Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #159

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Hi!

This week: Barack and Michelle want to brighten your day, I’m obsessed with The Circle, and Tom? Steyer?

Hey! This week’s newsletter is a day late and shorter than normal because I have the flu and I’m completely out of commission. I take the flu really seriously and always get my flu shot, which turned out to be a particularly good idea this year as I’m the sickest I’ve been in a long time and I can’t imagine what it’d be like without the flu shot and Tamiflu. So, hopefully, I’ll be back in the saddle next week, but for now I got nothing. (Hilariously, I have a phone interview about my book at noon today so we’ll see how that goes… I’ve had chills for a day and a half and all I can think of is that line from Rent where Mimi goes “Cold, cold, will you light my candle?” so I think that’s how I’ll open the interview. Also, last night my fever broke and so of course I heard Maureen sing “her fever’s breaking…” Apparently, the only medical vocabulary I have is from the end of Rent.)

Let’s hang out in real life! Book tour dates!

A note about these dates and places: I want to go everywhere! I’m really fortunate that my publisher, Ballantine Books, is spending the money to send me anywhere at all. But it’s not feasible for them to send me on a 60-city tour like I’m literary Beyoncé. So, if your city isn’t on the list (yet) it’s only because I haven’t yet found a sponsoring organization and/or figured out a self-funded trip that will bring me close. But I am really trying to figure out other ways to get to additional cities—Louisville, Detroit, Atlanta, San Fran, and more. I can’t wait to see you!

TOUR DATE DETAILS


Tag Yourself In These Ridiculously Adorable Barack And Michelle Obama Photo Booth Pictures

This has enormous "Mom and Dad went to a retirement party with an open bar and a photo booth and had a great time and are texting you about it at 11:45 p.m. and—oops—they just called you and they're giggling at each other in the back of a cab" energy.

READ THE FULL COLUMN


Unfortunately I Identify With This Photo Of Tom Steyer

I cannot stop screaming at these photos. Even though I officially don't have any idea who Tom Steyer is, I deeply identify with these photos. This is me in literally every situation: not sure why I'm there, failing to find a graceful way to exit, wondering if perhaps it would help to hear my opinion even though I absolutely don't know what's going on.

You can almost hear his internal monologue which is surely a collection of half-uttered phrases like "Hmm" "I see" "Ah, interesting" "If I can just inter—" Tom Steyer has big "Sorry, wrong office" energy. Which again, I mean literally, but also as a heavy-handed metaphor that would not make the final draft in anything better than our present reality.

READ THE FULL COLUMN


Alert! I Can't Stop Thinking About Netflix's The Circle

I have attempted, with no success whatsoever, to explain the premise of the show to many people. It's relatively simple but, surprisingly, incomprehensible. Here are some ways I have described The Circle.

  • It's Big Brother except they're all isolated in their little rooms. So... Big Only Child... Big Time Out.

  • MySpace Top Eight Live

  • You know how sometimes people will do speech-to-text on their phones in public and it's really embarrassing? That.

  • Literally Black Mirror.

  • A bunch of people yell at a flatscreen in an Airbnb. For a prize.

  • It's like if you filmed a bunch of freelancers and made them cancel each other.

    READ THE FULL COLUMN


Project Runway Season 18 Episode 6 Recap: This Is Me

In one of the very best Victoria-isms to date, she's asked who her main competition is. She replies "Geoffrey, Brittany, and Delvin." I would tend to agree, although I think Dayoung and Nancy may be dark horses in this race, especially after this week. In the confessional, an off-camera voices asks Victoria, "What about Sergio?" At this point, Victoria is distracted by futzing around with some the confessional decorations. She turns back and blithely replies "Nooo! Of course not!" as if the idea is ludicrous. Truly, I guffawed. Victoria, with her musical accent, will read you to filth so matter-of-factly that you'll end up agreeing with her. Obsessed. 

READ THE FULL RECAP


No day but today,

Eric

Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #158

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Hi!

This week: ROYAL RUMBLE!!!!, General Gwyneth Paltrow Nonsense, and more controversy on Project Runway.

