; set aside. Remember that you need music to listen to while baking, so jump around the corner into the next room and put the soundtrack to The Big Chill into the boombox you have had since you were in seventh grade. (Remember to play “The Tracks of My Tears” twice when you get to it; you’re in that kind of mood today.)

Shake two sticks of butter out of the package, then triple-check that two sticks actually do make up one cup. Place the butter in one of the ugly plastic bowls your roommate bought from Walgreens and place it in the microwave to soften. Heat for about thirty seconds, I guess? (Sure, why not!)

Place the butter in the large mixing bowl and begin to beat it with the electric mixer you bought this afternoon. Second-guess that the speed of the mixer is actually set at low; when you are satisfied it is, be slightly confused that the butter looks like scrambled eggs. Do you think the butter is supposed to look like scrambled eggs?


(Do you remember when you made this same cake for Thanksgiving two years ago, and your boyfriend laughed at you because you were so spastic in the kitchen? Try to control yourself. You’re on your own now and you need to buck up. Relax! How about that time you made a Coke cake with your ex-roommate in her new apartment, only to discover a third of the way through prep that the attachments to her hand mixer were actually still in your old apartment? The outcome of today’s cake will be much better than that one. And you won’t have a boyfriend to laugh at you, because you are alone. Tiny victories!)

Gradually add sugar to the butter and beat until blended. Throw in the vanilla extract, then two eggs. Make sure you remove the large pieces of shell that fell into the mixture. Just because you still can’t crack an egg correctly doesn’t mean you can’t make a cake. Continue to beat the batter until blended.

Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. You will probably want to do this in a large mixing bowl, and try to remember that for next time since you only have the smallest bowl left. Also, you don’t need to use an electric mixer to combine dry ingredients. Misconception! Take a wet paper towel and wipe down the microwave and counter, which have become covered in flour and cocoa. Don’t forget to brush off your roommate’s package of cherry tomatoes!

Add the dry mixture to butter mixture alternately with cola mixture; begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended. This will be tricky, of course, because you have two bowls of ingredients to blend into a third. Think of it like a giant Venn diagram, but with food (and without logic). And you have to do that with one hand, because the other will be holding the electric mixer. You’ll probably regret not buying a mixer with a stand, but remember: you make about a hundred dollars a week right now doing data entry as a temp job while you “hold out” for that administrative assistant position of your dreams. You cannot have nice things right now. That is why you buy your kitchen electrics at Walgreens.


Stir marshmallows into the batter, and don’t hesitate to drop a few extras in there (who measures marshmallows in cups, anway?). After pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees, spray your 13- x 9-inch pan (which you bought specifically for this cake years ago, as it is the only thing you have ever put in it) with some Pam. Even though your recipe says to grease and flour the pan, you don’t need to use flour after the Pam (so, go ahead and rinse it out and then try it with just the Pam this time, okay, big shot?).

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes (and remember: set the timer – this is not a DiGiorno pizza we’re cooking here). About fifteen minutes before it finishes baking, prepare the Coca-Cola frosting.

Coca-Cola Frosting Ingredients

* 1/2 cup butter or margarine
* 1/3 cup Coca-Cola
* 3 tablespoons cocoa
* 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Bring the first three ingredients to a boil in one of your nice saucepans (thank God they’re in better condition than your mixing bowls, which is appropriate as the only thing you normally cook is pasta) over medium heat, stirring until the butter melts. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar and vanilla.

Notice that you still have ten minutes left for the cake to bake, and then ten minutes for it to cool before you are supposed to pour the warm frosting over it. Since you overestimated the preparation of the frosting, and you don’t want it to cool and settle in the saucepan, you’re going to want to whisk it for the next twenty minutes.

After exhaustively stirring while waiting for your cake to cool, pour the frosting over the center of the cake. You don’t necessarily have to spread the frosting evenly; just let it do what it needs to. Congratulate yourself on your first solo attempt at cake making with left over Coke and the Seagram’s 7 Crown you remembered stashing in your cupboard. You may be broke, underemployed, and single, but you make a damn fine cake. Cheers!

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. You can find his Tumblr here.

“Community” – Mirah and Spectratone International (mp3)

“Luminescence” – Mirah and the Spectratone International (mp3)

“Following the Sun”  – Mirah and Spectratone  International (mp3)

“My Prize” – Mirah and Spectratone International (mp3)



Molly enjoys beer milkshakes here.

Molly returns to her adolescence here.

Molly on Scorsese here.



In Which We Have Been Trying To Live Without You Now

Breaking Up and Breaking Down

by Tyler Coates

Call me a pessimist, but I think I have an unnatural obsession with romantic disappointment. Most of my favorite songs are about failed relationships, and my favorite album is Exile in Guyville, the quintessential Liz Phair album, which is almost entirely about fucked-up relationships.

Liz Phair

Some of my favorite novels are similarly depressing (Sophie’s Choice and Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron; The End of the Affair and The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene).

Styron was brilliant, happily-married, yet still incredibly depressed.

I have a thing for movies with climaxes that are particularly bleak (despite the frequently awkward, comedic moments).

There’s Broadcast News, my absolute, all-time, favorite-favorite, in which none of the main characters end up together (uh, spoiler alert), or Annie Hall, the most realistic film about a relationship I’ve ever seen (and about which Molly has written). The latter of the two provided inspiration for the only poem I’ve written that I will unabashedly share – as opposed to tearing it up or locking it away in a diary (read: a “friends-only!!!” Livejournal post).

Dead Shark

Placing the paperbacks on the crease of her inner arm,
Annie carries the collection across the room to fill
the empty brown boxes with books without
noticing whose name is on the inside covers.

