Too Much: Eric Reads the Week, #45
Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Why is it that sometimes we love a song so much that we listen to it until we hate it? That's a dumb instinct for a human being. What evolutionary purpose does it serve for me to make myself sick from loving something? Does the universe want to teach me moderation? Well, you better put it in a plot line of The Good Place, because I'm not getting it.
It's not just music; this applies to almost everything good: TV shows, food. You know what I don't do it with? Exercise. I'm never like "Oh man, I loved that sit-up so much, let me do 100 more of them." But everything good, absolutely.
I'm dangerously close to that experience with Kelly Clarkson's "Heat" right now and, frankly, I'm in crisis mode about it. I listen to it in the car on repeat and it's been literally saving my life.
So, we bought a car for me a few weeks ago because, despite what a bunch of bright-eyed hipsters will tell you, Baltimore is not a walkable city. It's like Atlanta in that everything is 14 minutes away by car or 2.5 hours away by foot. So, I had a small-to-medium "Nicole Kidman at the train station in The Hours" breakdown and then we bought a hybrid. But, since I'm a new driver and a lifelong anxious person, it's been a little tough. One time I drove out to IKEA for a small part with which to put our sofa together and I had such intense anxiety that I was soaking with sweat when I came home. David freaked. He was like "What happened at IKEA?!" I was like, "I foiled a terrorist plot. Actually, just kidding. I had to back into a space in an empty parking lot and it destroyed me."
Anyway, I started playing Kelly Clarkson's "Meaning of Life" on my drives and it changed everything. Of course it did. Kelly is perfect. And "Heat" is perfect. Her whole album, Meaning of Life, is perfect. As I said on Facebook, it's a screlt masterpiece. I CANNOT get enough. And I don't want to hate it because I love it so much!
When these things get close to happening I always think of Soft Batch cookies. When I was a little kid I loved Soft Batch cookies more than any other cookie on the market. Every once in a while I could cajole my parents into buying us a pack. One time, after a successful cajoling, I was left alone on a Saturday morning with my grandmother to babysit. She grew up in the Depression and would do things like splitting one packet of hot cocoa into as many mugs as she could manage before the water ran clear again. She didn't really get my whole, "If you give a mouse a cookie and then 10 more cookies..." thing I had going. So, I decided that I had to be surreptitious about eating cookies. I was so good at being in-cookie-gnito that I didn't realize I ate the whole pack in one afternoon. Of course, I got extremely ill, freaked my grandmother out, had to confess I'd eaten an entire pack of Soft Batch cookies like a Garfield cartoon, and I haven't been able to even look at Soft Batch cookies since then. My brain still loves them, but my body is revolted. It's Shakespearean, really.
Musically, I've had many "Soft Batch moments" with songs. I played the hell out of the "Magnolia" soundtrack in college because I had FEELINGS and now I need Aimee Mann to "Save Me" from the music anytime it comes on. There's a bunch of truly excellent Adele songs than give me hives now. I really can't handle that kind of thing happening to Kelly and me.
Kelly Clarkson (and, I must admit, HAIM and Rita Ora) have really helped with this whole "torture chamber on wheels" things I have going on with my car. But I'm SO NERVOUS that I'm going to get to the point where I never want to hear "Heat" again. And that makes me so sad! It's her best song since "Stronger." It's a standout on an album full of instant classics ("Meaning of Life" is AMAZING; "Move You" is incredible; "Slow Dance" OMGGGGG) I've had drives where I've replayed it 10 times in a row. It's a lot.
I don't want to hate it. I want to enjoy it forever. Should I make a schedule? Should I only listen to "Heat" on, like, Tuesdays? Should I learn... moderation?!
This week's columns were an interesting mix of celebs who got it just right--like JLo and ARod's mix of comedy and heart in their "how we met story"--and those who could really use some moderation--can someone tell Sarah Huckabee Sanders to take this performance down a notch? I also wrote two longer, more serious pieces of cultural criticism. One about Kevin Spacey and one about the superlative 1997 Cinderella. I'm very proud of both of them, although they came from very different places in my heart.
The Whitney/Brandy Cinderella Was One of the Most Important Movies of the '90s
No moment is more transcendent than Whitney's centerpiece song, "Impossible/It's Possible." It's the song that transports Cinderella from her house of misery to the prince's castle. It's the song that changes her world. But it's also a song that reaches far beyond the limits of the film. It's shorthand for this film's legacy; its whole world was built on that same gleaming possibility. Even the pure fact of the film's existence meant that something was achievable that hadn't been before. I will never forget how stunning it was to watch these two performers, both women of color, sing the words "It's possible" over and over and over again, until I believed it. It changed my life. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
While I loved revisiting Cinderella, I think this is my favorite piece of the week. It's just so ridiculous.