It’s a new decade and everyone is showing a bit of ankle and I’m quite scandalized by it, truly! All the hip young men today are wearing cropped pants everywhere (even in the winter!), having no concern, it seems, for the fact that catching a chill in the exposed bit of leg that is normally covered by a modest sock is a surefire way to get arthritis. This is what the elder folks always used to tell me when I was a kid about literally everything—wear gloves or you’ll get Arthur in your hands (the elder folks were on a first name basis with arthritis). Cover your neck or Arthur will get you! Make sure you shorts go past your knees or else you won’t be able to walk up and down the stairs when you’re older. Back then it seemed a bit extreme. Now that I am in my late 30s and I get a little twinge of paint every time I take the stairs I know they were right. Arthur saw me wearing Daisy Dukes on a balmy day and he’s out to get me!

It’s for this reason that I turn into a Dowager Countess whenever I see a 20-something fashionista in pegged pants. I become a symphony of harrumphs and outraged screeches. I clutch my pearls, and cover my eyes with a handkerchief whilst pointing a shaky finger in the general direction of their Achilles tendon. “The youth! They’re showing skin! My eyes!” I bellow. Why are we doing this? Why are we exposing our ankles in the winter? What kind of anti-Victorian resistance movement has taken over the fashion industry? Is the new editor of Vogue Reno Sweeney, who famously sang “in olden days of glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking but now, God knows, anything goes!” God knows the youth are flaunting their ankles! I cannot take it.

Which is why it should come as a shock to you and me and Reno Sweeney that I have purchased multiple pairs of peg pants.

It’s not my fault! Truly! Okay, I don’t know if there’s any way of telling you this without it sounding at best ridiculous but I’ve hired a friend to teach me how to dress. You know, a stylist. Okay, he’s not really a friend; he’s just someone that I met who is a stylist. To whom I pay money. A stranger. With good taste. Who has forced me to purchase peg pants. I’m over here moisturizing my ankles and peering cautiously over my shoulder for Arthur’s imminent arrival and for what? For fashion, I suppose!

I think I know how to dress myself but I know (as a, ahem, Senior Staff Writer at a Fashion Magazine) that even the most fashionable employ stylists to help them craft their looks and to track trends. So, when the opportunity presented itself I took it. LOL what a mess. I mean, he’s great but also I’m very much confused by the whole process. He sent me an Instagram of this one suit designer and was like “What do you think?” So, I wrote back that I liked a couple of looks but I couldn’t quite picture myself in the suits because the designer has a very different body type than I do. The stylist was like “Well, if you’re not happy with your body, work on your body.” And I was like no bish, the designer is a string bean man with an ectomorph body and I have calves and a booty so what now?

Lord, what a life. Anyway, you will probably see me in these streets at a few upcoming events wearing peg pants. Avert your eyes. But best believe I will also be wearing tiny muffs around my ankles. Arthur’s going to have to work harder if he wants to catch me.

This week: more fashion drama, and Gwyneth is pivoting to… God knows what. But first! Queen Meghan of the Americas!

Congrats To Harry And Meghan On Reopening Their LinkedIn Accounts

Conscious uncoupling is so early 2000s; in the future we're all Conscious Uncrowning. The couple is set to step back from public life, decamp to Canada, and earn their own coin from now on so all of the haters can go munch on some chewy poutine and stay mad about it. Truly this is a banner day for people whose therapists are trying to help them establish firm boundaries, people who don't read the comments sections, and the website LinkedIn.ca.

READ THE FULL COLUMN


Gwyneth Paltrow Has A Lab Now and Is Lightly Dabbling in Exorcism

Goop's new series, according to the preview, sends various Goop editors and Gwyneth herself on a series of harrowing adventures in alternative wellness that have got to be HR headaches. Can you imagine going to your desk in the surely open office concept of Goop Headquarters, turning on your Gooputer, opening up your Pal-mail, and seeing an email from Gwyneth with the subject line "Scheduling your exorcism!😹😈💦😇" How does one even respond to that? Do you get PTO? (Prayer Time Off?)

