I Need To Talk About “Use Me”

I need to talk about “Use Me,” the song and music video from Future’s 2017 album HNDRXX.

Future has been around for a long time. To some feminist circles he is known solely for legal troubles and talking shit about his ex-fiance, Ciara. To others, he is lumped in the trap category with other wide-ranging rappers like Young Thug and Travi$ Scott. When I first heard him I thought of him less like a bouncy trap rapper and more like an adult Drake.

While other rappers revel in the hallucinatory fun of drugs like lean and molly, Future’s verses drip with the reality of taking drugs that alter your perception. They’re not always fun. Future has no fear showing us his pain from years of anguish and literal hustling and the need to rely on drugs for more than just a good time.

“Use Me,” opens with Future crooning to us before being swept up in the expansive and ethereal beat. “Tools, tools, I keep them tools,” he sputters. His voice rises up through the beat to strain to tell us “These tools are for you to use me.” In the video, we see a lone figure hunched over a booth in an empty restaurant. His hood is pulled over his head and his face hovers above a Styrofoam cup that we know is lean. We see Future’s face framed by his hood, braids, and sunglasses. His sunglasses catch the reflection of a specter – a young boy who is not there. We see the boy, too young to drive, pull up to the restaurant to formally join Future. Future pushes his hood back to look at him. Who is that?

Future can barely look at him. He looks at him through his sunglasses. Then he looks at him through his fingers, his eyes darting away and then back at the boy in what looks like both sadness and fear. Finally he stares at him, though he can’t bring himself to fully face him. Now they’re looking at each other. The boy says nothing and has no reaction. Now what?

Future tears into the first verse, a love song. “Yes to the tights that you like, they are see-through,” he says definitively. “Who pissed you off baby tell me what he do.” He is clearly not talking about the boy in the video, but he is also clearly rejecting his own fear and anxiety that we saw when he faced him for the sake of his lover. I will take care of you. Maybe no one took care of me. Maybe you’ve been wronged in the past. But now, I will take care of you. He goes from energetically spitting the lines from his booth to sitting in the booth alone again, head in hands from utter pain. Even though the first verse is a love song to a woman, it is clear that the boy represents Future’s younger/inner self. Because when we first see Future, he’s alone. The boy spooks him but he overcomes his fear. But the boy also reminds him of who he is and where he came from – inspiring him to physically move more while he raps about how he will take care of his woman. “Use me what you want me for,” he begs. I’m here for you. The boy gets up and leaves the booth; Future follows without hesitation. He is embracing his past now.

We see a lone woman in a trap house counting money. Her hair is disheveled and is nearly crying as she counts. Where is everybody? Whose money is she counting? All we know is she is alone, sad in a trap.

The boy drives as Future sits in the passenger seat. Future looks confused but at-peace; the slow movements and half-lidded eyes of Future on lean. The boy looks at him occasionally. Future raps to himself.

White men put on balaklavas and take guns from a trunk. Future digs into the second verse.

“Bout to get xanned out.” “I feel like Pink Floyd with the lean out.” The drugs weigh heavily as he sifts through his need to physically arm himself to feel safe and his own ability to get out of a trap. “Cause I was trappin’ at Grandma’s house when I came out,” he raps. This line tells us so much of what we need to know about the pain Future feels about his past. He was at his Grandma’s house, not his mom’s house or his dad’s house or his parents’ house. But he also wasn’t visiting or even staying at his Grandma’s . . . he was trapping, selling drugs to get by. When was he able to have a life or a childhood during that?

“But you get high enough, you can dodge rain drops.” My favorite line from “Use Me,” HNDRXX, Future, and one of my favorites from music in general. If you use enough lean, like Future, everything around you slows down enough so you feel like Neo dodging rain drops (and like Neo, whether you’re actually dodging rain drops or only perceive yourself to be dodging rain drops is never clear). Not only that, if you’re rich enough, like Future, you can fly anywhere you need to go. And when you fly, rain drops don’t bother you or slow you down; you just go higher.

As Future moves through this verse in the boy’s car, we see the white men in balaklavas rush the woman in the trap house, tie her up, and take her money. This happens as Future sings through the chorus: “You know niggas full of lies/You know niggas full of tries.” Everyone is lying, everyone is trying to get by. She doesn’t put up a fight and seems to accept the robbery as inevitable as she silently cries to herself. We see the boy in the room with her, watching. We see Future back in the restaurant, alone. We see the boy and Future back in the car again. Is the boy leading Future through his own pain?