She picks out the classics, the novels, the volumes of poems,
leaving behind the books that he bought her
in an effort to teach her more about life and death.
She turns and stares at the sturdy oak shelves,

still packed and crowded with cardboard and paper.
The boxes of books still half-empty,
Annie wonders if he will notice the
slivers of air tucked inside the library.
She returns to her cargo, packing it with

lobsters, rollercoaster rides, tennis lessons,
and Bergman films worth repeating.
She folds over the flaps, fitting them into place
and seals the break with the flimsy, yellowing tape.

I don’t think these two could have made it.

It seems appropriate that the only poem I wrote was about a breakup, since my previous forays into creative writing (which took place in my two semesters of undergraduate creative writing) produced a overdrawn, completely autobiographical story about a girl on whom I had a crush in college.

Looking back on it, it’s really embarrassing, as I didn’t even bother to change the names in the story, and when you go to an average-sized liberal arts school, you find that things like that get around. It’s more embarrassing than blogging about yourself.

To give myself credit, the story had a lot of style: it was based around songs that reminded me of the girl, so it read like liner notes to an album. I also told the story backwards (I had watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a LOT during that time). I will not post the story here.

Whenever I am irrationally obsessed (but the good kind of obsession) with someone – and when I went through my first major break-up a year ago – I listen to exclusively heart-wrenching music, eventually associating those songs with the object of my affection. I’m sure I have a stockpile of mix CDs somewhere that serve as historical accounts for the dramatic and sad moments in my romantically-confused life.

The Sid and Nancy of blogging

I’m used to being the dumped one, or at least the person whose feelings were unrequited. While some (*cough*Julia*cough*) might turn to blogging about the situation, I’ve learned (through, well, blogging about the situation) that publicly revealing your mistakes, as well as your partner’s shortcomings, proves fatal, especially if you’re in a city like Chicago, where the young, post-collegiate, middle-class crowd segregates itself to one small section of the city.

Instead, take this blogger’s advice and stick to sad music.

A lil’ bit of emo never hurt nobody.

There’s the awkward nature of an amicable break-up, one where both parties decided together (or peacefully, meaning that no dishes were hurled and no insults were shouted) that things had to come to an end. One comes out of such a situation defeated, sometimes for the sake of feeling defeated. There’s no torch to carry on, no immediate need for rebound sex. There’s the inevitable guilt that comes with accepting a failure. I haven’t yet figured out how to come out of that funk; if you come up with any ideas, feel free to share them on your own blog.

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. He is a blogger living in Chicago.

My name is Tyler and I have feelings.


“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)

“The Last Time I Saw Richard” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)

“Help Me” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)

“Down To You” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)


Tess’ debut post/poem.

Nobody moralizes like children.

We did heroin just for the glamour of it.

In Which We Are Haunted By The Ghost Of Your Precious Love

Our series on the films of the 1980s rolls on, as Tyler Coates tackles Sid & Nancy. You can find the archives of the series here.

Love Kills

by Tyler Coates

The biopic has always been a popular genre in American film making, and the 80s certainly produced many iconic examples of the form. Most important, possibly, was Coal Miner’s Daughter with Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn, which established the basic plot of the musical biopic: an artist is born, suffers through various trials and tribulations as a child / young adult, but eventually becomes famous and successful through hard work and determination. Eventually, the star loses all of that glory through various self-destructive behavior. It’s a well-worn device that exists in nearly all films of the genre.

And then there’s Sid & Nancy, the anti-biopic:

The 1986 film directed by Alex Cox follows the young Sid Vicious (played by Gary Oldman), the bassist for the Sex Pistols, and his tumultuous relationship with his American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen (played by Chloe Webb), which ended with his arrest for her murder at the Hotel Chelsea in 1979.

Biopics usually span an artist’s entire life, from childhood to death. Sid & Nancy begins the day that Sid met Nancy in London, right after becoming a member of the Sex Pistols. The span of time of the film is fairly short, as it focuses entirely on the main characters’ relationship, which lasted just under two years.

The real Sid and Nancy

Sid and Nancy begin the film as junkies, breaking the biopic mold wherein the artist takes the drugs after his ascent to fame. Often compared to Romeo and Juliet, Sid and Nancy instead poisoned themselves at the beginning of the story, and spent the rest of their action trying, in vain, to cleanse themselves.

Sid Vicious lacked another important trait with subjects of other popular musical biopics: he was incredibly untalented as a musician, never bothering to sober up long enough to be able to play with the Sex Pistols (and, inevitably, was only a member of the band for about a year). By the time he dated Nancy, however, he was infamous enough to embark on a solo career, which she laughably tried to manage by using her connections as a punk-rock groupie.

Of course, we all know how that turned out.

I’m not a fan of the Sex Pistols. I don’t think that there was much to either Sid Vicious or Nancy Spungen that was in the least bit redeemable. Yet at the same time, Sid & Nancy is one of my favorite movies, one that I watch over and over again.

Part of it may be because I’m fascinated with such troublesome relationships. I also have a tendency to follow with great interest the gossipy stories of musicians, writers, and artists of the ’60s and ’70s. But I think that on top of both of those reasons, Alex Cox’s film is a beautiful portrait of an ugly time, and it gives a contemporary audience a peek of the seedy underbelly of New York City in the late ’70s.

There is definitely a dichotomy of beauty and filth in the film. The love story itself is a troublesome one. Can one call Sid & Nancy romantic at all, considering that the pair destroyed each other and themselves? Perhaps the mysticism and mythology behind the debaucherous rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle blurs the images for the viewer, who can certainly find moments of tenderness between Sid and Nancy, possibly because Alex Cox does not judge them or treat them with too much negativity.

