In Which We Black Out The Capitol Lights

Today we welcome our new music editor, Janice Levens. Ms. Levens is a poet and musician living in Los Angeles. She is writing under a pseudonym for reasons that will become clear as soon as 2018. Her reviews will appear every Tuesday until she is suspended from This Recording for social media-related reasons.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.00.29 PM

photograph by Shane McCauley

Flyover State

by JANICE LEVENS

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 8.59.19 PMCry, Cry, Cry
Wolf Parade
Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug, Dante DeCaro & Arlen Thompson
producer John Goodmanson
October 6th on Sub Pop

The voices of Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug sound a lot alike. When we last left Wolf Parade they were fresh off 2010’s astonishing Expo 86, a sterling return to form after 2008’s half-hearted At Mount Zoomer. The best tracks on Expo 86, like “In the Direction of the Moon” and “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)” were written by Krug, and this trend continues on Cry Cry Cry, a tightly woven studio album by this four-piece of artists who still struggle to reach a cohesive compromise in sound.

Much of Cry Cry Cry was written on Vancouver Island, the warmest part of Canada. Fittingly then, much previous angst has been wrung out of Krug and Boeckner. The man who wrote and performed “I’ll Believe in Anything” on Apologies to the Queen Mary only peeks out from behind the gauze in tracks like the echoing ballad “Am I An Alien Here”, when Krug pretends at being depressed: “Happiness is easy, it’s a story that you tell.” You know he is lying because only a few stanzas later he is complaining about David Bowie being dead.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.00.53 PM

photograph by Shane McCauley

Boeckner is somewhat depressed about the U.S. president, but for the most part he seems a lot happier with his first marriage in the rear view mirror. His other project is Operators, and the tracks he produced with Devojka, Sam Brown, and Dustin Hawthorne – free of Krug’s trademark inflections and orchestral effects – seemed a fresh and exciting on 2016’s eclectic Blue Wave.

In Wolf Parade, it is Boeckner who adapts to Krug’s style, and while it is a decent echo of Spencer’s darker use of synthesizers and guitar, his compositions never approach the highs of “Baby Blue.” Still, he gets close on “Flies on the Sun”, because any credible reflection of Spencer Krug is pretty much like looking at God in a puddle. And to be completely fair, he is a far better live singer than Krug and his voice is substantially improved from when Wolf Parade originally formed.

Despite his experimentation with his solo-ish project Moonface, Krug’s songwriting retains a morbid core, like apples that differ only in color and taste. Even Krug’s more frivolous songs like “Valley Boy” still touch on the vague sadness that is the inevitable consequence of interacting with people he does not respect. As usual, Krug’s lyrics manage to come across as devastating and sincere even when they approach the absurd, as they do on “Lazarus Online” when he suggests, “Let’s rage against the light.” It is meant to be hokey – “like getting punched in the heart” – but it is still weaker than anything you would find on 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, a masterpiece that included the best selections of Krug’s early work.

On “You’re Dreaming” Krug sings, “Never mind the time/I’m up all night with the century ghosts/They don’t have a mind/They would never think of leaving/And we’re dreaming.” You see, once you achieve your dream, as Krug has with his considerable, deserved success, all you can actually do from then on out is imagine what it would be like if that dream had never come true. Krug explains it would be “just like life,” except not. “Scenes of shattered glass, all your systems in collapse.” Krug, we can infer, is waiting for some future tragedy to arrive so that he can become beautiful again. Cry Cry Cry, then, is like a self-contained snow globe of potential sorrow, one that can only come true by being shattered in retrospect.

gameprocomplete1

Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.21.39 PM.jpg

 

Advertisements

In Which There Remain Monsters Among Our People

time to move on
Steak For Dinner

by ALEX CARNEVALE

I always make the same film, again and again.

It is fairly easy to be disgusted by the rollicking, painful life of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. No one could reasonably believe he was not culpable for his many crimes, even the ones he committed as a child. It is in fact difficult to believe he ever was a child.

He hated everything about his life then, and resolved to change it completely. There is something very brave in all Rainer did, even his cruelty. He proved that being bold could succeed on the force of its own enthusiasm.

He fled boarding schools, his parents — anything to avoid supervision. His father was a doctor who treated prostitutes, Fassbinder’s first friends. His ghastly mother confided her dreams to him, fantasies in which she married her young son. So in that sense, what did he have to work with, really? But no man is less explicable by his childhood than Fassbinder, except perhaps de Sade.