Future and the boy are back in the restaurant, across from each other in the booth. The boy stares as always. Future finally looks at him head-on, no sunglasses, no hood up, nothing in front of his face. He looks at him with a slight sigh as if to say “Come on man, no more.” Future leans forward and the boy is gone. Future walks into the open door of the trap house where the woman still lay, though no longer crying. He walks in matter-of-factly and moves past her like he knows exactly where to go. We see the boy sitting there, watching. As the song winds down, Future’s speaking voice swells up: “When I was young I was in one of those houses, like a drug house, where you were always getting busted, police running around. It was my grandma’s house.”

Future may fear his past but he is fearless in showing us his pain. He’s a man who’s crawled out of nothing to the top of the music industry and rap world. He’s loved deeply and passionately and lost love and experienced major heartbreak. It’s not always fun or pretty but it’s not keeping him down. His past informs his present while he simultaneously breaks away from the past that literally almost killed him.

“Use Me,” is a beautiful piece of art from Future, a beautiful artist.

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30, a poem by Daniel Sewell

30
A poem* by Daniel Sewell

Sent ya bitch a dick pic and now she need glasses.
Turn your bitch Slick Rick right now if I flashed it,
Ate a couple pills took the bud out the plastic,
Flickin’ bogey ashes – bitch I stay blasted.

Microphone Cassius,
Magic with the sick shit,
‘posed to been dead,
but bitch I’m still up in this bitch!
Verbal herbal poison
Words I contortion
Fucked a pregnant bitch she saved money on her abortion.

I feel like Billy Corgan in a church playing organ
Covering Too Short, smoking a Newport.
Kurt hoped the drugs would make the pain go away
But all these thoughts up in my head made the sane go astray.

Step inside a mind that revolves around the rhyme
And every time he close his eyes, visions of white lines.
Dying in the arms of a blond blue eyed 20-something,
Don’t know her name but the paramedics chest pumping
30-something black male, OD’ed off of pills
that he wasn’t prescribed but they took his life
Left behind a daughter that doesn’t really even know him
Cause her mama thought he wouldn’t make a living off of poems.

But it was a long journey on a rocky road,
Had a hoody on and a jacket in the snow
Walking in the cold on the way to the studio
Nigga that was just a couple years ago.
Dropped a couple mixtapes on the net
And niggas tried to front like it wasn’t all that,
But guess what bitch I’m coming back!
Guess what bitch I’m coming back!

Signed to Fool’s Gold and everything’s all gnarly,
Now these bitches want my number to get up in the party.

Came a long way from extension cords in the window,
Borrowing neighbor’s power just to plug up the Nintendo.
Where the oven’s never closed and stove’s never off,
Every winter so cold niggas sleeping wearing scarves.
But I always tell myself that it’s gonna get better –
You know who you is.
You the greatest rapper ever.

So now the pressure’s on to prove that voice right.
Some people never know they goals, knew mine my whole life.
So now his turn’s up fixing up to bat
Pitching singles to the label when I use to pitch crack.

I never learned to rap, always knew how,
Ever since a nigga 8, knew what I would do now.
When I turned 28 they like what you gonna do now?
And now a nigga 30 so y’all don’t think that hurt me
that the last ten years I been so fucking stressed,
Tears in my eyes let me get this off my chest,
The thought of no success got a nigga chasin’ death
Doing all these drugs in hopes of OD’ing next – Triple X.

*This was not published as a written poem but rather as a rap song under Sewell’s professional name, Danny Brown. The poetic sensibilities of rappers are almost always overlooked in discourse about rap and hip-hop. When I saw so much public outrage over Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature I realized the public’s acceptance of rap as art and rappers as the new generation of American poets was much further away than I had hoped. Perhaps young Bob Dylan fans in the ’60’s and beyond were sick of hearing Dylan’s art referred to as merely the rantings of an angry young Jew. I am sick of hearing various rappers’ art referred to the rantings of angry young black men. Rap can be poetry. Poetry can be art. Let’s start actually listening instead of hearing only what we think we should hear. 

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90210, a poem by Jacques Webster

90210
A poem* by Jacques Webster

She a porn star girl oh from the valley,
Who left her hometown world all for the alley,
Created Lake Tahoe all from her panties,
Used to take the long way home
Long way home all for that candy.

Jacques turn La Flame now you rolling on an Addy,
Fifty on her chain ‘nother fifty on her Caddy,
He might pop him a pill pop him a seal pop anyone
Pop anything pop anything to find that alley,
Then find an alley.