Of course, knowing that Sid most certainly killed Nancy in a drug-fueled frenzy, and sensing that Nancy was some sort of punk social climber skews the picture as well.

Featuring powerful and incendiary portrayals by Goldman and Webb and an intense glance at a scene most of us missed out on (and probably wouldn’t be able to remember had we partaken). Not only is it one of the more important  (yet underrated) films of the 1980s, it’s perhaps one of the best biopics ever made.

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. You can read his other articles here and find his Tumblr here.


“Love Kills” – Joe Strummer (mp3)

“Haunted” – The Pogues (mp3)

“Pleasure and Pain” – Steve Jones (mp3)

“Chinese Choppers” – Pray For Rain (mp3)

“Love Kills” – Circle Jerks (mp3)

“Off The Boat” – Pray For Rain (mp3)

“Dum Dum Club” – Joe Strummer (mp3)

“Burning Room” – Pray For Rain (mp3)

“She Never Took No For An Answer” – John Cale (mp3)

“Junk” – The Pogues (mp3)

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” – Gary Oldman (mp3)

“My Way” – Gary Oldman (mp3)

“Taxi To Heaven” – Pray For Rain (mp3)


Molly hates your tattoo

Tyler reviews All the Sad Young Literary Men

Sid and Nancy would have loved the McNuggetini

In Which Tumblrs Are Like Assholes In That Everybody’s Got One

The Tumblies: The Tumblr Awards

by Tyler Coates

Tumblr! It’s the greatest blogging site of our generation! It’s made up of so many different people from different backgrounds and cities, with different opinions! (The majority, of course, are young, urban, liberal white people who love graphic design, Mad Men, and Robert Downey, Jr.)

Tumblr, once heralded as the blogging platform for busy people, quickly turned into the LiveJournal of 2008: it’s a blog software pretending to be a social networking site, where you can collect followers and re-blog glory, and everyone is aiming for a spot on the Tumblr Radar. Forget YouTube: with the power of the re-blog, Internet “fame” can happen much quicker, albeit to a smaller audience. On Tumblr, nearly everyone can have their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame (which, on the Internet, amounts to 24 hours at best).

In the olden days of blogging, you had to put forth the effort to link to someone else. Nowadays, with push-button publishing, Tumblr makes it easy to participate in a meme, a feud, a controversy. On any given day the Tumblr Dashboard reads like a message board: people chime in and give their two-cents, responding to whatever “scandal” is on everyone’s minds. And that’s why we want to reward those special individuals who spend hours upon hours entertaining each other and, more importantly, us.

So if you’re someone who checks your Tumblr dashboard several times an hour for any new re-blogs, enjoys a lot of inside jokes about the Tumblelogs you follow, AND loves award shows (think of the following as the Tumblr version of Bravo’s A-List Awards, only Kathy Griffin is not around and, sadly, Joel McHale was not available to host the show in front of a green screen), we now present THE TUMBLIES.


Most likely to refer to herself in the third person: AntiKris

Most likely to start a debate about feminism: (tie) Peter W. Knox and Jessica Gold Haralson

Most likely to overshare: The Ch!cktionary

Most confusing: Young Manhattanite

Most likely to get you fired from your job: mathew loves the internet (generally NSFW)

Most likely to hit on Alex Balk: cvxn

Most crossover appeal: Garfield Minus Garfield

Tumblr Sweetheart: Katiebakes

Biggest flirt: SoupSoup

Best dressed: Sara Zucker

Most likely to succeed: Molly Lambert

Nicest smile: The Doree Chronicles

Best account name: thumbwrestlinginbaltimore

Worst account name: rebloggingrebloggingjulia

Gayest (and campiest) account name: Faggotry

Bitchiest, most bitchin’ Tumblr: Frangry

The Tumblr we missed the most: Ryan Adams

The Tumblr we hate to miss the most: Jakob Lodwick

Best Tumblr criticizing an Internet celebrity: Reblogging Julia

Best Tumblr criticizing Internet non-celebrities: Trainwrecks

Worst Tumblr criticizing an Internet celebrity: The Unbearable Balkness of Being

The Tumblr Queen Bee: Julia Allison

Best Supporting Tumblrs: Mary Rambin and Meghan Asha

Best In Drag: Blakeley

Best political Tumblr: Squashed

Biggest conspiracy theorists: Cajun Boy and Karion

Biggest (shortest?) Heartbreaker: Nick Douglas

Best n+1 editor with a Tumblr: Keith Gessen

Best unsolicited advice: Rules for My Unborn Son

Biggest crush (male): Mills (also winning for Biggest Hair)

Biggest crush (female): Molly Young

She reads Domino so you don’t have to: Look Mom

She reads Hipster Runoff so you don’t have to: Britticisms

Best Tumblr by a fictional person: What Would Don Draper Do?