There is the story of the man who was forced to eat his fellow sailors after a shipwreck. He hid food away in his attic for the rest of his life. Rainer did the same thing but with money, stacking his entire salary on the bed of his hotel room during the shooting of his last film, Querelle.

all the tears have gone by

This is making him seem sympathetic. He cannot be, no more than a demon could become an angel. What happened in the country of Germany after the Third Reich remains unclear to most outsiders. In any case, it is probably still happening.

Rainer’s life could not help but be a reaction to what occurred there. His bisexuality opened him to an entire coterie of foreigners, disenfranchised men and women who were as strange to the natives as himself. Women were the particular victims of his love/torture combination; many of them suffered merely by his presence.

It is fair to say Rainer attracted masochists, but that cannot be the entire reason for how he subjected his partners to abject horror. He was never an attractive man, but from the first moments he entered acting school, Rainer’s charisma was explosive. Both men and women coveted the approval that came through his obsessive, unrelenting nature. In this fashion, he won people over; this dogged persona converted even his staunchest enemies to his corner. Then again, they may have only been relieved to escape his wrath.

may not have been married

His first defining sexual relationship was with the actress Irm Hermann. Thinking he would marry her, she opened herself to him completely, moving in with Rainer and his boyfriend. Her acting jobs paid their rent. Rainer never let her make a single move without his knowledge, berating the woman he claimed to love almost incessantly. Many years later he said that Irm “finds her identity or her pleasure only in suffering, in being oppressed.” It was sadism made all the more disturbing by the fact that some part of his allegation may have been true.

He beat her continuously, first in her own squalid apartment, then in public. On occasion the violence occurred in front of their friends. He repeatedly suggested that she should kill herself. Eventually she tried, taking forty soma. When Rainer found her unconscious, he believed her to be faking and struck her again. What else could he have done?

Once he told her at dinner in a restaurant that for each steak she ate, she earned a fuck. The meat repelled her, she could not keep down even one. This cause Rainer to remark coldly, “I said, eat it, not puke it up. If you want a fuck, you’ve got to keep the meat inside you.” Irm represented only his first major cruelty. Irm’s beatings were merely practice. When he dumped her, he made her give him all the money she had.

Irm eventually named her child by another man what Fassbinder asked her to in a telegram. Have you judged him yet?

In Paris Fassbinder sold himself to men from within the confines of a popular sauna. He wrote off all this sordid behavior as a context for art. One of the most disturbing aspects (but truly not the most disturbing) was that those who surrounded him were more fascinated than horrified, more excited than aghast. During a dinner party on the set of Querelle, he and his guests used the company’s black member as an ashtray.

He succeeded partly on this tightrope, but also on the merits of his art. He may have been a tyrant, but it was quite obvious he was the most exciting young director in Germany.

goodbye goodbye

Once he wore out his welcome in the theater, he moved to film. It suited him far better. Fueled by the rejection of the major German film academy, he eclipsed the output of all his peers in a relentless orgy of filmmaking.

It is true that his first films were not very good on either a technical or storytelling level. At the time, though, standing out did not require those virtues. Simple looking at screenshots from his films is enough to understand why they were more titillating than any pornography, more violent than seemed possible in a scarred, censorious German society. Fassbinder’s films show caricatures without seeming unreal.

In 1973 Rainer took over a theater in Frankfurt. He ran it into the ground in short order. Allegations of anti-Semitism, perhaps unfounded, dogged his last production, and his reckless temperament was on full display. This experience murdered the theater for him, forcing Rainer to admit that on some level he remained too unreliable for a medium that demanded the same show every night.

He might accomplish something once and preserve it forever on film. He had zero chance of making a habit of any virtue.

On set, his manner had the same impatience as his off-set mien. He eschewed repeated takes, giving his actors something to be thankful for, given that the abuse suffered at his hands was partly mitigated by immediate satisfaction of the result.

He told his actors, “Everything I examine I have somehow or other, also to rework, in order to have the feeling I’ve experienced it.” It was the closest he could come to an apology for who he was. What a roundabout way of describing a total lack of self-control. A peaceful thought in the hands of a saint, a frightening one in the hands of the devil.

