Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Uncategorized Funny Thing of the Day (plus some depressing shit)

It often strikes me funny when I'm building a new destop machine that video driver installation programs always include an impressive splash screen designed to show off the wonderful qualities of the installed video adapter.

Since the program is only run when the video driver has yet to be installed, this presumably breathtaking graphic is only ever experienced by the end user as an unidentifiable purplish blob. Yet some person is drawing a salary creating these screens.

This is the sort of job that you'd feel like a bandit for scoring, until after five or six years of doing it you suddenly jumped off a bridge.

Speaking of which, I was listening to Elliot Smith's From a Basement on a Hill this weekend for probably the fifth time through, and in that way that albums do, it started to seep into my mind in such a way that I was able to start really listening to what he is saying on that record.

And what he is saying, unambiguously, over and over, is that he really wants to kill himself. He's tired of the whole mess and being in pain all the time and just wants it to be over.

And as I was listening to this record it was washing over me in waves these twin interpretations of this experience I was having, first "How beautiful and sad that he produced this wondrous record while in the throes of this inescapable, crippling depression" and then alternately "I'm such a shit for taking pleasure in this person basically chronicling his own descent into suicide."

Which is a false dichotomy, of course. It probably does say something negative about my character that this is the sort of music that really moves me, feeling this psychic connection with people in terrible pain. But at the same time, not listening to the record is not going to bring the guy back, or get him into heaven, or whatever.

And anyway, I can deal with some psychic pain, if it will slow down my higher brain...

[For those who are unfamiliar, Elliott Smith stabbed himself in the heart in his bathroom while recording From a Basement on a Hill. He was 34.]


Robin said...

I recently had the same revelation with the same album. I bought it in October and listened to it a lot while I was driving my parents' car around Maryland, but I never listened to it closely, and as a complete album, until I was visiting them again this June, and, yes, driving their car around Maryland.

Once I was listening, my thoughts were something like, "Holy shit, how could you work on these songs with him and not know that he was really, really going to kill himself?!?" I mean, Elliott Smith wrote sad songs for years but this one blows me away with its unmistakable references to suicide, over and over and over again. Then again, if you're that close to someone, someone who's been depressive and addicted* and, yes, suicidal, for year after year, it's hard to see the shift when it finally comes.

*He was addicted to heroin for a long time; I don't know if he was using it when he killed himself.

Surely it says something about my character that this is the only post of yours I've ever commented on ...

Kiki said...

Adam, It has always been true that sorrow and depression produces most amazing and beautiful works of art that speak to everyone. I mean, look at Van Gogh, and Beethoven, and Lenny what's his name (bird on a wire), and countless others. It's one of the unforeseen benefits to society of such misery. I think the artist would be honored to know their work has affected someone deeply and spoken to them of the common human situation. That's what art is about, interpreting the human condition through one's own private eyes. I would like to hear this album sometime. Kiki

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