Persistence: Eric Reads the Week, #7

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

The Super Bowl stressed me all the way out last week! I didn't watch one hot second of the game but the ads were intense. I love that seemingly every ad featured a multicultural cast reaffirming the values of inclusivity and belonging. It's like they were trying to sell America to America. If I didn't live here, I'd definitely want to move here! But since I do I was like, "Is this this America? Or next season's America? Can I preorder this America? Is it downloadable on iTunes?"

I'd like to speak to the manager of America.

This week's e-mail is a little politics heavy--we've matched funny female comedians with their cabinet counterparts, gone through the best political catchphrases of the week and stalked Obama on vacay again. But(t) first, some thoughts about sexy Mr. Clean.

Why Can't I Stop Thinking About Sexy Mr. Clean?

In concept, Mr. Clean should be a total hottie. He's muscle-bound, bald, he probably smells faintly like bleach all the time so he's got that Sexy Janitor thing going on. You know that thing we all have? For sexy janitor?

Anyway, Mr. Clean is like Professor X as portrayed by Chris Meloni. And let me tell you how here for that I am: I built a time machine so that I could go back in time and join myself here. For. That. Chris Meloni can do anything, up to and including, magically erasing stubborn stains from the table. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

We Went Ahead and Cast the Men in Trump's Cabinet With Funny Ladies

Reports are coming out that the thing that enervated the president most about Melissa McCarthy's incredible Sean Spicer impression on SNL wasn't how accurate it was, but rather that it was performed by a woman. The president, reportedly, "doesn't like his people to look weak," which is ironic because McCarthy is one of the most powerful comedians in Hollywood. If you're going to the fly into a rage when a late-night comedy sketch show casts a woman in drag to play a man in your administration, maybe don't fill your cabinet with men? Who knows.

Anyway, because of the rules of comedy, now that we know the president doesn't want women playing the men in his inner circle, now we have to cast women as every single person in his administration. We have to. For the country. [SEE THE FULL LIST]


This is why you can't follow your exes on social media. Everything's going fine, you're liking pictures of their dog or whatever then suddenly they start hanging out with a new "friend." And you're like, "Okay, that's cool. Friends are fine. Richard Branson is a rich billionaire. He has planes. A lot of planes. I bet he has plenty of friends." Then all of the sudden they're on vacay together. Like, was there a Groupon? Is this necessary? [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Your Guide to This Week's Political Catchphrases

Why is the president trying out catchphrases like he's the newest Real Housewife? ::Does a Housewife twirl in a bathrobe.:: See you in court! But not if I see you first! ::throws martini at the screen.::

See you in court is not even, like, accurate.

POTUS: See you in court!

JUDGE: Okay. Well, we're already here. In court. Which is where, like, rulings are made. So... like, text me when you're outside.

Iconic. Peculiar. Nonsensical. I need this catchphrase on everything, including my Ivanka brand tote bag. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

10 Works of Black Literature America Needs Right Now

Reading is so in this year. Everyone in the United States is suddenly buying 1984 because “theoretical dystopias as reality” are the hot new look, so listen up, America. Take your seats. I’m your substitute teacher, Sister Mary Clarence, and it’s time to talk about the Black Literature Canon.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of important books about Black American experiences; rather, this is a survey of books that — like 1984 — will give you insight into the conversations that are happening right now (usually on your Facebook feed). [READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON MAN REPELLER]

From the vault...

Queen Bey is nigh-on 36 months pregnant with the future co-presidents of the United States but that is not deterring her from performing on tonight's Grammy Awards broadcast. In anticipation, let's revisit a column from this summer about that time that her actual hair took on a life of its own.

Beyoncé's Braid Came to Life and We Need to Talk About it

Beyoncé has always excelled at giving us #hairgoals but this is so far beyond that, it's ridiculous. This is #yourfavecouldnever and #folliclemiracle. That braid is going to have a church devoted to it by this time next week. #hallelu #hairllelu. Beyoncé's hair just graduated from Hogwarts School of Wigcraft. Bey is a Gryffindor but that hair is Slytherin as all get out. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Random thing from the internet...

I teach a Special Topics class on Curatorial and Creative Residencies at the University of the Arts. This is the first time I've taught at the college level and I'm quite enjoying it while also being reminded that most of my references are hella old. (Like that: who says hella anymore?) (I do!) (Language is alive! Dammit!)

This week, I wanted to talk about audience and I wanted to get them thinking about different curatorial frameworks: festival versus gallery show versus happening, etc. One of the examples I brought in was Christo and Jeanne-Claude's huge Central Park installation The Gates.

Twelve years ago this month, the artists hung 7,503 saffron-colored fabric panels from 16-foot tall metal gates throughout Central Park. It stretched for 23 miles, winding through the barren winter landscape like a flaming river. It remains one of my favorite public installations ever. I love that it was built for eventual decay. I love that it was unabashedly public and accessible. I love that they approached the city about doing it in 1979 and didn't get the go ahead until 2005.

All that exists of The Gates now is a very comprehensive website (and a lovely passage about it in the play The New Century). It appeared in the snow in New York 3 and a half years after September 11th and was gone in a month. But now I can never think about Central Park without thinking of The Gates. That's the power of art, especially in trying times, in the face of adversity, in the bleak mid-winter.

See you in court!


The Sensible Nonsense Project -- I'll be reading a new essay at this delightful regular show in which adults talk about influential children's books. I'll be screaming about The Monster at the End of This Book
February 22, 6pm, Kelly Writers House at UPenn