READ THE FULL COLUMN


Project Runway Season 18 Episode 5: Don't Blame The '80s

All season long I've been trying to figure out why the producers are giving Sergio a little bit of a villain edit. Sure, he brusquely dismisses Christian's critiques, which is a criminal offense in 17 nations around the world. And yes, he is prone to self-aggrandizing. But overconfidence and boastfulness do not a reality villain make. Literally everyone on reality television is an overconfident boaster. All of your TV faves are highly photogenic monsters. Let's be real here. So, the subtle but consistent assertion that Sergio is the troublemaker on a show that tries harder than River City, Iowa to avoid trouble has always been a head-scratcher. Or least it always was until this week when Sergio—I can barely type this, my hands are shaking so—was rude to Cyndi Lauper! To her face! To Cyndi Lauper's face! ::pounds table and throws sewing machine through a window:: Folks, we have a villain!!!

READ THE FULL RECAP


Let’s hang out!

January 20 - Hosting The Moth StorySlam at City Winery, DC

January 25 - Reading at The Acme Corporation’s fundraiser variety show!

January 31 through Feb 23 - Performances of Safe Space, my new play, in Baltimore!


Random Thing on the Internet

I came across this amazing obituary, written by the deceased—a journalist named Ken Fuson—and I’ve been thinking about it all week. It’s honest, filled with gratitude, and very funny. It’s truly inspirational.

Harrumphs and outraged screeches,

Eric

Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #157

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Hi!

This week: Obama has more free time than you, the Year in Tacky Bullshit, Flirty Dancing is a strange delight, and some surprising Project Runway shade.

I decided this morning, apropos of very little, that I’d like to be a travel agent. The decision came, as most of my important decisions do, whilst scrolling aimlessly through my Instagram feed trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the lives of people I know/thirst-follow and how they afford literally anything they do. I’m trying to train myself to waste less social media time on Twitter and more on Instagram because for some reason I believe the latter is more psychologically healthy. Yes, I am aware that the most healthy choice would be to not waste time on social media at all but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, okay? I’m not going for sainthood. I’m aware that many things in my life would go better if I left my phone in a room other than my bedroom, sprang from my sheets like a Disney princess waking from a nap, ran down to the gym and did jazzercise whilst listening to an audiobook about a area of science I don’t know anything about (all of them). But then I’d be, like, too healthy. Ugh. Well-adjusted? In this economy? Can’t risk it.

No, no, I think it’s better for all of us if I keep my derangement at a low-boil. You know, like a bolognese in a Dutch oven. That’s how I’d describe my sanity-level. Anyway, I spend a lot of time on Instagram and much of that time is taken up by solving mysteries. For instance, for the last two weeks I’ve followed the exploits of two separate groups of friends who are in Thailand at the same time but were not together, even though they knew each other. This was incomprehensible to me. Well, all of it was incomprehensible to me. Who has this much PTO? Who has this much money? Are they working remote while they’re there? Why aren’t they traveling together? Is one group chasing the other group? Is this an Amazing Race situation? Why didn’t anyone invite me? Is it because I ask too many questions?

Finally, a few days ago one member posted an Instagram story of the two groups together. “SUCCESS!” I screamed aloud in my bed in America, deeply happy that photo of four men in front of a temple in Asia had provided me the kind of closure that not even years of therapy could. You know the say, when God opens an app, he closes a plot line. Something like that.

That mystery solved, I moved on to the Instagram of another friend who is in Brazil. He looked like he was having a great time and I was having a great time, too, going to Glassdoor and looking up what his salary might be and using that to try to extrapolate a budget that would allow him to live in the city where he lives, dress as well as he dresses, and still afford to go on Brazilian trips. It’s good to have a hobby. In one of his photos, he tagged the account of what I soon learned was his travel agent and it’s in that tag that my entire life changed. I’ve never used a travel agent before but as I paged through the travel agent’s Instagram I realized that I could meld two of my primary interests into one: being nosey about other people’s vacations and solving logistical mysteries! Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of going to the beach with me knows that I love a well-made contact sheet, itinerary, and spreadsheet, I want buy-in but not opinions, and EVERYBODY HAS TO HAVE FUN, IT’S MANDATORY. While this is a questionable friend quality, it is—in my admittedly limited experience—an ideal travel agent quality.