In the 90210 90210 looking for that alley,
In the 90210 90210 looking for that alley,
It’s the superstar girl superstar girl roaming in that alley,
In the 90210 90210 somewhere in that alley.

My granny called, she said “Travie, you work too hard
I’m worried you’ll forget about me,”
I’m falling in and out of cuffs
Don’t worry I’mma get it granny.
What happened now my daddy happy mama called me up
That money coming and she love me I done made it now
I done found life’s meaning now
All them days her heart’d break,
Her heart not in pieces now.

Friends turning into fraud niggas
Practicin’ have the passion you niggas packaged different,
All you niggas –
You niggas want the swag you can’t have it,
I’mma sell it you niggas salad, we ’bout the cabbage.

Youngest nigga outta Houston at the Grammys
Smiling at ’em laughing at me,
I passed the rock to Ye he pump faked and passed it back bitch
All of this off of rapping – should’ve wrote this in Latin.

Yeah,
I know I know I know I know I know,
I know I know I know I know I know
Cuzzo said we in the store, yeah, we ’bout to drop a ‘fo
He pass the cigarette I choke,
Tell my auntie put them poles down them poles down,
Now you know you love your own now.

Hit the stage they got their hands up don’t put your nose down,
I ain’t knockin’ nigga I knocked the door down for sure now.
Whole crew I swear they counting on me,
Gold chains gold rings I got an island on me,
Houses on me, he got them ounces on him.

Holy Father come save these niggas I’m styling on ’em,
Good lord I see my good fortune in all these horses
I’m driving too fast to stop so all these signs, I ignore them
Distant sky from north of the border, my chips is in order,
My mom’s biggest supporter
So now nigga support her, nigga.

 

*This was not published as a written poem but rather as a rap song under Webster’s professional name, Travi$ Scott. The poetic sensibilities of rappers are almost always overlooked in discourse about rap and hip-hop. When I saw so much public outrage over Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature I realized the public’s acceptance of rap as art and rappers as the new generation of American poets was much further away than I had hoped. Perhaps young Bob Dylan fans in the ’60’s and beyond were sick of hearing Dylan’s art referred to as merely the rantings of an angry young Jew. I am sick of hearing various rappers’ art referred to the rantings of angry young black men. Rap can be poetry. Poetry can be art. Let’s start actually listening instead of hearing only what we think we should hear. 

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We Have A Problem

Growing up as an American kid I was enamored with the idea of adult life. Unlike for children, everything seemed to be open and free for adults. You could buy whatever you wanted as long as you went to work every day. You could go wherever you wanted as long as you had a car or money for a plane ticket. Even as I got older and the reality of adulthood became clearer, I still felt that I was mostly correct, at least in theory. All that really mattered was that you were at least 18 years old and American. If you wanted to get really crazy, you just had to be at least 21 years old and American. As I got older I added little caveats to some of these thoughts, like ” . . . if you have rich parents.” When I entered high school I added a glaring caveat: ” . . . if you’re white.” But that’s just life, isn’t it? Challenges are to be expected.

Then I became a woman. And just like physically becoming a woman, my awareness that my femininity was a negative didn’t happen all at once or even have a distinct beginning.

There was the time in 7th grade when a message went up on a stall door in the girls’ bathroom that directly named the boy I had a crush on: [MY CRUSH] IS A LOSER IN LOVE WITH A ZIT-FACED 7TH GRADE SLUT. As the only 7th grader with cystic acne, I was, at first, ecstatic, even with the ridiculous slut accusation. Until my best friend asked if I wrote the message. I didn’t, but the doubt was still in the air. Pointing out to everyone that the message was more insulting to me than to him, a star athlete, only seemed to make my guilt seem more obvious. When the vice principal told me that I had to scrub the writing off myself, I asked why she couldn’t figure out who really wrote it and make them clean it. She explained that the words were “very hurtful” to my crush and that I “needed” to take them down “for him.”

There was the time in 9th grade when I faked sick during P.E. for two days in a row during the week of the “President’s Fitness Test” to avoid the “shuttle run.” I had long hated the shuttle run, in which the entire P.E. class sat and watched you run a short distance, but when the first girl in my P.E. class stood up for her test and a wave of snickers filled the gym I especially wanted nothing to do with it. I asked my P.E. teacher if I could test in private, or maybe just in front of the girls. He said he couldn’t make special exceptions. I watched every boy get high-fives from the other boys after completing their tests. As I ran for my own test, all I could see were boys licking the air in my direction and pretend to juggle close to their chests, miming as if they had breasts.

There was the time in 12th grade when my favorite teacher asked me out on a date the night after my high school graduation because he “couldn’t hold it in anymore.”