Best Tumblr inspired by a real person: Stevie Nicks Has Never…

Begging you to un-follow them, but you won’t: Young Manhattanite

Begging you to un-follow him, and mission accomplished: Brian Van

Best Avatars:









Best niche Tumblrs: News of the Spam World, One Person Trend Stories, SpamBLR

Best poet with a Tumblr: The Septa Haiku

Best Comic Tumblrs (That Aren’t Garfield Minus Garfield): Eat Sleep Draw, Lessons In Loneliness, My Life in a Cube

The Chrissy Hynde Award for Achievement in Music Tumbling goes to Maura Johnston

The Pauline Kael Award for Achievement in Film Tumbling goes to Karina Longworth

And the George Orwell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Blogging goes to Alex Balk:

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. He is in a somewhat abusive love/hate relationship with his Tumblr account

This Recording on Tumblr:

Alex Carnevale

Molly Lambert

Danish Aziz

Tyler Coates

Will Hubbard

Brittany Julious

Tess Lynch

Yvonne Georgina Puig

Melanie Strong

Karina Wolf

Molly Young

Tumblrs We Can Never Un-Follow

It’s Bedtime


Call of the Wild


For When I Feel Like Sharing

Maria Diaz

Skeet On Mischa


Made In The Dark

White Leather Palace

Rod Townsend

Kia Matthews

Theo Is Jonesing


Rachel Kramer Bussel

Sex, Art, and Politics

hyde or die

Planet Tampon

frangry and antikris, just hanging out

Bunker Complex

News & Booze

There Goes Easy Rider



what the inside of a tumblr looks like

Up With The Mob

Blogging Via Typewriter

Alex Blagg

Muppet Pants

South Pol


“I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” – Culture Club (mp3)

“Where Is My Mind” – Nada Surf (mp3)

“Jack Killed Mom” – Jenny Lewis (mp3)

“Love Lockdown” – Kanye West (mp3)

Get this rappr a Tumblr!


Famous Lesbians in Love

We Like the Way You Move

Obsessed Times Ten

David Karp: Foundr of the Tumblrverse

In Which This Is How I Know Him

This is the second entry in our series on parents. You can find the first entry here. Now we hand it over to our contributing editor Tyler Coates.

Pictures of My Father

by Tyler Coates

The first real memory I have of my father is, like most of my “first memories,” actually something that was captured on video when I was about three years old. My father came home on his lunch break, and he walked into the house to find me screaming at my grandmother. Instead of calming me down or telling me to shut up, he instead took the opportunity to capture the moment on home video. So somewhere in my parents’ house there’s a VHS tape with clips of me stomping around my living room and screaming, “Day-day,” which was what I called him until I was about five years old.

I think that perfectly introduces the relationship I had with my dad. I always joked that my mother was The Boss. At a very young age I understood that she was the breadwinner; she worked for the Navy as a computer scientist, whereas my father was dispatched around my rural Virginia area from the local Coca-Cola bottling plant fixing drink machines and fountain units.

Northern Neck Bottling Company, Montross, Virginia

There was never a strong conflict between my parents because of their uneven salaries. I didn’t know how much they made until they co-signed on my first apartment out of college. When I say that my mother was The Boss, I mean it in the sense that she was the disciplinarian. She had a temper and very little patience for misbehavior, while my father, on the other hand, sometimes encouraged it.

Fleetwood Farm, Acorn, Virginia

My dad was born in Acorn, Virginia, which is a town only in the sense that there is a sign on the side of the road that reads “Acorn.” He was born at home, in the house that my grandmother still lives in. He was the second of three children, and he lived at home from his birth in 1950 to the year he married my mother in 1976.

My father, my uncle Andy, my grandfather, and my aunt Lynn on the Minneapolis-Moline.

My grandparents were poor, which is a knowledge I grew up with. My father didn’t tell stories about how he walked five miles to school in the snow (he only did it once – he missed the school bus and my grandfather refused to give him a ride). They didn’t have indoor plumbing until my father was seven.

My great-grandfather, my father, my uncle Andy.

Instead of complaining about his family’s poverty, he described it in the way he did about everything: with a self-deprecating joke. “When I grew up the only toys I had were a spoon and a piece of asbestos.”

There are very few pictures of my dad as a child because my grandparents could not afford a camera. The majority of the pictures we have of him as a kid are school pictures, or, in the special case below, a photograph of his visit with Santa Claus in Richmond.

My father went to the same high school as my mother (which is the same school both my brother and I attended over twenty five years later), but they were not high school sweethearts. They ran in different circles (if that is possible when your high school has about two hundred students). He was in the FFA, a football player (because, as he told me, “They let everyone who tried out on the team.”), and in two bands.

The Rambling Rebels (larger image and full caption here)

It should be noted that my father could be described as a Good Ol’ Boy – he was raised in the South and matured during the ’60s. While he missed the major action of the Civil Rights Movement (his was the last graduating class of the segregated public high school in 1970), he was certainly affected by it, as were most of his generation. My mother once admitted to me that people her age in the ’60s sported Confederate insignia and repeated the line, “The South will rise again,” but, in her words, “We didn’t really know what that meant.”

At the same time, my father loved the music of the black artists that recorded with Motown and Atlantic. He saw Aretha Franklin and the Jackson Five in concert, and even when I was a kid, I remember the sounds of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Wilson Pickett playing on the car stereo. So, while he was in a band called The Rambling Rebels and pasted the Confederate flag on his drum set, he sang in another band in 1968 called The Soul Creations.

The Soul Creations – my father is the second from left. I’m sure they sounded a lot like Spoon.

My parents went on their first date just after Christmas in 1972; my mother was a freshman in college and home for break. My father, who was four years older but one year ahead of her in school (he had been kept back two grades, she skipped one), was working his first job out of high school digging septic systems.

My parents always seemed like completely opposite people to me. My father grew up poor, my mother upper-middle-class. My paternal grandparents were uneducated farmers; my mother’s father was a lawyer who graduated from the law school at the College of William and Mary (he was a member of a group students who saved the law school from closure – the state originally wanted to have one supported law school at UVA), her mother a retired schoolteacher and housewife. Both of my maternal grandparents could trace their lineage to the First Families of Virginia. My mother, of course, was a debutante.

