Staff Picks: Janelle Monae, The Rock, and Cheese Cleanses

Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

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Tom Cruise’s Absurdity in Going Clear

The general public has most likely been aware that Tom Cruise was something other than normal after he paraded all over Oprah’s couch, but it wasn’t until I saw Alex Gibney’s Going Clear on HBO that it was confirmed for me: yeah, he’s damn nuts. As seen in footage of Scientology-sponsored parties and events in honor of Cruise, Cruise is so indebted to the praise of Scientology’s David Miscavige that, were he to ever separate from the church, I believe he would go into some kind of shock because of a malnourishment of praise. Who would ever want to leave a party, no matter how insane, if everybody there was stroking your ego every minute of every day? — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice


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The Rock on Saturday Night Live (and Wrestlemania, and Furious 7, and on Instagram)

Out of all the wrestlers that I adored during the Attitude Era, I love that The Rock is the one who managed to finagle an impressive and successful career outside of WWF/WWE. Sure, you can argue that making action movies is a natural (and common) move for wrestlers, but he actually has the acting skills to back up his muscles. He reinvigorated the Fast and the Furious franchise (it took everything in me not to scream with joy every time he appeared on scream in Furious 7) and his occasional returns to WWE always elevate the program. The Rock is a surprisingly gifted comedian, too — I’ve already watched his last SNL episode twice — a skill that he actually honed in his WWE promos. Oh, and he’s also the best person that I follow on Instagram, especially when he’s hilariously posing in front of various modes of transportation. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor


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Wrestling with Saturday Night Live

I recently finished reading the new chapters, just added for the big 40th anniversary, of Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s indispensible 2002 Saturday Night Live oral history Live from New York, and they—like the rest of the book, which I’d already read twice—are great, insightful and funny and filled with wonderful stories and quotes. And yet, I had a hard time squaring that book, and particularly its overwhelming lionization of Lorne Michaels, with the clusterfuck SNL 40 special, a sloppily assembled, shakily executed, and alarmingly unfunny attempt to convey the show’s particular magic. It served as a kind of reminder that sometimes it’s more fun to talk about SNL than to watch it, and that our nostalgia-bathed affection for the show is often a case of selective memory, forgetting the many bits that don’t work, bolstering those that do. And then, right around the same time, I heard a perfect bit of corrective criticism, via Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Harry Shearer, Simpsons and Spinal Tap co-star and two-time SNL cast member. And because neither of those stints went all that well, Shearer is willing to do what few will: take down Lorne, not with viciousness, but with common sense. Take a listen, starting at 1:11:45, as Shearer takes apart SNL’s entrenched production process, pointing out how it leads to wasted effort, unquestioned decisions, and (worst of all, to those of us watching) those damned cue cards. There’s no question that SNL is an institution, and a valuable one—Shales and Miller’s book confirms that. But it’s also nice to hear a dissenting opinion in the midst of all this anniversary spit-shining. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


 

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Gotham Girls Roller Derby 

On Saturday, as I approached a nondescript warehouse in Bushwick, I could hear the crowd shouting and the refs’ whistles coming from the inside. I had no idea what to expect since I had only just learned about the all-female Gotham Girls Roller Derby, and this was going to be my first game. Inside, there was a large, flat blue track with the teams’ benches positioned in the middle, and women in black and white uniforms, wearing helmets and elbow and knee pads were skating around quickly in a circle. I joined some of my coworkers on the bleachers. At first, everything seemed to be happening in hyper speed and I had no idea what was going on—women were pushing each other and some were falling, and the scoreboard kept going up. But then a quick Wiki search of the rules solved my confusion. Once I understood how the game worked, it looked really fun, and I wondered: Would I be any good at this? — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice 


Janelle Monae and Jidenna’s “Yoga” 

As a generally lazy yet busy-headed person, the best yoga I’ve been able to do is a downward dog into bed while heavy-breathing to stop from fretting about the following day. With Janelle Monae and Jidenna’s  startlingly danceable (or, if you’re similarly lazy, listenable) new track, “Yoga,” off the upcoming compilation Wondaland Presents The EEPHUS, I now have another way of “doing yoga” without actually committing to doing yoga. Apart from its suggestive walk-through of yogic poses, the song also features the spectacular, nipple-freedom-endorsing lyric, “You cannot police me so get off my areola.” — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor



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Fresh Direct’s Cheese Cleanse 

My number one staff pick is Fresh Direct’s “cheese cleanse” April Fool’s prank, because as an on-the-record fromageophile, obviously, I would absolutely love to go on a cheese cleanse. But on a only slightly deeper level I appreciated that it was a prank that didn’t seek to make fools of us, but made people come together, mocking our puritan impulses towards trends like juice cleanses and spartan diets, and celebrating the imperfection of our cravings. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large