Men held the greater attraction for Rainer over time. They could plausibly fight back, and he loved that resistance, the ebbing away of his considerable power over others. Having more than one person dependent on him was part of the fun, he sometimes encouraged his male lovers to cut off the hair of his girlfriends.

ineed you now tonight looking

His relationship with the Moroccan actor El Hedi ben Salem ended after the man completed his amateur performance as Ali in Fear Eats the Soul. Salem loved Rainer desperately, but the director was not as enamored with Salem’s children, considering them an unnecessary complication. Eventually, when the film’s production concluded, Rainer cut him off without a word.

Contemplating revenge, Salem drank himself in a stupor and he stabbed three others with a kitchen knife. On the run, he reached out to his ex. Rainer refused him completely, and Salem hung himself in a French prison cell. It was a familiar tune for Rainer; these sorts of stories followed him.

Rainer’s next target was Armin Meier. Meier was fairly gorgeous, the actual product of Nazi experiments in perfection. Rainer found him working in a butcher shop, and considered him basically a plebian orifice. He was not entirely happy with Armin’s lack of sophistication, but the boy was beautiful.

Meier killed himself eventually too, just from Rainer’s abuse, but not before Rainer turned him into a cocaine addict. Meier loved the happy drug, but Rainer wasn’t satisfied with the high it provided. He drank bourbon out of a beer stein constantly as he was working, and cycled pharmaceuticals according to his mood. The illiterate Meier killed himself on Rainer’s birthday; it was a feeble revenge, but a revenge it was.

dlivereiriejriejr.jpg

He married one of his actresses, Ingrid Caven, half to see what it was like, half as cover for his homosexual needs. Fondly recalling her husband’s proposal, Caven once said, “He’d always go to the men’s public toilets for sex and then we’d go out on the town.”

In the 1970s, cocaine took over Rainer’s life completely. He would plan the locations in his films based on their convenience to his drug suppliers. He not only sampled the drug constantly, but had to ensure that all those around him were likewise in its thrall. He particularly foisted it upon his actors, claiming at great length that it would improve their performances. This had two positive consequences from Rainer’s perspective: his actors would become increasingly indebted to and intoxicated by him, and they would struggle to find other jobs because of their addiction.

He enjoyed making his stars ugly with makeup. His favorites he allowed to keep their natural beauty, but everyone else had to come down to his level. In most ways, Rainer was amazingly perceptive of his own ugliness. He looks like a blob among his fitter gay friends; his profile looking more natural with women, made less repellent by proximity to their beauty.

He began mimicking de Sade openly in shooting his 1976 film Satan’s Brew. The drugs consumed him entirely. As he spiralled towards his death throes in his final years, he would sleep for only three hours during the night, eat like a horse, manage two bottles of bourbon per day, top that off with several Bloody Marys, a coterie of joints or hash brownies, and put himself down with a sleeping pill called Mandrax, a quaalude you could mix in a pipe with weed or hash. Rainer loved showing his friends just how much he could consume, the vast quantities of uppers and downers it required to even let him sleep those three hours. He was a mess.

at the funeral

On June 10th, 1982, his girlfriend Juliane Lorenz found him lying dead on his bed with a cigarette in his mouth. A policeman told reporters, “Even Fassbinder’s just a man.” The funeral proved otherwise — who can really tell if those in attendance were sad, disgusted, or just envious of the rain?

Ms. Lorenz has taken up the legacy of the man she found dead in her bed. It’s macabre but necessary; even a demon deserves a lawyer. Do not envy her the task: it’s impossible to hide all the terrible things about Rainer. They just keep coming out, even from those who loved him. His ex-wife described the scene of his death, mere days before Rainer’s passing: “The room was utterly disgusting. It was a pigsty. It was so dreadful. Ashtrays, cigarette ash and old newspapers everywhere. Whiskey bottles, everything you could imagine lying around. It stunk, and his bed was so filthy that I didn’t want to sit down on it, it was that bad. He was as possessive as ever.”

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

rainer hilarious.jpg

In Which We Have Killed Before Long Ago

Canadian Noose

by ELEANOR MORROW

Alias Grace
creators Sarah Polley and Mary Harron
CBC/Netflix

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.09 PMI have searched, sometimes in vain, sometimes pleasurably, for what Sarah Polley likes about Margaret Atwood’s novel about the 1843 murders of two Canadians. Alias Grace, a miniseries in six parts, opens with the languorous voiceover of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), who explains with a monologue virtually identical to that found in The Handmaid’s Tale, about why she is a rotten woman. At first you do not believe her verbal tale of self-immolation, but then the sheer amount of time she spends denigrating herself wins out. She is a bad gal, so what does that make everyone else in her world?