After four years of dating, my parents married in June 1976 and settled in the area where they – and their parents – grew up.

When speaking of the day he married my mother, my father always said it was the second happiest day of his life, the first being the day his father sold the pigs. His third happiest day was the day my (younger) brother was born in 1989; the fourth being my birthday in 1983.

I have to find some truth in the idea that your life flashes before your eyes before you die. After all, your life flashes before your eyes all of the time: memories come in and out of your head in a fluid motion. Like dreams, they don’t often follow a logical pattern, nor do they always represent what actually happened in the past. When I think of my childhood, things are hazy in the sense that I’m not entirely certain I’m remembering what actually happened to me, or if I’ve just seen those things in pictures for over twenty years.

I have the same feeling when I remember my father, who died in May of this year from pancreatic cancer. I look at pictures of him and think, “Yes, that is what he looked like.” But away from photo albums, I don’t see him at 38, when I was five years old. I can look at a picture of him in high school, or in 1978 and think, “That is my father, and that is how I knew him.”

But during the day, away from the scanned images of those old photos, the picture in my head is from three months ago: my father is 57, and he is laying in a hospital bed in my parents’ room. For the first time in his life he does not look young for his age; he is old, tired, and his wrinkled skin is loose on his face because he hasn’t eaten in two weeks.

There are, luckily, no pictures of my father from the last two months of his life.

My father and me, Christmas 2006

My father was diagnosed with cancer in February 2007. With most cases of pancreatic cancer, the diagnosis comes months, even weeks, before the patient dies. My father, on the other hand, was extremely lucky; his cancer was still in early stages, and his doctor was very confident that with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, my father’s life could be extended immensely compared to other patients. He did, however, specify to my parents that the number of patients who lived for five years without the cancer returning was very low. My father, forever the optimist, replied, “So, we do have a chance!”

August 2007

My father had an amazing personality. I can’t count the number of people who told me that he had never met a stranger, simply because he somehow managed to get along with nearly anyone. I credit his small-town upbringing; at the same time, he grew up with a notoriously unaffectionate father, which made my father completely opposite. My father would demand a hug and a kiss from my brother and me when we were fifteen, in public no less.

November 2007

My father responded well to his chemo and radiation therapy, and by the end of November 2007 he was in remission. At the same time, however, he tried to hide that he knew that his days were numbered. In August, as we crossed the bridge from the Outer Banks of North Carolina (where my parents have vacationed every year since the early years of their marriage) to the mainland, he cried and told my mother that it was the last time he’d be there.

After Christmas he unsuccessfully attempted to conceal his illness from my mother, which is difficult when you’re trying to hide feelings from a person you’ve known and spent nearly every day with for thirty-five years.

Dad went through a second round of radiation and chemo, which left him withered and tired. By the time he went into hospice care in May of this year, he had lost about 90 pounds. I flew home from Chicago for what was originally supposed to be a weekend visit, but I spent three weeks at home. I came home in time for his last few days of being aware of his surroundings, floating in and out of a morphine-induced haze.

He held on for a week and a half, which my family spent holding a vigil of sorts. There’d be hours were we sat around the rented hospital bed, crying and holding his hand, hoping for a quick release from the pain that my father’s illness was causing all of us to experience. Other times, we’d be down the hall in the living room, slamming down multiple glasses of red wine, which, like the casseroles and flowers delivered by the neighbors, were brought into the house in bulk shipments.

We prepared for my father to die, but in a way that surprisingly felt like a party rather than a somber occasion. We told stories about him and shared the memories we had. My mother and my father’s sister argued over events that took place in those stories, I listened to the familiar tales that had changed and evolved over the years.

It sounds like a cliche, of course, but it’s true to my father’s sensibility. He was a storyteller, a joker. He always had some elaborate tale to tell, and he never told the same thing twice – which, of course, was unintentional. He was plagued with a bad memory, and he couldn’t help but tell the same story over and over, but it changed each time. Fittingly, the preacher who delivered his eulogy somehow managed to mix up the stories that my mother and I provided as research. He placed me and my brother into a story of a trip to Washington, DC in the late ’70s, for example.

Growing up, I knew a lot of kids whose parents were divorced – so many, in fact, that I felt left out that mine were still together. I only knew one girl who had a parent die when she was a young age. I felt both normal (in the sense that losing a parent as a child was something that only happened in movies) and out of place (because I only had two parents, not four). Growing up, I realized that my parents had a nearly perfect marriage, despite their opposite upbringings and childhoods. I can’t imagine what it is like to be married to someone for almost 32 years (and being with that person for almost 36) and suddenly lose them.

My father left a lot behind when he died. For my brother and me, there is the enormous cache of stories and memories, both from our lifetimes and previous. I have pictures of him – a few from his childhood, even more from my parents’ life together before I was born, and a ton since then.

My mother, on the other hand, has two sons who look a lot like their father. She has the house they built together when they married. And she has my father’s final gift, which is the last metal Coca-Cola sign he built and painted for the owners of Driftwood, which was my parents’ favorite restaurant.

My father’s name, which he printed on his final sign, is just above the entrance to the restaurant. He told the owner that he did it for my mother, so that whenever she went there for dinner, she’d know he’d always be there with her.

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. He tumbls here.


“Domino” – Van Morrison (mp3)

“Respect” – Otis Redding (mp3)

“Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” – Otis Redding (mp3)

“Chain of Fools” – Aretha Franklin (mp3)

“I Thank You” – Sam & Dave (mp3)

“The Underdog” – Spoon (mp3)


Prayer in a wailing wall.