And so on. And so forth.

I long ago had to come to terms with what being an American woman really meant. I can’t go wherever I want, whenever I want, regardless of cost or method of transportation. I can’t even walk around a giant American city (Chicago) in broad daylight on a busy pedestrian street (Belmont Ave.) without cat calls and/or getting followed and practically stalked. I can’t just show up to work everyday and make enough money because I have to constantly prove that I am just as worthy of being employed as any male counterpart, who will make more money than me regardless of if he shows up or not.

So when a man who is asking me, and everyone in America, to make him President of the United States, says about women, “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything . . . Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” I must give pause. Not because I’m shocked by what I’ve heard, but because he’s talking about me. I have 100% confidence that I will never have to worry about Donald Trump grabbing my pussy, but it doesn’t matter. Because to Donald Trump, don’t matter. If you are also a woman, you don’t matter. Sure, my pussy and my “big tits,” would matter a whole lot to Donald Trump if they were within his physical grasp. But if they aren’t, then they’re just parts of a woman’s body and again, as a woman, don’t matter.

When I hear statements like this from former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani: “So he said some very bad things 10 or 12 years ago. He’s apologized for it. And it seems to me … we should move on,” I’m really happy for Giuliani.

Similarly, when I hear a statement like this one from New Jersey governor Chris Christie: “I’ve known him for a long time and I’m really upset by what I heard but in the end this election is about bigger issues than just that so at this point I still support him,” I’m really, really, really happy for Christie. I truly am.

Because I would love to have the freedom that Trump, Giuliani, Christie, and countless other men have, to see the “bigger issues.” I would love to hear Trump casually joking around about sexually assaulting women and write it off as a momentary mistake, a lapse in judgement, something regrettable but not reprehensible. But Trump is talking about me. So I can’t. I would love for taxes or national security to feel more personal and important to me than the idea of any man, much less the President of the United States, sexually assaulting me. But Trump is talking about me. So I can’t.

These defenses of Trump are like saying, “Look, we can all agree that cancer is bad, but let’s talk about the bigger issue – the common cold.” “Bigger issues” don’t exist when you can’t get past the first issue.

There is a lot going on in the world. But in this case, the lack of autonomy given to American women is the biggest issue – one that must be solved, or even attempted to be solved, before we as a country can really “move on.”

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Separation of Work and Death

Suicide As A Means To End A Disease, Not A Literary Statement[1]

Suicide is not an uncommon end to a writer’s life. A quick Wikipedia search will give you a well-organized, alphabetized list of writers who have committed suicide, including (but obviously not limited to):

  • Gertrude Bell (travel writer; overdose – 1926, age 57)
  • Yuri Abramov (poet; self-disembowelment[2]– 1927, age 32)
  • Harry Crosby (poet; self-inflicted gunshot to the head[3]– 1929, age 31)
  • Virginia Woolf (novelist, etc; drowning -1941, age 59)
  • Jochen Klepper (poet, journalist, etc; gas – 1942, age 39)
  • Ernest Hemingway (novelist, etc; self-inflicted gunshot to the head[4]– 1961, age 61)
  • John Kennedy Toole (novelist; gas – 1969, age 31)
  • Arthur Adamov (playwright; overdose – 1970, age 62)
  • Jerzy Kosinski (novelist; self-suffocation[5]– 1991, age 57)
  • Sarah Kane (playwright; hanging[6]– 1999, age 28)
  • Spalding Gray (playwright, screenwriter, etc; possibly/probably jumped off Staten Island Ferry – 2004, age 62)
  • Hunter S. Thompson (journalist, etc; self-inflicted gunshot to the head[7]– 2005, age 67)

And then the two biggies for me (and for this essay):

  • Sylvia Plath (poet, novelist; gas – 1963, age 30)
  • David Foster Wallace (novelist, essayist, etc; hanging[8] – 2008, age 46)

A decent list, just the tip of the 280+ listed on Wikipedia, and nothing compared to the inevitable amount of unpublished writers that have killed themselves. Curiously, for Wikipedia’s “Writers by cause of death” index, only three are listed: Execution, Murder, and Suicide. A list of writers who died of cancer would have been helpful to make my point, but cancer isn’t romantic or interesting enough to be indexed.

