Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #199

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
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This week: the Moon: what does it want from us and why?; Maxine and the meme; Chris-course takes over Hollywood; and the last trip to Lovecraft Country.

Let me tell you what really burns my biscuits! Burns them right up. Charred. Briquettes! I nestled into the couch, cup of coffee in hand, swaddled in a blanket and a cardigan, and opened my laptop to start this newsletter only to be stymied by the complete and utter absence of internet. The wifi was ostensibly working; my phone had ‘net juice; the computer, however, was like “Lo, you have stepped into the past and I with you. We are on the Oregon Trail—the real one not the game—and we have but our wits and some kindling to make a life with.” This happens a lot on the sofa I was sitting on; I guess it’s a dead spot in the house. Here is the problem with this supposed spot of death: the sofa is literally on top of the router. The router is on the floor and the sofa is above it and through those cushions all internet life in our house springs, like a fountain or an oil spill, depending on what’s happening on the internet on a given day.

The sofa is the center of internet life! It is the spark at the Big Bang! The sofa is the stone on Jesus’ tomb! Okay, maybe that doesn’t work as a metaphor because you actually have to roll the stone away for Jesus to be like “Hello. I have some personal news...” Perhaps, if you’re really interested in exploring the subjects of internet science and overextended religious metaphors, you can reason that the sofa is actually blocking the wifi and so it too must be rolled away. But then you’d have to think of Jesus, chilling in the tomb on the third day, as Schroedinger’s Savior, neither alive nor dead until you look. I don’t really know whether this stands up theologically. Or scientifically. And my husband, who went to seminary, is asleep so I can’t annoy him with this inane query that starts with “the wifi isn’t working” and somehow ends with eschatology. Well, I think he is asleep. He announced his intention to take a nap and then closed the bedroom door, but he could be asleep or awake playing a video game. Schroedinger’s Spouse. Schroedinger’s Slumber. Schroedinger’s Sega Genesis.

I cannot understand why the worst place in the house for wifi is right over the router. That’s not how things work. If I want to boil water, I don’t put a pot on the table across the room while I turn on the burner. I put it right over the flame! RIGHT OVER THE FLAME! (This is my version of Willie Loman’s “eating the fruit, throwing away the rind” speech. Pulitzer Prize.) The whole thing will absolutely drive me mad. Our house is in a partially wooded area where cell service is spotty so wifi is literally the bridge to the known world. Does this make me, a person who is constitutionally terrified of exurban spaces and who only exists on the internet, happy? No, it does not. I went through this long process of measuring the decibels of cell service around the property to see if it would be worth it to invest in a cell extender, things I knew nothing about prior to moving. That’s not a workable option. This is the Oregon Trail and we have naught but a divining stick and a threadbare Snuggie to help us survive the long winter. And wifi. Presumably.

Initially I panicked a little bit and signed up for a landline for emergencies (emergencies being interviews for radio shows that need clear audio). But, my friends, the landline industrial complex is fraudulent. I’ll explain: You know how every four months you have to call to pretend to cancel your cable so that they’ll reveal the “secret deal” and before they do that they must make you thrice decline a “triple play” deal that bundles cable, internet, and phone? It’s like playing an improv game with a bridge troll and I do love radio drama. I especially like when you have to talk to one person and really commit to the character of “someone who does not want this cable and internet” and then they pass you to the final boss in the cancellation department and you have to act pliable and curious but not so curious as to accept the triple play deal. And then there’s one last test before you are freed from this trial and released back into the world with cable that costs the same thing as it did before but maybe now includes a free trial of HBO (“Home Box Office?” you say, “why I imagine I’ll give that a try. I will test this service to see if it meets my entertainment needs. I will report back to all relevant journals with the findings of the trial.”) The final obstacle of every cable call is the scariest. The operator clears their throat and adopts a concerned tone. “It’s important that you get phone service as well,” they say. “What are you going to do if there’s an emergency and your cell phone doesn’t work?” And I’m always like “Hon, if the cell towers are knocked out, what do you think I’m going to do? Call Ghostbusters? If there’s an emergency, I’m tweeting through it. Just give me the Home Box Office and free me from our quarterly skit.” But the thing I never say, the thing I discovered in this house, is that while the phone service in some cataclysmic event might be useful, those phones aren’t landlines anymore! The phone line in most modern houses is not diving into the Earth through the wires, calling out “Follow me if you want to survive!” It’s phone service through the internet! And while that’s useful for some people (I am not hating on your choice to have VOIP), my only reason for having a house phone is the illusion of safety through wires.