The moment was alive and lost.

Falling tragically short.

In Which All Of Our Opinions Are Right

Not-Guilty Pleasures

by Tyler Coates

I’ve gotten into two fights with friends over The Dark Knight in the last week. Basically, I was underwhelmed by the movie: it wasn’t the best thing I’d ever seen, but it wasn’t the worst thing, either. But the film has received near universal acclaim, and, in my experience in the last few days, someone who does not share the overwhelming positive reviews is branded a heretic.

I even had a friend attack me because I gave The Dark Knight and 27 Dresses the same rating (three stars) on Netflix. HOW DARE I COMPARE THE TWO?! Well, consider this: I have given five-star ratings to The Godfather, Magnolia, Fargo, and Gone with the Wind, as well as Finding Nemo, Noises Off!, Little Shop of Horrors, and Gilmore Girls: Season 2.

I want to live in Stars Hollow.

Film criticism is subjective at the literary level, so I have never said with any sort of serious tone that I know everything I’m talking about. And sure, I rip on people who like Garden State and 300 (which are pretty much on the same level of taste in my mind), but hell, I own The Best of Match Game on DVD, so can I really say who has better taste?

I’m against the idea of a “guilty” pleasure in the same sense that I don’t believe anyone can enjoy something ironically. Did you really spend six weeks growing that ‘stache simply as a goof that only you think is funny? Fuck you! I don’t waste time watching movies with Anna Faris because I think I’m hilarious – I’m doing it because I think she’s hilarious.

Will I rent The House Bunny? Absolutely.

The House Bunny was co-written by Karen McCullah Lutz, who also wrote Legally Blonde and Ten Things I Hate About You. She went to my alma mater (Go Dukes!) and co-wrote one of the funniest movies I have ever seen: She’s the Man.

She’s the Man has four big things going for it. There’s Amanda Bynes, who is hilarious (and creepily passes as a boy). And Julie Hagerty plays her mom! And David Cross plays the school principal! And it has a mustache montage!

Dear YouTube Gods: please have someone with a She’s the Man DVD and iMovie upload the mustache montage on the Internets. KTHXBAI.

She’s the Man also serves as a hilarious spoof of teen movies based on Shakespeare plays. This one takes its inspiration from Twelfth Night, one of his top comedies, and takes it as literal as it can: even the high school is named for the village in which the play is set.

OMG it’s FUNNY because she’s a GIRL but she’s NOT DEMURE like a LADY should be!!

I once recommended this movie to a guy, who scoffed at my tastes. And HE included Girls Just Want to Have Fun as one of his favorite movies on his MySpace profile.

You want to know another film that starred an Arrested Development cast member who managed to steal every scene and made a trite romantic comedy actually watchable? Why, the aforementioned three-star epic 27 Dresses, co-starring the delightful Judy Greer!

In 27 Dresses, Judy Greer plays the best friend of Katherine Heigl’s plain Jane. Is it more obnoxious to see a movie with a hot blonde who just can’t make it happen with men, or to see an actress you think is talented and funny resort to playing the sidekick to the boring star? At least Judy got the better jokes, even if she didn’t end up happy with a boyfriend in the end.

While writing all of this I came to a realization that I really like movies about attractive women like Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Lopez who FOR SOME REASON can’t seem to find a husband. Where is this fantasy land, and why does Carrie Fisher always show up?

Carrie Fisher: Everywoman’s best friend, particularly Nora Ephron.

Hey! I know what you’re thinking. “Why does Tyler seem to focus only on movies targeted generally to women?” Well, to that I say: I like dumb cock-rock movies as well! Take, for example, the oevure of Will Ferrell.

Anchorman was a great stupid-but-funny movie that I can still enjoy after several viewings. It helps that it takes place in the 70s and I have an affinity for very wide plaid ties (I do love Match Game, after all). And it’s a dude’s movie, but I think we all agree that this girl owes her entire career to this film:

And when I’m not laughing along to cheesy jokes, I’m laughing along to cheesy melodrama.

Critics have called Valley of the Dolls one of the worst movies ever made. The acting is fairly atrocious, and the writing not much better, but it’s one of the quintessential late ’60s Hollywood films, one that surprisingly flirted with taboos and the counterculture. It has one of my favorite lines: “Ted Casablanca is not a fag!” (Duh, he totally is!) And the theme song, sung by Dionne Warwick, has the greatest title.

“Theme from ‘Valley of the Dolls'” – Dionne Warwick (mp3)

I’d even recommend the novel by Jacqueline Susann, which goes further than the film by including blow jobs and lesbians. (Those who like meatier subjects can go straight to Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead is basically Valley of the Dolls, only with architecture instead of Broadway and S&M instead of lesbianism. Oh, and that whole Objectivism thing.)

Ayn Rand in a funny little hat.

Roger Ebert and Russ Meyer one-upped the makers of the original by creating their own wacky, sort-of sequel / sort-of remake Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. It’s as if Ebert and Meyer said to America, “You want lesbians? Why, we’ll give you lesbians!”

Meyer and Ebert heart boobz.

Like any good Russ Meyer film, this one is all jump-cuts and boobies. It’s a bigger cult classic than its predecessor, with more speed, more sex, and even an awesome beheading!

While the original Valley of the Dolls focused primarily on the Broadway world, this one takes place amid the music industry of the early ’70s, which means it has equally and awesomely terrible music. And yes, I do have the soundtrack.

“Find It” – The Carrie Nations (mp3)

“Look On Up At The Bottom” – The Carrie Nations (mp3)

“Sweet Talkin’ Candy Man” – The Carrie Nations (mp3)

“In The Long Run” – The Carrie Nations (mp3)

Read fourfour’s exhaustive appreciation of BVD here.