A local reverend (David Cronenberg) wants Grace freed from her lengthy stay in prison as a result of a murder conviction, so he invokes the presence of an alienist named Dr. Jordan (Edward Holcroft). His plan of treatment initially frightens Grace, since she has grown used to various quacks scanning her brain with primitive metal rods. Alias Grace never becomes very exciting. It is mostly just sad, but halfway through you surmise that it is intended to be like this.

In this central role, Gadon has her ups and downs. Overall, her performance is understated and at times rather sleepily. Mary Harron (American Psycho) always directs her actors in this fashion, and it would probably work in this period context if almost every other character did not project the same sleepy egoism.

The exception to the rule is Mary (the stunning Canadian actress Rebecca Liddiard), a servant at a bourgeois Canadian manor where Grace finds work. Her entrance about halfway through the miniseries’ first installment is a shotgun blast of energy to this dreary milieu.

Not helping matters is the frame story, which places all of Alias Grace in flashback. Similar to how The Handmaid’s Tale at times felt held back by its extensive exposition, Alias Grace struggles to decide whether its present or past is more vital. Ironically, this is the very test that every historical depiction must surmount. Instead of making us feel like this 19th century tale has something fresh to say about the present, (and at times it does), I was fixated on how everyone here seems absolutely miserable in the past.

Visually, Alias Grace is an absolute feast for the eyes. Harron’s eye for how the right set conveys the meaning of a particular scene is surpassed in her industry only by Jane Campion and Guillermo Del Toro, and she dives into as much compositional depth as Del Toro does at his height.

Within Atwood’s massive oeuvre, Alias Grace never approaches the wild highs of her best fantasies. To be fair, it is not meant to. Still, I feel her more rambunctious, silly work tends to match our current period better. I wish Polley would work on Oryx & Crake, her undisputed masterpiece, or some of her more recent sex satires. Polley is such a strong writer that you stick with Alias Grace long after the characters seem to solidify into granite.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


 

In Which It Remains Nice Of You To Phone Us

dashiell on the flooo

Black Mask

Winter’s still hanging around like somebody you owe money, thought it gets in most of its dirty work at night and we usually manage to pick up a few days of sunshine – that rarity – sometime almost every day. You understand, this here sunshine is not exactly hot enough to scalp you always, but it’s still sunshine, and we are in no position to be finical about it. We take what we can get of it when we can get it and are glad in our groaning, snarling way.

The letters of the American writer Dashiell Hammett are unexpectedly vulnerable, except when he is doing the one thing he felt confident about: discussing how exactly one should go about writing detective stories. In the 1920s he lived in San Francisco and wrote for the fledgling magazine Black Mask. His notes on his stories to the editors of the publication survive long after he himself is gone. They reveal a single-minded individual concerned with the manifold possibilities of what the genre has to offer.

hammett dashiell

June 15 1923

Letter to the Editor of Black Mask

I have been out of town for a couple weeks — I have to go up to the hills to see some real snow at least once each winter — which is why I haven’t answered your letter before this.

About the story: None of the characters is real in a literal sense, though I doubt that it would be possible to build a character without putting into at least something of someone the writer has known. The plot, however, is closer to earth. In the years during which I tried my hand at “private detecting” I ran across several cases where the “friend” called in to dispose of a blackmailer either went into partnership with him or took over his business after getting him out of the way. And I know of at least one case where a blackmailer was disposed of just as “Inch” disposed of “Bush.”

I like Rose’s cover on the February 15th issue!

Sincerely,

S.D. Hammett

in for the teouchown

October 15 1923

Letter to the Editor of Black Mask

Since writing “Slippery Fingers,” I have read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle wherein August Vollmer, chief of police of Berkeley, California, and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, is quoted as saying that although it is possible successfully to transfer actual fingerprints from one place to another it is not possible to forge them — “Close inspection of any forged fingerprint will soon cause detection.”

It may be that what Farr does in my story would be considered by Mr. Vollmer a transference rather than a forgery. But whichever it is, I think there is no longer reasonable room for doubt that fingerprints can be successfully forged. I have seen forged prints that to me seemed perfect, but not being even an amateur in that line, my opinion isn’t worth much. I think, however, that quite a number of those qualified to speak on the subject will agree with me that it can be, and has been, done.