I know that I have a lot of professional stuff coming up this year, but what if I pivot completely to being an eccentric global excursions professional with big 1980s energy? Big tortoiseshell glasses, tiny clipboard, pashmina, megaphone, clogs. The whole nine! Scooting people around the Parthenon at a breakneck speed because we have to take a gondola to an event I’ve called Mezze Madness. This is my true calling. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans have nothing on me!

One of my actual, non-hyperbolic goals is to learn how to travel better, which I think is a combo of good research, good planning, mindfulness, some of those little packing cubes, and, idk, talking to strangers more? I’m unsure. Are there books on this sort of thing? If you have a book on how to become a better traveller, please let me know. Until I figure that out, I will content myself with sharing my gifts of organization, programming, cheap flight scouring, and generally being too much with the world. As soon as I find a cute pair of tortoiseshell glasses.


GIVEAWAY!

When the folks at Ballantine Books asked me what kind of merch I’d envision for Here for It, I immediately blurted out “CHURCH FANS! CHURCH FANS! Like with a photo of Dr. King or Barack Obama on the front and an ad for a funeral home on the back!” Amazingly, they actually took my deranged suggestion and made it a reality, albeit one that actually promotes my book and not, like, March Funeral Home on North Avenue. Publishing is wild!

You, yes you, can get your hands on one of these fans! All you have to do is preorder the book and then enter to win at this link. You can preorder from anywhere. If you already preordered, you’re still eligible to enter. Let’s have church!

ENTER GIVEAWAY


Barack Obama Bought The Fleabag Jumpsuit And Has More Time Than Any Of Us

These aren't even all the books he read this year and all the movies he saw. These are just his favorites. Obama saw some movies (*cough* Cats) and was like "This is... uh... fine." And that was that! How? This man is one of the most in-demand speakers in the world, he has to constantly rebuff people who want him to save democracy, and he still had time to watch Large Adam Driver punch a wall in Marriage Story? How, I said! Maybe my tinfoil hat is a little too tight, but I am firmly of the belief that Barack Obama is Dr. Manhattan. That's the only explanation.

READ THE FULL COLUMN


I'm Having A Great Time At President Bloomberg's Open Office White House

Greetings from the year 2021, where Michael Bloomberg has somehow managed to billions his way into the White House and, true to his promise, pivoted the East Room into an open office concept in which he also works! There was a lot of public grumbling when he first announced it on the second-to-last day of 2019, releasing it like a hot ember popping off a slowly dying trash fire, so I'm sending a message back from the future to let you know how it went. And that message is: great!

READ THE FULL COLUMN


The Year In Tacky Bullshit

To quote the great Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest: what a dump. Sure, 2019 included plenty of bright spots, like Beyoncé's Homecoming being released on Netflix or the rise of Florence Pugh. And there were very bad things, some of which resulted in justice being served and some of which didn't. But, as the year shuffles haggardly to the door, the predominant spirit of 2019 seems to be just tacky. A tacky trash fire year that should be ashamed of itself. I look at these year-in-reviews that are coming out and I'm like "Damn, we lived like this?" Yuck. No thanks. In some ways, the tackiness of 2019 is almost impressive. From January to December, people in pop culture, politics, and public life pulled out their most gauche stunts, often to hilarious results. This may not be a year to remember but it is, perhaps, a year to mock. Let's get to it.

READ THE FULL COLUMN


Flirty Dancing Is A Hybrid Reality Show With A Dark Twist

The first episode pairs teacher Octavius with hair stylist Megan and fashion stylist Marymarie. All three separately express anxiety about dancing and about the prospects for romance, but when they finally meet—each time encountering each other in a public park and then breaking into dance, which must be jarring for passersby—the sparks are undeniable. It has the theatrical artifice of a first dance at a wedding (wait, why wasn't this show called First Dance?!), but somehow seems more genuine and thrilling than the sometimes-stilted first married dance of a couple who spent every Tuesday for the last two months leaving work early to learn their steps and who actually know each other and have the joint wedding savings account to prove it. It certainly doesn't hurt that the show's daters, for all their anxiety, sell the hell out of their dance numbers, even when said dance numbers involve going up and down stairs, navigating pedestrians, and splashing in fountains. All of the aforementioned would have been dealbreakers for me. You want me to go on a date, and remember choreography, and successfully descend stairs? Guess I'll die alone.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE


Project Runway Season 18 Episode 4 Recap: The Leftovers

Oh, God. Oh, God! Oh, Goddddddd! There is a moment near the end of the fourth episode of Project Runway that is so cringe-inducing, so weirdly shocking, and so awkward that I am still beset by paroxysms of secondhand embarrassment so strong that I can hardly catch my breath. Oh Godddd! I will never recover from this thing that did not happen to me and affects me in no way, shape, or form. I can't even talk about it right now. I need a palate cleanser. And a mild sedative. Let's change the subject.