Oh man, and don’t even get me started on movie musicals:

But even I have standards, and I will not be seeing Mamma Mia!

Finally, here’s something I’m not afraid to admit: I love movies where Southern women sit around and talk. I dunno, I guess it just reminds me of the comfort of home and the parts of my childhood that weren’t so awkward. So, naturally, Steel Magnolias is pretty much the best movie ever.

Well, OK, maybe not the best movie ever. That might have to go to Coal Miner’s Daughter, which I watched daily for two weeks until I had developed a Butcher Holler twang.

Stop makin’ that noise, Doo! You sound like a big ol’ beaaarrr growlin’!

Can a movie that garnered critical acclaim and an Oscar for its lead actress be considered a guilty pleasure? Well, I know if I told people that one of my top ten movies was the Loretta Lynn biopic starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, they might give me some shit. But, like most movies, it’s worth a viewing; it’s well made, absolutely endearing, and hilarious.

But really, the truth of the matter is that one shouldn’t have to defend his or her movie tastes. People like what they like and, contrary to some people out there, it’s unfair to base someone’s entire personality around what shitty movies they like.

Honestly, I’m more suspect of people who are ashamed of secretly liking The Truth About Cats & Dogs than those who can say with a straight face, “Yeah, I like that movie where the dog pulls Janeane Garofalo around on roller skates. What of it?”

Own your opinions! If you stand your ground, you’re more likely to sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor of This Recording. You can read more of his writing on his blog and his Tumblr.


“Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Sissy Spacek (mp3)

“Honky Tonk Girl” – Sissy Spacek (mp3)

“You’re Lookin’ At Country” – Sissy Spacek (mp3)

“You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man” – Sissy Spacek (mp3)


Movies we were anticipating.

Six movies that stuck to Andy.

Take away all our sadness.

In Which Tyler Slums It At The Pitchfork Music Festival

The View from Lazytown: Pitchfork 2008

by Tyler Coates

Every July, my friends and I gather up blankets (and, in the case of this year’s rain forecast, tarps), shove bottles of vodka in hidden regions of our backpacks, and congregate under the shade in Chicago’s Union Park for the Pitchfork Music Festival.

When I attended the festival’s inaugural weekend in 2006, I made the mistake of standing in the crowds, trying to push my way to the stages to check out my favorite bands of the year (anybody remember Art Brut?). In the two years since I realized that all-day outdoor music festivals are much more fun when you’re laying on a blanket and eating contraband Triscuits.

What follows is one man’s recap of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival.


I missed the Friday night shows (Mission of Burma, Sebadoh, and Public Enemy playing their seminal albums for the All Tomorrow’s Parties: Don’t Look Back showcase) because of general lack of interest. A similar go-with-the-flow attitude (and shitty weather) meant that I didn’t make it down to the park until 3:30ish on Saturday, in the middle of the Fleet Foxes‘ set.

“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes (mp3)

“Blue Ridge Mountains” – Fleet Foxes (mp3)

I just started listening to Fleet Foxes about two weeks ago (I downloaded albums by several bands on the lineup to prepare myself for the weekend), and they sounded pretty excellent live, even from the opposite end of the park. In what became a typical practice for the rest of the weekend, I did not feel the need to venture over to the stage; instead, I plopped down with friends in the northwest corner of the park, which we called Lazytown.

The view from Lazytown, as seen through BeerCam.

During the Dizzee Rascal show, I headed over to the beer tents (libations were provided by Goose Island Brewery, a Chicago favorite) and the Flatstock 17 poster convention (where I bought two beautiful Magnolia Electric Co. screen prints).

Courtesy of a very hot man at the Doublenaut booth.

I passed by the Balance stage on the way back to Lazytown and caught about two minutes of Elf Power, who sounded very good but ultimately not enough to inspire me to wade through a throng of muddy people in the back corner of the park.

Elf Power

Vampire Weekend performed, which was the best time to get food because the strip of pavement was completely empty, enabling me to jump right up and order corn on the cob without waiting in line. The band was very much in its element; it was sunny and generally warm – the perfect atmosphere for Vampire Weekend’s pleasant Afro-pop. I did wonder, however, if those guys felt rather weird that there were actual African bands on the Pitchfork lineup.

After their set I ran into a friend who appropriately described their show: “Well, at least they didn’t play their all of their songs in album-order…”

The Hold Steady played, and my friend Mindy agreed that we just don’t get it. I mean, we get it – we understand the shtick, but I’d much rather listen to a Bachman Turner Overdrive cover band instead of a Pitchfork-approved group of sweaty drunk guys who listen to a lot of Bachman Turner Overdrive. I mean, they sound fine at an outdoor festival, but I feel like they belong at a chili cookoff instead of Pitchfork.

The Hold Steady

The two musical standouts I did actually sit and listen to were Jarvis Cocker and Animal Collective. The Pulp front man was quite the charmer; between selections from his recent self-titled album, delivered in an absolutely fun and unpretentious style, he educated the audience with facts about our fair city, which he pulled from Wikipedia (where everything is fact).

“Black Magic” – Jarvis Cocker (mp3)

“Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” – Jarvis Cocker (mp3)

“Common People” – Pulp (mp3) (Sadly, Jarvis did not play the Pulp standard at P4K.)

Animal Collective, the headliner of the evening, put on a fantastic show of blaring lights and sound (there’s a reason why I never write about music). They’ve always been band I’ve wanted to see live, even though I only have one of their albums and have never considered myself a big fan. They did not disappoint, even from across the field in Lazytown.