In the second Arbuckle trial, if my memory is correct, the defense introduced an expert from Los Angeles who testified that he had deceived an assembly of his colleagues with forged prints.

The method used in my story was not selected because it was the best, but because it was the simplest with which I was acquainted and the most easily described. Successful experiments were made with it by the experts at Leavenworth federal prison.

Sincerely,

S.D. Hammett

the dashiell hammetttt

January 1 1924

Letter to the Editor of Black Mask

Thanks for the check for “The Tenth Clew.”

And I want to plead guilty to a bit of cowardice in connection with the story. The original of Creda Dexter didn’t resemble a kitten at all. She looked exactly like a bull-pup! Believe it or not, she looked exactly like a young white-faced bull-pup — and she was pretty in the bargain!

Except for her eyes, I never succeeded in determining just what was responsible for the resemblance, but it was a very real one.

When, however, it came to actually putting her down on paper, my nerve failed me. “Nobody will believe you if you write a thing like that,” I told myself, “They’ll think you’re trying to spoof them.” So, for the sake of plausibility, I lied about her.

Sincerely,

Dashiell Hammett

this writing fellow

In a story titled “Zigzags of Treachery”, Hammett noted, “There are four rules for shadowing: Keep behind your subject as much as possible; never try to hide from him; act in a natural manner no matter what happens and never meet his eye.”

March 1 1924

Letter to the Editor of Black Mask

I’ll have another story riding your way in a day or two: one for the customers that don’t like their sleuths to do too much brain-work.

The four rules for shadowing that I gave in “Zigzags” are the first and last words on the subject. There are no other tricks to learn. Follow them, and once you get the hang of it, shadowing is the easiest of detective work, except, perhaps, to an extremely nervous maqn. You simply saunter along somewhere within sight of your subject, and, barring bad breaks, the only thing that can make you lose him is anxiety on your own part.

Even a clever criminal may be shadowed for weeks without suspecting it. I know one operative who shadowed a forger — a wily old hand — for more than three months without arousing his suspicion. I myself trailed one for six weeks, riding trains and making half a dozen small towns with him; and I’m not exactly inconspicuous — standing an inch or so over six feet.

Another thing: a detective may shadow a man for days and in the end have but the haziest ideas of the man’s features. Tricks of carriage, ways of wearing clothes, general outline, individual mannerisms – all as seen from the rear – are much more important to the shadow than faces. They can be recognized at a greater distance, and do not necessitate his getting in front of his subject at any time.

Back — and it’s only a couple years back — in the days before I decided there was more fun in writing about manhunting than in that hunting, I wasn’t especially fond of shadowing, though I had plenty of it to do. But I worked under one superintendent who needed only the flimsiest of excuses to desert his desk and get out on the street behind some suspect.

Sincerely,

Dashiell Hammett

come down crwod

August 16th 1924

Letter to the Editor of Black Mask

I don’t like that “tragedy in one act” at all; it’s too damned true-to-life. The theater, to amuse me, must be a bit artificial.

I don’t think I shall send “Women, Politics, and Murder” back to you — not in time for the July issue anyway. The trouble is this sleuth of mine has degenerated into a meal-ticket. I liked him at first and used to enjoy putting him through his tricks; but recently I’ve fallen into the habit of bringing him out and running him around whenever the landlord, or the butcher, or the grocer shows signs of nervousness.

There are men who can write like that, but I am not one of them. If I stick to the stuff that I want to write — the stuff I enjoy writing — I can make of a go of it, but when I try to grind out a yarn because there is a market for it, I flop.

Whenever, from now on, I get hold of a story that fits my sleuth, I shall put him to work, but I’m through with trying to run him on a schedule.

Possible I could patch up the “The Question’s One Answer” and “Women, Politics and Murder” enough to get by with them, but my frank opinion of them is that neither is worth the trouble. I have a liking for honest work, and honest work as I see it is work that is done for the worker’s enjoyment as much for the profit it will bring him. And henceforth that’s my work.

I want to thank both you and Mr. Cody for jolting me into wakefulness. There’s no telling how much good this will do me. And you may be sure that whenever you get a story from me hereafter, — frequently, I hope, — it will be one that I enjoyed writing.

Dashiell Hammett

black maskakssk

November 3, 1924

Letter to the Editor of Black Mask

I was born in Maryland, between the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, on May 27, 1894, and was raised in Baltimore.