When we first moved in, I signed up for phone service for our landline; I plugged it into the wall outlet; I heard a reassuring dial tone. But every time I lifted the receiver (just to visit; who am I calling?) I realized I was just participating in theater built around my 80s-era expectations! And I was paying for the privilege! I will pay for theater any day of the week, but when I participate in the theatrical exercise, I have to pay my agent a percentage as well and the whole phone farce just because financially untenable. So, now we have cell phones that work on the internet and laptops that work everywhere but the sofa and somehow a free subscription to HBOMax that I am conducting trials on. Modernity!


In this week’s newsletter: we must fight the Moon; Lovecraft Country comes to an end; and an excerpt from Reclaiming Her Time. But first!

On Day 3 Of The Chris-Course, I Gotta Go

Producer Amy Berg posted a version of the Gotta Go meme on Twitter on October 17 picturing four of the Hollywood Chrises: Chris Evans, Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pratt. (Note: in the interest of fairness and in consultation with my attorney and priest, I will be varying the order that the Chrises are listed in this article. This is known as Desperate Housewives Billing and it was determined at the Sheridan Summit of the early Aughts.) As is written in the Chris-titution, anyone, anywhere, at any time can post the Gotta Go meme and summon the Gotta Going. It's like when the Prime Minister dissolves Parliament and calls a Snap Election, except much more serious. Even though we are mere days away from a presidential election, the Gotta Going cannot be stopped and so the nation took their weary fingers to the keyboard polls once again. So it is written and so it shall be done in perpetuity.

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We Must Find Out What The Moon Is Plotting

On Wednesday NASA teased a forthcoming "discovery" about the surface of the Moon, to be announced Monday October 26 and I would like to file a formal complaint for emotional distress. Here's the thing, hon, what we're not doing at this time is mysterious reveals. We're on the 5,020th day of the 2016 election and you want me to spend a weekend feeling weirdsies about the movement of the spheres? I object! If you have news you are required to immediately report it using the proper channels. (The proper channels being a text to Rudy Giuliani from a number he hasn't saved in his phone but to which he will respond anyway.)

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A Scaredy-Cat Recap Of Lovecraft Country Episode 10: 'Full Circle'

Narratively and structurally, the series set us up to go just about anywhere in time and space. Such is the nature of a story that involves ancient magic, secrets, and a multiverse. There are no rules. If, in the final scene, Leti (Jurnee Smollett) and Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) had zoomed forward to the future, walked into my actual house, turned on my cable, and watched this thing called Lovecraft Country on my couch next to me while critiquing my interior decor I would have believed it. I'd be like "Oh wow. Harsh. But also narratively within the realm of possibility."

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A request!

Thank you so much to those of you who bought a copy of Reclaiming Her Time this week! I’m hoping more and more people discover the book, enjoy the work and wit of Rep. Waters, and share it with friends and family. To that end, I’d love it if you’d take a moment to rate or even write a note of review on the book on Amazon. You can do this even if you didn’t buy it from Amazon. (Indeed, I would really appreciate it if you’d buy my books from your favorite local independent bookseller. Some of my favorites include Loyalty Books, The Lit Bar, Greedy Reads, East City Bookshop, and Parnassus, among so many others.) Ratings on Amazon help people to find the book if they happen to be on Amazon looking for it and help encourage Amazon to prioritize the book. I really appreciate any internet love people give to my books, be it on Good Reads, Amazon, or on their own social media channels. Unfortunately, I don’t read reviews on Amazon or Good Reads because my therapist Brian and I have enough on our agendas to sort through, but I assure you, the energy makes a difference and helps others to find books.


Maxine Waters And The Making Of A Meme

She wasn’t the first to say it. “Reclaiming my time,” the three words that launched Maxine Waters into the millennial meme stratosphere, is, in fact, a pretty common expression on Capitol Hill. It’s formal phraseology that has been used on the House floor and in congressional committee meetings and hearings for decades. Excuse me, hi, thank you, stop talking, right now, please.

“Reclaiming my time” is a major key in the legislative lexicon. Do a quick search on C-SPAN and you’ll find thousands, literally thousands, of examples starring the men and women who make our laws politely giving one another a verbal tap on the shoulder. You know what the difference is between Maxine Waters and all those other members? She makes it sound good.

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Random Thing on the Internet

There are many “my wiiife” videos. This is the best of them. I encourage you to watch to the end.

the illusion of safety through wires,

Eric