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