READ THE FULL RECAP


Let’s Hang Out!

Omg I got to see a full run of Safe Space, my new play running in Baltimore January 31-Feb 23, today and it is so good—very funny, and a little spooky, and weird, and occasionally quite beautiful. I want you all to see it! All of you! Tickets are now on sale!

SAFE SPACE TICKETS

Also! I’ve started rolling out Book Tour dates on my website! I’ll post the full list in this newsletter next week after confirming a couple more, but if you want a sneak peek, have at it!

BOOK TOUR EVENTS!


Random Thing on the Internet

I watched Dolemite Is My Name and Criminal: UK this weekend (both on Netflix) and highly enjoyed both, though they are very different. I still feel like I’m catching up on 2019 TV and movies and will probably feel that way for a long time. Perhaps travel agent life will give me more time for entertainment!

Mezze Madness,

Eric

Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #156

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Hi!

This week: Cats is never going away.

I am frequently in D.C. but rarely as a tourist, or even as a leisure-seeker, so that day or two every couple of years when I get to stroll around monuments and museums, watching hoards parents harangue tired kids into putting some history into their dang heads is always a delight. I feel deeply for everybody in that situation, having been a child once (hard to believe, I know) and having been an adult who just wants the children I am with to appreciate whatever knowledge I’m there to bestow (usually relating to how and why Sister Act 2 is a superior film to Sister Act. And also superior to Citizen Kane, if we’re being real about it.) There are large swaths of D.C. where the energy of “We drove for 3 hours so you are going to look at this marble and be well-rounded, dammit” is so thick you can cut it with one of those gruesome medical saws from the Civil War they have hanging on the wall at the America History Museum as if it isn’t absolute nightmare fuel.

I think I’ve written about the tourist experience in D.C. here before and I mention it briefly in the first essay in my book, but I felt like it bore repeating here today. I’m really resistant to New Year’s resolutions and I always get grumpy about retrospectives and year-end lists because I’m No Fun, but also because Time Is a Construct, and lastly because I can never fully feel the sensation of something ending and another thing beginning. I’m someone who has spent the large majority of this past year working toward and thinking about and stressing over things that will happen next year (it may seem like I’m referring to my two books coming out in 2020 but I’m actually talking about whether JLo will win an Oscar. Her Hustlers Oscar campaign has been my life’s work). I am also someone who randomly tweeted about a high school musical I was in in 1997 this morning and then spent two hours fully immersed in memories from it, for no discernible reason. Just a fun thing to do on a weekend: reminiscing about Little Shop tech rehearsal and the 7 (SEVEN) doo-wop girls (three black and four white. That’s a whole other story.) Additionally, I spent much of this year working on two plays I began two years ago that are about the present and also the distant past and the way that the two are inextricably linked. So, suffice it all to say, 2019 for me, in this moment, in retrospect, feels like a year that never really began and yet somehow is never really gone, which sort of undercuts the power of a resolution. It’s no wonder, I guess, that one of my most listened to songs was Katy Perry’s “Never Really Over” (an absolute bop that should have been on every year-end list I begrudgingly read).

With all that in mind, it was actually pretty fulfilling to visit D.C. yesterday with David and three of his cousins, all very fun, hilarious, gregarious New Englanders in their mid-20s. D.C. is a place that is etching the present into marble the minute it occurs; it’s a place there the past looms, literally, over everything; it’s a place where time moves as slowly as legislation, as quickly as the pervasive scooters, as noisily as a protest, and as stealthily as a Watergate burglar. D.C. feels like a museum in the way that museums are removed and set and also in the way that museums are dynamic and constantly in conversation with the sleepy kids and grumpy parents and everyone else that passes through their halls.