An Artistic Analysis of the Random Stuff In Justin Bieber's Bathroom
The bathroom selfie (also known as the third Tinder pic or the "U up?") is one of modern art's most expressive forms. The garish light, the toothpaste speckled mirror, the concentrated grimace all contribute to a milieu that offers an arresting true-to-life snapshot. Gazing at a "U up?" one wonders how much preparation went into the mis-en-scene. What has the artist shielded from view? What does the artist want us to focus on? And what has been left out by accident? Of the three questions, the last is probably the most exciting, as it suggests the tantalizing prospect that we may discover something that was not meant for our eyes. Today in bathroom selfies: Justin Bieber. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Does Megyn Kelly Impress You? Much?
"Do you know who I am?" she asked the audience, which stared back at her with their usual stupor. No one can believe any of this is happening. "Here's a little hint: 'Man! I feel like a woman!'" Megyn Kelly, journalist, sang in a top hat while a small voice in her head asked "Is this how you thought things would turn out? Do you think maybe this a punishment? Is Black Santa mad at you?" Out loud, Megyn made the big reveal. "Shania Twain! Which I did not exactly nail but I gave it the best effort I could," she said, her words echoing into the chasm where cast-off morning television hosts are thrown. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Justin Trudeau as Clark Kent Is My Kryptonite
Oh mon dieu! Le Bae has done it again. Justice League doesn't come out for two more weeks but, spoiler alert, Superman is back in the building. Your favorite raven-haired Ravenclaw showed up as the most Gryffindor dude on the planet for Halloween and I am not mad at all. When you have a forelock like this you have to put it to work for you, honey! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Kevin Spacey's 'Coming Out' Statement Betrays the Queer Communities
It seems there is a wrong way to come out.
In response to allegations made by Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp that Kevin Spacey had made unwelcome advances on the former when Rapp was 14 years-old, Spacey released a two paragraph statement in which he disavowed knowledge of the incident as described and also came out as a gay man. On every level, from conceptually to syntactically, it's a betrayal of the queer communities. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
We've Seen the Future and the White House Continues to be Totally Chill About Those Indictments
From next week's press conference:
"We're still doing this? Just a reminder, the President wasn't even aware he was running for office. How can you have a corrupt campaign manager if you don't have a campaign. Okay? Shadow government? Okay. Deep State. Got it? The Net starring Sandra Bullock. Do you read me? The President thought Paul Manafort was an actor from The Sopranos, okay? When he met him, he signed his bicep. It was very weird. But as you're aware, the President is a very famous man. It is a continuing shock to him that he is actually the leader of the free world. We appreciate your privacy during this difficult time. Now, as I was saying, if you go to Olive Garden and you don't have any salad or breadsticks..." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
JLo and ARod Re-Telling Their First Date Is So Cute I May Explode
The woman who made history by having a number one movie and a number one album at the same time continues (lest you forget!) continues: "I don’t know if he thought it was a date. I thought it was a date. Then I knew he was nervous because he asked me if I wanted a drink." I'm obsessed with this idea of stars not knowing they're on dates. I will never feel bad about getting a confusing read on a situation ever again. I'm not socially awkward; I'm JLo, star of The Wedding Planner and the artist behind the album JLo (LEST YOU FORGET!)
I'm also very invested in this idea that millionaire baseball player who looks like Alex Rodriguez gets nervous. I mean, everyone should ideally get butterflies around Jennifer Lopez but this is next level. In the article, Rodriguez defends himself: “Maybe we were seeing each other at night because of her work schedule. I went in uneasy, not knowing her situation.” The age-old question: is it cuffing season or are we doing business? Iconic. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Here's Melania Trump With a Small-Armed Dinosaur (And Also a Kid in a T-Rex Costume)
As is tradition, the White House welcomed trick-or-treaters to the South Lawn to shriek at the haunted mansion of our democracy. The ghost of Paul Ryan's conscience and the ghoulish spirit of Mitch McConnell ushered unsuspecting children into America's final resting place where they were greeted by a vengeful babadook who looks like Jeff Sessions the President and the First Lady. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Random thing from the internet...
This New Yorker article--"Chinatown's Ghost Scam" by Jiayang Fan--is extraordinary. It's about con artists who use superstitions in immigrant Chinese communities to prey on victims. I don't want to spoil anything, but it has the single best concluding paragraph of any long form journalism I've ever read. I read it in the print version and I literally shouted like I was in church when I finished it. I threw the magazine down on the table and stared at David, wild-eyed and breathless. Normal New Yorker reactions. It might be blocked by a paywall. If it is, just let me know. You can come over to my house and I'll let you read the print copy while I try to force myself to eat Soft Batch cookies. It'll be a whole afternoon!