“Grass” – Animal Collective (mp3)

“Did You See The Words” – Animal Collective (mp3)

A group of us left about thirty five minutes into Animal Collective to beat the crowd (because, honestly, beating the crowd is my mantra of any outdoor music festival). We walked a few blocks north to Sonotheque for a Venus Zine afterparty, sponsored by Sparks (who else?!). Sonotheque is the type of place where people put a lot of effort into their appearance, apparently do a little blow in the bathroom (and occasionally sell “beats”), and stare at the sad sacks like my friends and me who arrived wearing shorts and carrying backpacks full of flyers and blankets. But isn’t the spirit of Pitchfork all about ridiculing what other people are wearing?


Even though Vampire Weekend, who pulled in a lot of alt-bros (as Hipster Runoff would describe them), was a major draw on Saturday, Sunday was almost universally hailed as The Day to attend Pitchfork because of the presence of Cut Copy, Dinosaur Jr., and Spoon on the lineup. The weather was much prettier, so it seemed like the park was overflowing with people who seemed to let Saturday’s chances of rain scare them away.

I got to the park right before Les Savy Fav took the stage; I had never seen them before but remember them playing the annual music conference my college radio station hosted in the Spring, and I had heard good things about their live shows. I was immediately unimpressed and this is why:

I just want to take this opportunity, if I may (and I feel like Alex would love this), to start an online feud with Tim Harrington. I think I could listen to Les Savy Fav if I didn’t have to see him prancing around in spandex and spitting into the audience (which made me think of Lindsay and Sam Weir’s father’s immortal words: “Elvis never expectorated on his fans!”), but it was difficult to get the image of him out of my head.

And how do I know that Tim Harrington will accept my feud? Because he also did this at Pitchfork:

I call you out, Tim Harrington!

Also, I saw this happening:

In case you can’t tell, that guy is reading Stuff White People Like: The Novelization AT Pitchfork. I can’t even provide a punchline because the image alone hurts my brain.

The absolute highlight of Sunday’s festivities was – surprise! – not the music, but this lady:

Her name is Joan Hiller, and for a dollar she would draw a picture of your favorite animal eating your favorite snack. In this picture, she is drawing a giraffe eating a watermelon for John:

And for me, a deer eating a slice of pepperoni pizza (New York style, obvs.):

My friends and I really lost our shit over this idea. Other pictures included a dragon eating Cheetos, a schnauzer eating coleslaw, an owl eating an ice cream sandwich, and a manatee eating nachos. But Leah had the best one:

I suppose I should talk a little bit about the music highlights of the day as well.

M. Ward put on a generally pleasant show, despite the total absense of everyone’s favorite indie film star cum indie music chanteuse, Zooey Deschanel (sorry, ScarJo – it’s the bangs).

She and Him. Just him.

“Poison Cup” – M. Ward (mp3)

“Chinese Translation” – M. Ward (mp3)

“Eyes on the Prize” – M. Ward (mp3)

After a lovely set by Spiritualized (I had forgotten that I liked Spiritualized in college and haven’t really listened to them lately), I headed to the Balance stage in the back of the park in hopes to see Cut Copy. I actually was looking forward to Cut Copy, which explains why they are the only band I made the effort to stand up and see. We weaved through the crowd listening to Bon Iver, who was lulling everyone into a generally sedate mood in preparation for the more upbeat Cut Copy. (Granted, they did play a Talk Talk cover.)

Bon Iver

“Lump Sum” – Bon Iver (mp3)

“The Wolves (Act I and II)” – Bon Iver (mp3)

Bon Iver wasn’t bad, but they definitely didn’t seem appropriately placed before a band like Cut Copy. That’s the biggest problem with Pitchfork: the diverse lineup is great, but it makes for very awkward transitions between acts. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon did get on my nerves a bit, though, demanding the couple hundred people standing below him to sing along in the second half of an “epic song.”

Cut Copy was to take the stage five minutes after Bon Iver’s last song, and considering the festival’s adherence to the schedule, I was surprised when we had to stand there for up to thirty minutes. After finally getting tired and saying, “Okay, Cut Copy plays three songs and we get out of here,” I see a creepily skinny guy take the stage. Thinking it’s a member of the band, I got pretty excited; then I realized it was just Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound / Deerhunter, who announced that Cut Copy was “stuck at the airport” and he and his buddies were going to make some shit up for entertainment.

Cut Copy: Epic Fail

“Lights and Music” – Cut Copy (mp3)

“Hearts on Fire” – Cut Copy (mp3)

I was very tired and hot, and did not want to listen to a collection of indie rockers make up music just in case Cut Copy showed up (which they eventually did). I returned to Lazytown feeling fairly dejected, and the sounds of Spoon carried across the field, barely lifting my spirits.

“The Ghost of You Lingers” – Spoon (mp3)

“I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon (mp3)

“Jonathon Fisk” – Spoon (mp3)

It was a fun weekend, all and all, but one that was muggy, hot, crowded, and exhausting. I think it’s safe to say that I don’t really want to listen to music right now – maybe I’ll wait until next July.

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. He likes music, but prefers to listen to it indoors. You can read more of his writing on his blog and his Tumblr.


Pitchfork Music Festival Official Site

Pitchfork Media: Day One, Day Two, Day Three

Chicagoist: Day One, Day Two, Day Three

Venus Zine: Day One, Day Two, Day Three

Gapers Block


We were sort of concerned you’d be drowned within our sea.

We went to see Emily Haines.

We saluted Camille Paglia.