Just after sunset we arrived on the Mall (David had timed it perfectly, of course). The Washington Monument was illuminated by huge Klieg lights and backlit by the amber sky and I couldn’t resist taking 9,000 photos even as my brain argued “this is basic” and “who are these photos for?” and “A MONUMENT TO A SLAVEHOLDER?! Regina King in Watchmen needs to kick your ass, Eric.” It was pretty. I’m creating content. I’m sorry.

We made our way down the hill in the dusky light that tricks you with its illegibility—your eyes think that you can see more than you can, that the edges of things and the distances between yourself and others are constantly changing. I hate driving at this time of night—not knowing where the boundaries of space are in the murky blue half-light tends to make for a hairy navigating experience. But I found that I loved walking at a leisurely pace in it. (I say leisurely but I’m sure others would argue that it was probably closer to Type-A speed-walking tourist who is mentally calculating whether we can get to the Korean War Memorial and the White House in time to also make the MARC train and why everyone is scootering on the sidewalks when it’s explicitly forbidden and what we should eat for dinner and is everyone having a good and educational time and… Well, you get the idea.)

We passed through the World War II Memorial, which is breathtaking in its grandiosity, and the Vietnam War Memorial, which I’ve always loved for its starkness and simplicity, a controversial point at the time of its creation. We walked the length of the Reflecting Pool because one of the cousins wanted to see where that one scene in Forrest Gump was filmed (a little-known spot called the Lincoln Memorial). The Reflecting Pool is so much longer than I remember every time and I’m awed at the times that its boundaries have been packed with people gathered to advocate for the world they believe in, like, of course, the March on Washington. In the distance, like lightning bugs, flashes were constantly going off on the steps of the monument—people trying to capture the intense (and ultimately ineffable) sight of the Washington Monument reflected in the pool, or trying to get selfies in front of the towering Zaddy Lincoln. When we finally got to the steps, we found that, in addition to the photo-seekers, it was packed with people who just wanted to find a place to sit, huddled in clumps, staring into phones, milling about aimlessly. That aspect of the Lincoln Memorial is so fascinating. It is both a destination and a resting spot; it’s been coopted as the National Mall’s third space—the monument as coffee shop lobby.

Inside, we stood underneath Zaddy Lincoln, doing the sort of aimlessly looking about that you do when you’re too tired to read all the placards and but you feel an obligation to have an experience. One of the cousins asked David and me if we wanted a photo in front of the statue. We declined with that sort of “been there, done that” casualness that is the calling card of East Coasters within driving distance of Washington. But then we thought better of it. We take fewer pictures together as time goes on and though we have been there and we have done that, I don’t know that we have any documentation and what did it hurt to take a picture? Maybe it would mean something and maybe it wouldn’t? Maybe both.

As we left, navigating the many competing interests and selfie backgrounds on the steps, I spied a bunch of guys who probably old enough to know better sliding down the marble walls of the staircase—the monument as playground, also. What a weird city; what a weird country; what a weird time.

Next year, I promise myself to take more pictures of myself and others in the places I find myself; I’m going to to write down every book, movie, TV show, and album I take in—even if it’s just to aid a memory that is, let’s be honest, a junk drawer of memes and the full script of Little Shop of Horrors—; and I’m going to try to send my nephew and niece a postcard from the different cities I visit over the course of this year that is both a mystery and a carefully planned attempt at world domination. I’m going to try to put a pin in the place where it begins and also where it ends. Maybe it will mean something or maybe it won’t. Maybe both.


All Your Cats Questions, Answered

I was one of the dozens of Americans afflicted by the Cats movie this weekend. I entered a local cinema on Friday night one person and I emerged a completely different, more horrific person: One with a human face and actual human hands and feet and a digital fur body and no genitalia whatsoever but a human uniboob. It's been a journey. The original premise of this article was "The Top 10 Questions I Have After Cats" until I realized that I have nothing but questions. My whole life is questions now, and an unending, high-pitched "meowwww?"