With the notable exceptions of Plath and Wallace, most of the writers listed here and on that Wikipedia’s page can have their work talked of without their suicide brought into play. Even the more famous ones (Hemingway, Woolf) can be discussed without bringing it up, at least in my experience.[9]And, if you ask me, this is how it should be done. Because here’s another list of writers who have pretty widely-read works whose deaths tend to not make it into discussion:

  • Shakespeare (everything important; probably a fever – 1616, age 52)
  • Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, etc; possibly Hodgkin’s lymphoma – 1817, age 41)
  • Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre, etc; died in childbirth – 1855, age 38)
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter, etc; died in his sleep – 1864, age 59)
  • Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, etc; stroke – 1870, age 58)
  • Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, etc; possibly mercury poisoning – 1888, age 55)
  • Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc; heart attack – 1910, age 74)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, etc; heart attack – 1940, age 44)
  • John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men, etc; heart failure – 1968, age 66)
  • Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire, etc; choked – 1983, age 71)
  • William Golding (Lord of the Flies, etc; heart failure – 1993, age 81)
  • William Styron (Sophie’s Choice, etc; pneumonia – 2006, age 81)
  • Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, etc; lymphoma – 2008, age 66)
  • J.D. Salinger[10] (The Catcher in the Rye, etc; old age – 2010, age 91)[11]

I’ve never heard of anyone saying that Shakespeare wrote so well of the fevered passion between Romeo and Juliet because he was anticipating his own death by fever. Or that J.D. Salinger wrote his most famous work from the eyes of a teenager as a way to capture an age he knew he would live so far beyond. Suicide is a form of death, usually the end result of a disease[12], just as a heart attack is a form of death, usually the end result of a disease[13].

So why in some cases, especially Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace, is a writer’s work colored and sometimes even overshadowed by their cause of death, just because it was suicide? There’s the idea that suicide is preventable, and that they did it to themselves. That’s true of course, but no more true than saying many car accidents are preventable, and someone killed after not wearing a seatbelt did it to themselves. There’s the fact that they wrote while suffering from the disease that killed them, with the disease seeping into their writing, Plath in particular. Which makes people want to look for “clues” as to “why” they killed themselves. A pretty natural reaction, I think. But a totally unnecessary one. Plath and Wallace killed themselves because they finally succumbed to the disease that had plagued them for years. End of story. Yes, Plath went through a seriously messy break-up. Yes, Wallace stopped taking and then switched anti-depressants with disastrous results. But people live through breakups and bad side effects from medicine. What killed them was depression. That’s what “made” them do it.

So if we move forward assuming there are no mysteries hidden in Plath’s or Wallace’s writing that will help anyone better understand their respective suicides, then the question of Why do we read their works through a suicide filter? becomes that much more pronounced. When The Pale King was published in 2011, a little less than three years after Wallace’s death, there were all kinds of literary murmurings about what would be found within the text. As it was his last major work published[14], people couldn’t help but wonder if certain why-based questions would be answered. Not everyone did this, of course, but enough did[15]to bother me. We know already[16]why Wallace died, so of course, nothing in The Pale King “explains” anything[17].

Plath’s writing is a little more blatant, what with writing The Bell Jar, about a young woman’s mental breakdown and poems like “Lady Lazarus” that describe Plath’s multiple major suicide attempts. There are important things to note about things like The Bell Jar and “Lady Lazarus,” though. For one, Plath was alive and well when she wrote these[18]. For two, both Esther Greenwood, The Bell Jar’s protagonist, and the speaker in “Lady Lazarus” live through to the end of each piece, and one would assume beyond that. Esther Greenwood is heavily compared to Plath herself, as both had many of the same experiences. This was intentional, obviously, this writing from experience. But if we are to assume that Plath’s suicide is so closely related to her work, shouldn’t Esther have killed herself, preferably by putting her head inside her gas oven? You could argue that Plath didn’t see her own death in her future at the time that The Bell Jar was written, which very well may be true, [19] and that’s why Esther survived. But Plath wasn’t stupid; she knew how much of her own experience was poured into Esther’s, and the fact that The Bell Jar was published under a pseudonym can be interpreted as Plath’s self-imposed separation of Esther Greenwood and Sylvia Plath. Taking that into consideration, I think it’s pretty lazy to think that the writing of The Bell Jar has anything to do with Plath’s suicide or vice versa, or that any connection can be made between the two.

