Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: AAAAGH.
Can you believe that it is still March 17, 2020? Really remarkable that this day has not ended but yet that is what scientists are claiming. And by scientists I mean Trump’s doctor: a store brand Mr. Potatohead in a Lab Coat. The only explanation I have for ::maniacally gestures at everything like a conductor really putting the work in on Rite of Spring:: is that we’re just living the same long day. You know how time passes in a dream and you never, like, go to bed but rather just keep doing stuff? Like that. (Last night in my dream I had hours of annoying confrontations with people who were refusing to wear masks. That was the entire plot. My dumb REM cycle was like “I HAVE NOTHING LEFT. HERE’S A Curb Your Enthusiasm EPISODE SPEC SCRIPT. IS THIS OKAY?”) (I know times have been bleak, but I really have to have a hard conversation with my REM cycle at our next yearly evaluation. We may have to make some changes around here. It’s like Langston Hughes writes, “What happens to a dream demoted?”)
Here’s the thing, if we’re not living one long day then we have to accept that everything that has happened over the past seven days actually occurred in seven days and even the Lord God on high, who famously made everything from dinosaurs to clickbait in a week, was like “Ooh, honey, this is too much. Log out.” I mean, you need the entirety of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to just summarize Saturday. THE DAY OF REST, SECULAR EDITION. My mother texted me on Friday morning and asked “Are you seeing this?” And I had no idea what she was talking about because she watches cable news and I do not know how to get television on my actual television, but I just wrote back “YES” because it was true. I was seeing this.
What else would there be to say? There is very news. Much happening is happening. We are living in a time that is absolutely occurring without a doubt. I feel like if you asked me to explain what all is happening, like if you’d just come back from a yoga retreat and for some reason you wanted to completely undo all the work you’d just done on your inner peace by receiving an update on reality, I wouldn’t even know what to say. I feel like I haven’t studied for the test in a class called AP What Is Going On At the Moment? Once in middle school I took a test I hadn’t prepared for in any way. I was a pretty good student and always afraid of getting in trouble, so I’m a little confused about what exactly happened here, but I clearly recall not doing the reading and then looking at the test like it was written in Sanskrit and thinking “Ooh, honey, this is too much. I’m going to log out.” It wasn’t even hard material. One of the questions was “Who was Patrick Henry and why was he important?” My parents are quite literate people who are often quoting random things so I knew from listening to them that Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death.” But I asked zero follow-up questions. Not even “so, which did they give him?” And so when I encountered the question on the quiz I wrote “He said ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ And so they killed him. I’m just joking.” And that was my entire answer! He was middle school trying it!
The fact is I still don’t know any more about Patrick Henry. I have completely failed myself and the educational opportunities afforded me in this one specific area. I’m tempted to google it right now but I’m a little bit busy picking my entire head off the floor after watching Dr. Potatohead reveal that he lied to reporters at a press conference yesterday because he didn’t want to jinx the president’s health. The doctor was like “It felt like bad juju to admit that we gave the president oxygen, but he’s doing well now, knock wood! Would you like to see a staged photo of him? Don’t you miss theater?!” I can’t google Revolutionary War facts because I keep refreshing WHAT THE HELL IS THIS DOT COM. (Also known as Twitter.)
It feels sometimes like you’re watching a movie and you have to pee but you don’t want to miss anything, except this isn’t a movie and we’ll probably never really know what is actually happening and even if you are peeing in a cup to keep from missing something (why? babe, just take your phone to the bathroom) you’ll still not catch it all (the news; I’m not talking about pee anymore and I’m sorry I brought it up). This reminds me of the time a few years ago David and I took my father-in-law to see First Man, the Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong film, because that is one of the approved Father-in-Law activities: Bond movies, space history films, car shows, and asking them to help you fix your sink. It was at one of those movie theaters where you eat dinner during the movie, which is a good “two birds, one stone” option. A whole evening of bonding while watching Corey Stoll absolutely eviscerate Buzz Aldrin. (This isn’t a critique; I think it’s widely accepted that Buzz Aldrin was kind of dick back then but it’s still absolutely wild to see it portrayed. Like, Buzz Aldrin is the villain of the space movie where one of the possibilities is death. Patrick Henry is shaking.)
The movie is by Damian Chazelle who has a real gift for directing. (I say that like it’s a novel thought. The man won an Oscar. And un-won a second Oscar. Who else can say that?) The only time I flew first class, I got a little champagne drunk and watched Chazelle’s film Whiplash and the last 20 minutes are so intense I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming. Just me in the first seat of the plane, flailing and trying to signal to the air marshal that I am not a threat, I’m just enjoying an Oscar-worthy jazz film. Anyway, First Man was good but the real show stopper is the moon landing sequence. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Since we were at a movie theater and not on a plane I felt at liberty (or death) to scream as much as I wanted. Just a thrilling experience of watching Ryan Gosling and a mustache-twirling Corey Stoll walk around a rock I don’t believe actually exists. (I can’t get into this now.) Just as they were about to touch down, though, my father-in-law got up to go to the bathroom and didn’t come back until the end of the film! I was like, uh, this is kind of the whole thing! This is the main event. The movie is called First Man and the unspoken part is On the Moon and here we are—moon-adjacent!