After a fraction of a year in high school — Baltimore Polytechnic Institute — I became the unsatisfactory and unsatisfied employee of various railroads, stock brokers, machine manufacturers, canners and the like. Usually I was fired.

An enigmatic want-ad took me into the employ of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, and I stuck at that until early in 1922, when I chucked it to see what I could do with fiction writing.

In between, I spent an uneventful while in the army during the war, becoming a sergeant; and acquired a wife and daughter.

For the rest, I am long and lean and grayheaded, and very lazy. I have absolutely no ambition at all in the usual sense of the word; like to live as nearly as possible in the center of large cities, and have no recreations or hobbies.

Dashiell Hammett

Harry Block was one of Hammett’s editors at Knopf.

July 14 1929

Dear Mr. Block,

I’m glad you like The Maltese Falcon. I’m sorry you think the to-bed and the homosexual parts of it should be changed. I should like to leave them as they are, especially since you say they “would be all right perhaps in an ordinary novel.” It seems to me that the only thing that can be said against their use in a detective novel is that nobody has tried it yet. I’d like to try it.

Dashiell Hammett

the start of potential

 

 

In Which We Forget An Important Ingredient

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

Hi,

My friend Davia broke up with her last boyfriend over two years ago. (He cheated on her with prostitutes.) Since then, she has compared every new possible mate with him, and usually found the new prospect unfavorable. She finds the littlest things to fixate on in order to dismiss me — they don’t text her enough, they text her too much, they use emojis, she doesn’t like their smell (ok that’s possibly valid). Often she says she they don’t share the same values, although I am a loss as to what that means since Davia doesn’t seem to have extraordinary values, and I say that as a friend. She is a good person though, and I want her to find happiness. Is there any way I can snap her out of this funk?

Ellen C.

Hiqfo2C

Ellen,

Often men and women will think of reasons to reject potential mates that don’t necessarily strike at the core of why they are not pursuing the relationship. The fact that it has been two years of this on Davia’s part, however, indicates a greater problem. It is not simply that she is not finding anyone that she likes well enough to get serious, it is that she is in no position to have a committed relationship with someone to begin with.

For some people, cheating is a deeply troubling act that strikes at the core of how they value themselves and the opposite sex. This might come across as sexist, but I’m going to say it anyway. The reasons men cheat are sometimes, but not always, different from the reasons women cheat. I tend to have more sympathy for women who cheat on their partners. Maybe this is fucking stupid, but it’s what I feel inside.

If this guy was really stepping out just for sex, maybe Davia has some problems thinking she is decent in the bedroom. You can alleviate some of her concerns for her. Ask what her particular techniques are. What school of sex did she study at? Does she know all the most sensitive and erogenous zones on a man’s body? What about a woman’s body? Getting over whatever hangup is holding her back should end the nitpicking.

Hi,

I have been trying without success to meet people on various online sites. I think I’m an attractive guy, but I tend to stumble when I’m introducing myself and who I am. I just end up saying a “hi” or a “hello I’m Evan” since I can’t think of anything better. More often than not I get no response. How can I get better at initiating these troubling conversations?

Evan S.

Dear Evan,

It’s not my job to tell you what specifically you should say to meet women. Maybe the type of woman you should be with is the kind who responds to a simple “Hello.” She hears your cry in the dark and she reaches out for the echo of how boring you are.

Don’t be discouraged by the lack of replies. The fact that you are not receiving any replies is a warning sign you need to change things up, but think of all the possible reasons a woman is not replying to your message:

– she gets a million messages

– she’s not even single and likes the idea of getting messages from strange

– she forgot to delete her account

– she’s deeply bored by the fact you are the seven hundreth person she has seen on top of an elephant. Like, why would we care that you rode an elephant or touched a snake? Get over yourself.

– she matched with you by accident

– she’s upset with you and has chosen the silent treatment as her delicate revenge

With that said, a bare hello is never going to get the job done. When you’re writing something, throw out an introduction that can’t help but make her reply, and she’ll reply. Comedy is usually best, so hire ghostwriters. I’m not paid enough for that.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

 

In Which We Turn The Long Hand Of The Clock

IMG_6661

My Own Experience

by MARK ARTURO

The last train out swings low. The feeling of you sleeping on the marble seat diminishes. “Don’t misunderstand,” someone nearby coughs while I move through time, like Hugh Jackman or someone very drunk.

Lately, I listen to the police scanner a lot. You can learn very much about what people believe is around them. A homeless woman wakes up to a SWAT team; a man with no hands drops off a package at my doorstep.