David Foster Wallace’s writing is subtler than Sylvia Plath’s on the subject of depression – Plath wrote an entire novel about it and Wallace didn’t, for instance. I’ve never heard his greatness as a writer denied by anyone[20] and if he were alive right this very second and The Pale King was published as a finished novel, I can’t imagine those opinions changing. And while I haven’t heard of his suicide negatively changing anyone’s opinions of his writings, it has certainly added something for many people. Sort of built him up as not just a great literary voice/figure, but as a tragic literary voice/figure, who died a preventable[21] death too young. Before his death, his writing was treated the way any other writer’s work[22] is treated. Now it tends to be treated as something almost holy and negative remarks about his work are akin to sacrilege. Though I didn’t know Wallace personally[23], I would imagine that this would drive him crazy. I know that while some incredible research went into some of his pieces, his natural intelligence and voice are in every single word he wrote, which leads me to believe that he was one of those people who wrote because he had to, because one can only keep in so many ideas and words before they have to come out[24]. He wrote because he had things to say and he wanted people to read those things and respond to them, not necessarily pour over every word or apply Biblical[25] qualities to them. His writing was not meant to be untouchable.

Some of this, I know, comes from the fact that his writing collection has ended now and so everything that was published is somehow precious. I understand this and feel this way, too; there are some pieces of Wallace’s writing that I’ve avoided just so that there are, to me, still new things that he’s written. And the reality of Wallace’s suicide makes it pretty hard, if not impossible, to try to read everything as if he were still alive, so I’m not suggesting that anyone do that. What I’m suggesting is that readers separate the life and death of the writer from the writer’s work. While Wallace’s death was, by the nature of the thing, an end to his writing, that’s not what was primarily ended – that, of course, was his life.

Wallace’s death was not a literary act, and should not be seen as such. Thinking that his suicide was anything other than the end of a life plagued by a disease is borderline insulting. As someone who has mentally been there, I can say with some certainty that Wallace wasn’t thinking about how what was about to happen was going to affect his bibliography the afternoon he hung himself.[26] So why should everyone left behind think about it?

The fact is, suicide acted as the final punctuation mark on Wallace’s and Plath’s lives, but not their writing. They weren’t writers who committed suicide, they were and are writers.


[1] Footnotes as an obvious DFW homage.

[2] !

[3] Pistol.

[4] Shotgun.

[5] Plastic bag.

[6] Shoelaces.

[7] Smith & Wesson handgun.

[8] Belt.

[9] In high school and college I studied different Hemingway and Woolf pieces without a single mention of their respective suicides. Which surprised me at the time, as Woolf especially can get pretty dark.

[10] Going to use this time to point out that a young James Woods is a dead ringer for a young JDS

[11] The average age of that list of death-by-suicide writers is 47 while the average age of this list of death-by-other-things writers is 57. So one could (maybe) argue that the suicides weren’t cutting their time down by much.

[12] Depression

[13] Heart disease

[14] So last as to be published unfinished, even.

[15] That’s just publicly. How many people have read The Pale King and come across a certain line or passage that seemed to illuminate the seeming mystery being Wallace’s death and felt like they had discovered something about his mindset on the day he killed himself – but kept it to themselves?

[16] See above

[17] Also important to note: The Pale King is fiction.

[18] Obviously.

[19] Though it should be noted that Plath’s death came a month after The Bell Jar’s first UK publication.

[20] Claims of overrated-ness, though, yes.

[21] See my aforementioned opinion of suicide as being more preventable than any other death.

[22] Not that Wallace was just any other writer. What I mean is that his writing was read, generally enjoyed, his writing was reviewed by critics, he was commissioned to write articles for magazines, etc etc. In short he was a regular writer but just also happened to be a genius – if that makes sense.

[23] Before he died, though, I did have this relatively great fantasy of meeting him. Wallace was from Philo, Illinois, barely over 20 miles away from where I graduated high school in Tuscola, Illinois. After reading essays like “A Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley,” which name-dropped the hell out of the towns that surrounded both of our hometowns, it was pretty clear to me that Wallace knew exactly where Tuscola was and maybe he had even been there before. So my fantasy entailed of me meeting him at a book signing or whatever and telling him that I graduated from Tuscola High School, and he would smile and say something about how he knows about Tuscola and we would talk about that whole patch of East-Central Illinois and he would discover how intelligent and nice I am and I would somehow slip in that I was a writing student (true at the time) and he would either A.) Fall in love with me (a quarter-century age difference meaningless at this point) or B.) Take me under his wing and mentor me until I was molded into a DFW-like writer-genius/Pulitzer Prize winner etc etc. I still have this fantasy, by the way, it’s just much more fantastical now than it was before.

[24] And, in his case, can turn into something like A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, the lucky bastard.

[25] As in, not to be fucked with.