As the credits rolled and the air marshal came over to hand me my citation, I told David we should tell his dad that at the end of the film Buzz Aldrin had turned to Neil Armstrong and said “Well, we did it: we faked the moon landing. Let’s leave this film studio in Nevada and get ourselves a burger” and then Chazelle had panned out to reveal a camera crew packing up on a moon set. I thought this was hilarious. Like if the big twist at the end of this very historically faithful movie was the reveal that Chazelle is a moon landing truther? Pulitzer Prize.
We asked David’s dad why he hadn’t come back—turns out he was just hanging out in the lobby waiting for us. He shrugged and said “Well, I lived through it. I know what happens.” Which 1) hilarious, true. He’s like, “The movie was already spoiled for me by my own memories of the same.” 2) hilarious, not the point. It’s not like I went in there going “So what’s this I hear about a moon?!” 3) it made me want to tell him that they faked it even more! I cannot be stopped.
I guess what I’m saying is that in 15, 20, 50 years when this week is all past and the calendar finally turns to March 18th, I suppose I will go see a movie about it—the taxes, the debate, the Rose Garden Mask of the Red Death party, the helicopter ride to Walter Reade, the staged photos, and whatever else is happening right now that I’m missing because I’m over here gabbing with you about the moon. I’ll see it if only because while this period sucks to live through, there does seem to be some intriguing narrative arithmetic at play this week: things that were set up are coming to pass and, even more interestingly, unrelated events have been revealed to be consequential to each other. This is exciting to see in a story. It is less so when all you want to do is get off Twitter for five minutes so you can find out what the deal is with Patrick Henry. But I will go see the movie, perhaps with my son-in-law (a store brand Mr. Potatohead in chinos). And I will get up to pee as the story reaches a climax and hang out in the lobby until the credits roll. And I hope my son-in-law, Chip Potatohead-Thomas, comes out of the theater and tells me “it turns out Buzz Aldrin was behind the whole thing.” The fact of the matter is, I’ll believe him.
My friend, if you ever find yourself sitting in front of the House Oversight Committee and Rep. Katie Porter pulls out her Whiteboard of Justice, please know that it is truly and deeply over for you. My friend, the truth is it never began. The minute her staff put that portable Porter board onto the little hand truck they use to cart Instruments of Truth through the halls of justice it was a wrap on you, those you associate with, and everything you've ever done. As the Good Book says, "And lo, a pale board! And the name of your overpriced prescription drug was upon it. And hell followed."
The audacity, though, is the thing that I am most annoyed about. Trump really had the Tia and Temerity to roll into his tax accountant's office every April like "Well, Smitty, it seems we've had another year of staggering losses, if you can believe it. There are definitely some businesses that are doing well but I also accidentally lost one billion dollars. Plum misplaced it. Yes, I looked in my sofa cushions. Am I embarrassed? Yeah, a little. But mostly I'm listening and learning."
It is my sincere hope that the people who are tuning in because they are still undecided between Joe Biden and a barely sentient burning cross made of bounced checks find whatever they're looking for. A portal to this dimension? Whatever it is, I hope this debate prompts them to loudly exclaim, "Oh, wow. Points were made. Time to start deliberating, Wilson." (They are saying this to Wilson the volleyball because, I presume, they've been stranded on an island without access to news or memes for at least four years. Come back soon!)
I don't quite know what's so intriguing about this character arc. Perhaps it's just the actress, Aunjanue Ellis, who is never anything less than superb but seemed strategically un-deployed early in the season. Perhaps it's the mythic connotations of her name, which originates in Greek mythology. The OG Hippolyta was the queen of the Amazons (okay, work!) and the daughter of Ares, the god of war (this is controversial as I am pro-peace, but we cannot be held responsible for our parents' jobs). Ares, according to myth, gave Hippolyta a magical girdle, which is such a dad gift. Hippolyta gave you a whole list of her interests and wishes, Ares, and you got suckered by a salesperson at the Victoria's Secret store in the Mt. Olympus mall. I hope you kept the receipt. (Also, lol at me writing "according to myth" as if the real goddess is going to read this and be like "Wow, actually this story is apocryphal and that's libel and you're sued, babe.") Anyway, on Lovecraft Country we've only heard Aunt Hippolyta's father's voice on the other end of a telephone call discussing models of the solar system, so it's still possible he's Ares, god of awkward presents. TBD. Episode 7 answers some questions and leaves others open, but how scary is it? Let's get into it!
Let’s hang out!
Click the images for tickets and more info!
John Darnielle, Leah Johnson, Daniel Lavery, Amber Sparks, and R. Eric Thomas—join Dungeon Master Matt Lubchansky for this classic tabletop role-playing game with a literary twist. Tune in for murder, golems, murder golems, humanoid turtle people, and labor disputes at Lightning Bolt Literature’s Masquerade of the Necromantic Plague! If you’ve never played D&D before, don’t worry—most of our players haven’t either.
Random Thing on the Internet
Been randomly thinking about Al Haig, Reagan’s Secretary of State, this weekend. An interesting little mini-story from history.
Been watching and loving Stath Lets Flats on HBOMax, which is a British series that has a vibe that is sort of The Office at a leasing agency. It’s a true delight. Also, highly recommend Good Lord Bird on Showtime. I’ll probably write about it for ELLE.com this week.
Also, it would be irresponsible of me not to link to something about Patrick Henry.
(I can’t get into this now),