Chaos: Eric Reads the Week, #20

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

I think people who walk the wrong direction through an art exhibit are the epitome of chaotic evil. Like, who are these monsters? What banana republic did you grow up in?

David and I went to the American Watercolors exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this weekend. It was closing weekend so it was chock-a-block with lookey-loos. (I have no idea what that sentence means.) Because we are sane, civilized people and not agents of entropy, we dutifully got in a line full of retired couples, tourists, and families, slowly filing past masterpieces and stopping, occasionally, to put our audio tours up to our ears (but only when the signs told us to).

"A Rocky Coast" by William Trost Richards. It's gorgeous up close, but it's painted on carpet paper which sounds ludicrous.

I don't really like being in lines or being beholden to the cast of Ferris Bueller in front of us getting their whole life in front of a Thomas Eakins painting of a bench or whatever, but I do enjoy the order of it all. Every once in a while, a crazy person would duck into the line or swoop up to a painting and inspect it like they were Thomas Crown or something. Like, fall back. You're doing too much. But for the most part people walked in a single-file line, looked at the art and moved on. Until we got near the American watercolor impressionism room when a spirit of absolute chaos took over.

Maybe it was the do-wop music leaking through the wall from the gift shop, maybe it was a reaction to the rigidity of the pre-Raphaelite process some artists clung to, maybe it was literal evil walking the Earth, but people started to go crazy. Meek-looking suburbanites started touching the walls, prompting admonition from the docents, tourists were swooping in to look at paintings from all angles, chaos. The worst of it came as I was examining (from a safe, respectable and all-American distance) a painting of a Spanish sea battle. It was wonderful--deep, rich colors, extraordinary detail work, drama. I turned from the painting to proceed, like a non-terrorist, to the next painting, as God and the curator intended. I came face-to-face with these two dudes who were shamelessly taking the exhibit from back to front! These lunatics--one string bean tall, one bouncy ball short--had the temerity to grin at me. I immediately called Homeland Security. The bouncy ball made a motion like I was supposed to move out of his way. So that he could run rampant through all of the senior citizens hemming and hawing behind me? Not on my watch! I stood my ground and stared them down because I am a patriot, a hero and, honestly, you have to draw the line somewhere.

They zipped away. Good riddance, I thought, and continued my journey, reading every single panel in order as it came. I love panels. David and I read every single thing in every exhibit. My father is the same way. I think our dream museum is just a collection of panels. The curatorial idea would just be "Here's some facts you may find interesting, mounted on the wall on foam board." Heaven.

I was luxuriating in that notion, standing in front of a Winslow Homer painting (which, according to the panel, was brilliant and also hated by people at the time. Homer was pressed.) Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a string bean and a bouncy ball round the corner like a couple of furies. I turned sharply, to see what fresh havoc they would wreak. The looked at the room, its periphery lined with art and people and the cornerstones of a civilized society, grinned again, and then darted at a diagonal, through the room, looked at one painting and then flitted off deeper into the belly of exhibit. I have never been so scandalized in all my life! I tell you, I was shaking. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

This week's columns are equally as scandalous. Chaos was the law of the land, it seemed, almost everywhere you looked. The administration is holding a seance to resurrect Nixon, some lunatics seem to believe that Macron is hotter than Trudeau, and the president is tweeting out absurdity like Lucky in Waiting for Godot. It's a lot, girl. But first, riding through the chaos with a clear voice and a surfeit of facts, Queen Sally Yates...

Sally Yates Is Queen of the Constitutional Clapback

She's Marvel's newest Avenger: a career DOJ lawyer who acquired superpowers in a freak electoral college accident. Sally Yates makes me want to be a good lawyer in the same way that Olivia Benson makes me want to be an indefatigable detective or Olivia Pope makes me want to be a Washington fixer with perfect posture or Olivia from The Cosby Show makes me want to be a universally adored 3-year-old television star. Yates is like Rizzoli and Isles rolled into one. Get you a woman who can do both. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

POTUS Twitter Account Taken Over by the Ghost of Eugène Ionesco

In perhaps the most surprising move at the end of a week full of surprises, controversies, left-turns, and lies, the Trump administration today revealed that the POTUS Twitter account had been taken over by the ghost of avant-garde absurdist playwright Eugène Ionesco. "It shows our deep commitment to the arts," Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. "As well as our deep commitment to language-based examples of the futility of human existence." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Trudeau Is Still Hotter Than Macron: Notes on Le Scandal

People need to stop saying that Justin Trudeau got bumped down to second place in the World's Hottest Leader rankings. That is fake news. That is sacrilege. Sacre bleu! Sacre-lige bleu? No, that's just ridiculous. Look, there comes a time in every American's life when they must take a stand for a French-Canadian politician's attractiveness. And that jour is to-jour! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

This topic was so important that I also filmed an Eric Reads the News Video about it! I will stop at nothing for hottie justice. Click here to view it and all of my other videos about the pressing issues of our time.

Trump Met With Henry Kissinger Because That's Totally a Normal Thing to Do

Is this Nixonian? How do you out-Nixon Nixon? Is this the Inception of Nixoning?

In the world of movie thrillers, this kind of moment is known as a "Hello, Clarice." You know, it's that thing where the villain lets you know that he knows you know and he's like "But, do you know I know you know?!" And you're sitting on your couch yelling, "I know! I know!" [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Random Thing from the Internet...

I am pretty sure that pop music has moved on without me. I listen to music every day but when I scroll through the Billboard Hot 100 or the iTunes most played, I literally have no idea who most of the artists are. I never thought I'd be the person who's like "What's a Migos?" (I know who Migos is, btw. I just couldn't think of a band that I actually haven't heard of because... well, I haven't heard of them.) Father John Misty! That's one. People keep saying it and I have no clue what they're talking about.

I was never that cool to begin with. I can't say for sure that I've ever listened to Nevermind all the way through. But I try to keep abreast of what's happening. One of the best jobs I ever had was at the Hard Rock Cafe where I spent all day getting an education on all of the classic rock I'd missed while listening to Barenaked Ladies and Bette Midler in high school (no regrets about that, btw). This week, I stumbled upon some legitimately new music by an actual present day pop star. Harry Styles' new album is surprisingly awesome. It's like Lady Gaga's "Joanne" as recorded by an in-his-prime Bryan Adams. It's a little McCartney-ish, a little Mellencampy, slightly Costello-esque. I didn't expect any of these things, especially from a former boybander in his early 20s. No shade, but it just seems that pop music is in a more synthesized and uptempo place. I'm here for that place, too. But I thought Harry's album was a throwback that felt authentically refreshing. Give it a listen.

To a calmer but still uptempo week,