[26] I should say here, though, that with intense sadness I have read (several times) Wallace’s autopsy report and can’t help but be struck with certain elements of it. The rather detailed description of the area where he killed himself, including measurements of the patio where he nailed the belt, oddly reminded me the time Wallace would sometimes take to describe something technical, like the measurements of tennis courts. Though his wife’s, Karen Green, name is blurred out on public copies of the autopsy report as the one who found his body, the description of his body says mildly, “There is a tattoo on the right upper arm laterally with word ‘Karen’ and a symbol of the heart,” which so reminds me of the way Wallace could use relatively plain wording that, when placed in the right context, will hit you square in the gut. But all of this is not only besides the point but totally goes against it.

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Rudy Huxtable’s Bedroom

I’ve been in Austin now for about a month and a half. Since I’m still unemployed, most of my days have been devoted to job searching. But anyone in my situation knows that one can only write cover letters and send out resumes so much at a time without going insane, so I’ve also spent a lot of time with Netflix and Skyrim. I tend to bounce around a few shows at a time on Netflix; right now I’ve been mixing it up with Intervention, How I Met Your Mother, South Park, and The Cosby Show. The Cosby Show is something I picked up earlier this year, during the snowy days of last winter. I sort of dropped it for a while, for whatever reason, and then a couple of months ago picked it back up again. And since I’ve moved here I’ve watched an average of at least an episode a day. I’m currently smack in the middle of Season 5, having watched every episode up to this point. I’ve seen other later episodes before in my life, but not with the same dedication as I’m watching it now, so I don’t really count that.

There’s a lot of amazing things going on in The Cosby Show, which is pretty clear from the show’s 8-season run. I could dedicate multiple posts on all of the things that make it so great (the fashion, Clair’s sassiness, Cliff’s faces, Cliff and Clair’s overall annoyance and love felt for their children), but right now I’m going to focus on one small thing: Rudy Huxtable’s bedroom.

The room's main inhabitant, though, as Cliff would point out, not the room's owner.

At the beginning of the series, 4 out of the 5 Huxtable children are living at home: Sondra Huxtable, the oldest child, is away at Princeton, while Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy Huxtable are in the house. Denise has a bedroom, Theo has a bedroom, and Vanessa and Rudy share a bedroom. All three of these rooms share something unique, however: they each have two beds. Vanessa and Rudy share, so that’s obvious. It can be assumed that Sondra and Denise shared a bedroom before Sondra started college (they might have mentioned this toward the beginning of the series, in fact), but it’s never been explained why Theo has two twin beds instead of one double, queen, or king bed in his bedroom (though let’s be real, Cliff and Clair would never buy a king-sized bed for one of their children). But that’s all besides the point.

By the time Season 5 is happening, Sondra’s still gone, Denise has dropped out of college but is on a mysterious African photography trip and is gone, Theo is in college but forgot to pay for a dorm, Vanessa’s still in high school and Rudy is still in elementary school. As the case tends to be in situations like this, Vanessa has moved beyond her shared bedroom with Rudy and now has Sondra/Denise’s room, so now every child as a room to themselves (though each room still has two beds).

There’s Rudy’s bedroom, as seen in Season 4’s episode “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” It’s really just half of the room, but it’s nearly impossible to get the entire thing in one shot. But do notice the two beds (both of which are made pretty impressively, in my opinion).

Weird Things #1-#2

Here’s Rudy, again in Season 4’s episode “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” staring at a portrait of herself. A few seconds from this shot, she can be seen stroking the face of the portrait. Maybe all of my rooms have had different decorating schemes, but I just find it odd that Rudy has large-ish framed picture of herself on her dresser. There are no other photos of any other Huxtables, not even of Sondra, whom has not lived in the house for years, or of Denise, who is also out of the house, or her beloved grandparents, Russell and Anna Huxtable. I’d also like to point out that in Season 5, there are still no other photos of any other Huxtables, even though Rudy is by then the aunt to Sondra’s twins and Denise is on a seemingly endless trip to a rather dangerous continent. Now if we know anything about children, it’s that they’re self-centered. That’s all they can be, and really all they should be, to an extent. Now I believe Rudy is about 7 years old in Season 4, which would still put her well into the Self-Centered Child category. But usually that self-centeredness is marked with naivety and a lack of self-awareness, not so much self-worship. We know Rudy is confident and sometimes overestimates her abilities, but isn’t it weird that she takes time out of her day to gaze at herself? Now, to be fair, she’s sad in the scene above and there’s a decent amount of self-pity going on, but I think it can also be assumed that she sees the photo everyday and is happy enough with looking at herself to keep it there. You can also note the photo’s close proximity to the closet, and in the closet door is a mirror, for an even more up-to-date Rudy checkout.