IMG_6665

I brought the capstone higher, sliding it on the tops of stairs. The hand turns at the start. The difference smells immaculate.

I brought the capstone higher, cuticles massaging small stones, inlaid. “A situation absorbed,” he says, touching his face with a longer finger. Echoes of flight causal or direct, a way of saying, “How do you like to enervate, where and whence?”

IMG_6662

The long memory stated broadly: upside down rigid not opaque. A crushed mandolin of stars. Think of the matter.

I could measure a portion of light and shape it into fingernails. Damage — inevitable — riding a coterie of magazines. Canyon size or shape, vulnerable at dusk.

IMG_6663

Floor-beaten earth. Stand on the clock, break it with a draft or any divestment from an express reality. Faith as a proxy for knowledge, a charged rotating system.

“Your carapace shone golden,” or some other discarded compliment. Wet hair. Noon.

IMG_6667

Nurse of the palm, hands ribald and unkempt. Much more than simple rejoinder: a tallying of benefits, of scarlet, red mezites and hoatzin, against the gloam. You only missed her for so long.

Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

IMG_6664

 

In Which We Drive Around For Some Time

Driver’s Manual

by ETHAN PETERSON

Mr. Mercedes
creator David E. Kelley
Audience

Retired detective Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) is absolutely disgusting. In the first episode of Mr. Mercedes, he starts to eat a slice of rum cake before he has even begun his lunch. This kind of cursory character-building detail is the bread and butter of Stephen King, who has written a novel on every single subject. This approach means that more talented people can adapt them at their leisure depending on when the subject becomes relevant in the contemporary social discourse.

The relevant subject in this relentlessly dull adaptation of the similarly boring source material is the dissociation of young white men from reality. A murderer named Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) works at an electronics store and has an incestuous relationship with his mother (an unrecognizable Kelly Lynch). In the first twenty minutes of Mr. Mercedes, Brady has run over a bunch of job-seekers lining up for an employment fair, gawked at his mother’s ample cleavage, and been dressed-down by his not-so-inspirational manager.

Without meaning to, I think, King and showrunner David E. Kelley are giving some kind of bizarre justification for racism, bigotry and hatred. Even The Silence of Lambs did not go to extensive lengths to humanize the behavior of Hannibal Lecter, and god knows that was a possible direction since most of his victims were incredibly annoying.

Let me change the topic since it seems like the right moment for that. I recently attended an event seeking to explain the phenomenon of various neo-Nazi gatherings that caused some branches of the ACLU to completely abandon their principles. The panelists mostly focused on structural racism, wisely staying away from identifying the motives of the actual people involved.

Why are some people full of hatred? There is no justification or excuse that will render this subject operable in the mind of a normal, non-bigoted person. Mr. Mercedes is proof of this, since there are plenty of great writers (Dennis Lehane, A.M. Homes, Sophie Owens-Bender) working on this project, and throughout this series, which is exclusive to the Direct TV channel Audience for now, nothing much is accomplished when it comes to knowing who or what Brady Hartsfield is.

Since that inquiry fails either because it is the wrong question, or because the answer is unknowable to non-sociopaths, we seek to learn what we can from Brady Hartsfield’s counterpart in Mr. Mercedes. To his credit, King has always been willing to take risks with his protagonists that other writers generally eschew. Sometimes that makes those protagonists rather unlikable, rendering their stories impotent, but this is of no concern to Stephen, since there is always another novel if you are not liking the one you’ve got.

Gleeson really throws everything into this alcoholic, near-suicidal retiree. Hodges’ general crankiness is actual charming when administered in bits and pieces, even if we acknowledge we are witnessing the slow death of a dinosaur being purged from his natural habitat. Far less forgivable is the fact that Hodges is not really much of a detective — in fact he relies upon a teenager named Jerome (Jharrel Jerome) to fix his computer, mow his lawn, and generally discover what is relevant to the investigation. “You have to find a purpose,” his good-natured neighbor Ida (Holland Taylor) tells him.

It is impossible not to read this as an oblique commentary on Brady Hartsfield, who is portrayed by one of the most talented English actors at imitating an American we have seen in some time. If we would simply give our racists some other purpose, David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal) seems to be saying, they would forget about their true nature. I don’t know whether this is true, but I do know that goodwill towards those unwilling to help themselves rarely goes unpunished.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.