In my 48th straight hour of being awake, a wild thought washed over me like milk pouring out of a spigot at my local neighborhood Milk Bar: What if, like Rebel Wilson's second cat skin, all the answers were inside me? All I had to do was literally unzip my actual skin to the deep consternation of everyone around me, and I'd be free. So, that's what I did. Herewith: every answer you need about this fever dream of a film. I should note: To preserve the integrity and accuracy of these answers, I have consulted with no one associated with the film and done no googling. It's the Jellicle choice.

READ THE FULL COLUMN


Let’s Hang Out

Tickets are on sale now for the Baltimore run of Safe Space. Click here to purchase!

I’ll be posting a full list of events for the first half of 2019 next week, but if you want a sneak peek, some of the dates are up on my website here (it is not yet aesthetically pleasing but it’s there). LET’S HANG OUT ALL OVER AMERICA!


Random Thing In Real Life & On the Internet

I have no year-end list; I really don’t remember what happened this year and I liked basically every TV show everyone else liked (Fleabag, Russian Doll, Succession, Veep, The Other Two, The Good Fight, Fosse/Verdon, etc.) I listen to music from decades ago; my podcast queue is so long; and I see a lot of regional theater and very little New York theater. I do not have Disney+ and I cannot be bothered to figure out how to get it. I haven’t yet seen Little Women but I’m sure I’m going to love it next year when I do. In any case, here’s some things I experienced in media that continue to stick with me today and hopefully tomorrow. (I’ve limited myself to 10 because this list got very long and I got annoyed with myself.)

Parasite, every single moment.
Watchmen, also every single moment, particularly Regina King’s performance—including a moment of self-doubt and meltdown that reminded me the Cuba sequence in Beale Street.
Jericho Brown reading from The Tradition at Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore
The time Moonlight won Best Picture (was that this year?)
One of the climactic scenes in The Dutch House by Ann Patchett with the paintings and the door (I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but it’s a doozy)
Jharrel Jerome and Marsha Stephanie Blake’s performances in When They See Us
The songs, but also the quiet moments of the Amazing Grace doc, particularly the very strange scene when Clara Ward and C.L. Franklin enter
Audibly gasping in delighted shock at the cake fight in Red, White, and Royal Blue
"
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” in Rocketman
Shoshana Bean sobbing through “She Used to Be Mine” in Waitress (also Noah Galvin’s amazing performance in the same)

Maybe both,

Eric

Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #155

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Hi!

This week: Maxine Waters stars in the season finale of America and Project Runway’s holiday episode is so much.

I just spent so long trying to find this FKA Twigs video despite having shockingly little actual information about it beyond the facts that it starred FKA Twigs (I was pretty sure, though I had a brief diversion googling Zoe Kravitz videos in case I was mistaken), it was directed by a film director, and it involved the world around her changing, largely through the use of practical effects rather than CGI. Because everything that I knew (or thought I knew) was so vague, it felt like I had to actually pry the information from Google like a hostile witness on a crime show. It didn’t help that the video in question isn’t actually a FKA Twigs music video but a musical ad for Google Home, which was a late-in-the-episode reveal that I discovered just when I thought all was lost. I was doing a close reading of her Wikipedia page looking for clues when I spotted it, jumped back from the computer in shock, and ran to my sergeant’s office screaming “I’ve cracked the case!”

Anyway, here’s the video.

It’s really delightful but the impetus for this investigative trip down the rabbit hole doesn’t really necessitate all this extra. I wanted to tell you about this thing that happened in a coffee shop earlier today where, over the course of a two hour conversation, then entire interior design and business structure of the place changed around my friend and I, taking it from being a bookstore/cafe to a bustling small flea market and crafts fair. Every time someone would get up from a table, the table itself would be whisked away, chairs got pushed to the side and tables popped up, stacks of records and racks of clothes got rolled in and set up. And all of it happened smoothly around us as we screamed about Cats, like a set change in a play. Or like a music video in which the world around the singer transforms as they walk through different rooms.

But is that a thing that actually happens in music videos? I thought. I was sure I had seen it—you know what I’m talking about: the singer is looking directly at us, wandering through the world, and every time the camera changes angles, we notice furniture has been moved and the walls are a different color. I am fairly certain this is a thing but I have no evidence of it. The only thing I could think of was the above FKA Twigs video which is not even, in retrospect, an example of the thing I am describing. All that investigation and the case still got thrown out.