The other thing is the nightlight to the right of the dresser. What is on that nightlight? A baby’s head? Is that what makes Rudy feel secure at night: a glowing baby head? Seems strange. If that’s not in fact a baby’s head, I don’t think I really want to know what it is.

Weird Thing #2.5

Full disclosure: the above almost doesn’t count because these weird paper fish are not a permanent fixture in Rudy’s room. But in “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” there’s a decent amount of time spent on Rudy sadly sitting at her desk, looking at and holding the weird colored cartoon fish, so I felt like I had to point them out. I have to assume they’re some sort of school project, or maybe some kind of flashcards, but they really aren’t doing a great job of cheering Rudy up and ARE doing a great job of being confusing.

Weird/Awesome Thing #3 (and note the aforementioned mirror)

That stuffed dog is not weird, and is in fact sort of awesome, but I have to keep with the theme and call it weird. But what its purpose is is quite confusing. Is that dog some sort of safety spokesdog? Or the face of doggy construction workers everywhere? Whatever he represents, he’s good at it, as indicated by the medal around his neck. The hat could either be some sort of safety helmet or strange plastic 10-gallon cowboy hat, but for dogs. And if that’s the case, then I’m extra curious about what he won an award for. Cow wrangling? Cow branding? Maybe he’s some sort of rodeo doggy. But since Rudy has, at this point, never shown particular interest in either safety or cowboy activities, your guess is as good as mine.

Straight-up Awesome Thing #4

Okay, so that record player isn’t weird or weird/awesome, just straight-up awesome. But I’m still numbering it the same. I just wanted to point it out because I think it’s really cool and interesting. My first thought is that it’s pretty cool of a 7 year old to have a record player, but when I was 7 I at least had a cassette player and possibly also had some sort of CD player, as it was 1993. But still, I’m really into Rudy’s record player, especially the giant metal rod in the middle (for the record [ha!] I tried looking up to see if that metal rod on a record player has a specific name but couldn’t find one, so if there is one and you know it, know that I tried).

Also, bonus side-view of the safety cowdog.

Awesome Thing #5

Now here’s Rudy in her bedroom from Season 5 in “Cyranoise de Bergington.” Notable are the beds, not as well-made (but that’s a plot point here) and the pretty awesome new addition to her door. If you refer back to the first photo, you’ll find that there was some poster of unknown origin on her door, being pretty uninteresting. But at some point between Season 4 and Season 5, Rudy got into Whitney Houston, and added a poster on her door to show for it. And so now Rudy has (as far as we can see) exactly one other photo in her room except for the one of herself (which is still there, just obstructed from view here), so Whitney must be feeling pretty accomplished.

Awesome Things #5.5-#6

A few things worth noting here: the poster above the safety cowdog and record player (but I can’t tell what it is so it doesn’t get a number), the sweet addition of the dust cover to Rudy’s record player, and, most importantly, Cliff’s awesome annoyed/disgusted face. Again, this annoyed face of Cliff’s is not exactly a permanent staple to Rudy’s room, but one can be assured it shows up in her room often enough to count. He’s annoyed because he’s making Rudy do chores to pay him back  for the necklace that he bought Clair for Clair’s birthday, which will be from Rudy. And Clair has just discovered Rudy cleaning her bedroom and is overjoyed with motherly pride for her go-getter daughter. And Cliff knows Rudy is just full of shit.

Weirdest Thing of All #7

And of course, the weirdest/most terrifying thing Rudy’s room is saved for last. Maybe you caught glimpses of it earlier, like when we saw Rudy’s room as a whole or when Rudy was stroking her photo. I am of course referring to the painting of the satanic clown that can be seen above Rudy’s dresser. Is that a clown in blackface? And is the clown kidnapping one child while beckoning its other child followers along? Naturally, the face is the scariest thing of all. Rudy sleeps in the bed to the left of the door, essentially right next to where she’s standing in the photo above. So, as far as we know, when Rudy goes to sleep at night, she turns over to see that horrifying monstrosity staring back at her. That horrifying monstrosity, as illuminated by the glowing baby head below it.

If my calculations are accurate, Rudy will be about 11 years old in the show’s final season. Will she have outgrown all of this stuff by then? Will she still have the photo of herself as a 5 year old to look at everyday? Will she still be a Whitney Houston fan? But really, most of all, will that scary clown be gone or will he be a part of the show until the end?

There’s only one way to find out, so from now on, I will be finishing the series for the sake of art.

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LIFE UPDATE

Moving to Austin next week. That’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll see how it goes . . .

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