It actually turns out I was thinking about this sequence from the TV show Kidding in which a camera pans the room in a circle for two minutes and years go by for one character. In the video below you can see the finished product on one side of a split screen and, on the other side, the flurry of activity happening just off-screen to transform the space. It’s really remarkable.

So that is what the coffee shop felt like and, wow, what a journey it was to get here. My goodness. There are times that I am immediately able to call to mind a random moment or scene from pop culture and I wonder how (and why) Maggie Smith’s lunch scene with Sarah Jessica Parker in The First Wives Club is just sitting on a shelf in my head all the time. Other times—far more often, actually—my brain goes “wasn’t there a thing with people moving a couch or something?” and then I have to spend two hours Googling various combinations of words only to come up with what I was thinking of, which is usually nothing at all like what I was thinking about. My brain goes “something about a couch” and it turns out I’m thinking of Biff driving into manure in Back to the Future. What a mess.

I say all of this to set the scene (LOL this is prologue! WHAT A MESS. Lock me up.) for a very surreal coffee shop experience during which we stayed the same but literally everything else changed. At the end of it, a very attractive black man came up to our table to tell us about his small pies business, which had set up a table by the door. While his table was in the view of my friend, DJ, I had my back to it, so this pie development was quite a shock for me. It was compounded by the fact that though the pie shop was named for and themed after the man’s grandmother, he chose to attire himself like—I am completely serious here—some sort of Baked Goods Freedom Fighter. He wore a brown full body jumpsuit with his grandmother’s face on the back and over the heart, like she was the patron saint of a nation battling Cake Warriors from the North. He had a beret on, also with his grandmother’s face. A BERET. He wore combat boots and if he’d toted a meringue missile or a custard gun I wouldn’t have batted an eye. His aesthetic was “militaristic patisserie” and I have never been so confused and yet so compelled in my entire life. He was a Zap-pie-tista? Is that something? I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. All I know is that this morning I went to go have coffee with a friend and this afternoon I have been enlisted in the holy struggle for Pastry Peace. And I didn’t even leave my seat. What a day!


This week, I was recording my audiobook for Here for It (a truly wonderful experience that turned out so well! I hope you’ll order the audiobook if that’s how you like to read books or request that your local library carry it. I give a PERFORMANCE! It comes out Feb. 18, the same day as the printed book and ebook.) As a result, it’s another short articles week. But there’s a Maxine Waters appearance, so all is right in the world.

Rep. Maxine Waters Already Told You So

I love that Rep. Waters has huge "What You're Not Going To Do" energy. As in, what we’re not going to do is tell Maxine Waters what she can and cannot talk about in this place on this day. She’s like, “First of all, it’s a privilege to hear me speak so congratulations. Second of all, I was the first legislator to call for impeachment and what are we doing right now? Impeaching, so what’s really good?" What y’all need to be doing is asking Maxine Waters for the lottery numbers because it’s clear she sees the future better than anyone but Marty McFly. With or without the glasses.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE


Project Runway Season 18 Episode 3 Recap: Holly Jolly Hot Mess

Me at the beginning of every unconventional materials challenge: This is ridiculous. No one is going to be able to make actual clothes out of this room full of weird junk.

Me at the end of every unconventional materials challenge: I am throwing away everything I own and filling my wardrobe with wrapping paper dresses immediately.

READ THE FULL RECAP


Let’s Hang Out!

January 7, 2020 - The Moth StorySlam, Philadelphia @ World Cafe Live

January 9, 2020 - The Moth StorySlam, D.C. @ The Miracle Theater

January 20, 2020 - The Moth StorySlam, D.C. @ City Winery

January 23, 2020 - Performances of Safe Space begin in Baltimore, MD (tickets on sale soon)


Random Thing on the Internet

GQ did an in-depth investigation into a Folgers ad from five years ago in which a brother comes home for Christmas and surprises his sister but all the vibes of the commercial are very non-familial. This is my favorite kind of journalism—an intense study of a mess that has no bearing on the world at large but which I think about constantly nonetheless.

Something about a couch,

Eric

Loading more posts…