Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This article sheds a little bit more light on things. He'd tracked 30 songs while working on his sixth album (called From a Basement on the Hill), and was considering a double album, even. He'd worked with JSBX drummer Russell Simins and The Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd.

It was a steak knife to the heart, in his girlfriend's apartment.

According to a source, anyway. When the news was just coming out, only one source identified the woman who found him as Smith's girlfriend (which would explain why she had a key to the place). Everyone else just said female friend. And only two sources mentioned multiple wounds, whereas everyone else either said wound in the singular or pointed out a single chest wound as the cause of death. I'm sort of anxious to see what the investigation turns up. The death was Tuesday but news broke only on Thursday so the authorities kept a lid on it until next of kin was notified. There was no suicide note, or if there was, it's been hidden away or destroyed. Stabbing yourself multiple times in the chest doesn't denote a premeditated suicide, at least to me. It sounds more like an act of passion than anything else. Don't most people with knives kill themselves by slitting their wrists? If he did have only the single chest wound then an accident might not still be out of the question.

None of this makes the loss any easier, though.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Elliott Smith is dead, an apparent suicide. Self-inflicted knife wound. This is something I dearly wish was a hoax, but it's not. Fuck.

This is really depressing news. I don't think I've felt this bad about a musician's death since Kurt Cobain. He was chronically depressed and battled alcohol and drug addiction, but it's such a fucking unfair shame that it had to end like this. I'm thinking now of so many things: the videos of Miss Misery and Son of Sam. Smith performing at the Oscars, dressed in a white tux with nothing but a guitar, as opposed to the lavish production numbers of Celine Dion and Michael Bolton. Realizing only after several months that "I Didn't Understand" is sung a cappella. Thinking that "Waltz # 1" could quite possibly be the greatest, saddest song ever written in the history of man. Bonding with Neva over both X/O and Either/Or, particularly "Waltz # 1" and "Say Yes." One of the last songs he recorded before his death was called "A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free."

He had a terrific voice, that could go from a snarl to a lilting, reassuring whisper. He wrote some of the best lyrics I've ever heard/read, and really elevated songwriting for me in that regard. He played with song form and structure. His melodies were heartfelt, catchy, indelible. There's a nice line from the article above: "The songs floated like lullabies, though the lyrics could disrupt sleep for weeks."

Most of all, I'm remembering the night I was lucky enough to see him perform in Boston. It was glorious; I was happy like a kid who'd traveled halfway across the world and got to see one of his favorite musicians. I was standing up the whole evening, the whole day, actually, off to the side near the stage beside a post and a table, not trying to attract attention, alone but delirious. I was so fucking lucky to be there; read the email below for the full (somewhat long) story.

If you've never listened to him, do yourself a favor and get all of his albums; I don't think any of them will disappoint you. The standouts are Either/Or and X/O, though.

In the time before blogs, I sent this to the Heightsers mailing list on May 29, 2000. I was sending them emails about my month-long trip to the US:


Monday, May 15 -- The day before today, I wasted in Connecticut. So I wasn't able to reserve tickets, which, actually, I really should have done as soon as I set foot on US soil. Anyway, my family is supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning because my dad has overextended his vacation time, and my mom, working at a school, has upcoming enrolment to deal with. So it's their last day for shopping (and my last day of not paying for things myself). We go to another local mall, and then I'm dropped off at the subway station at about 430. Very early, considering the concert is 9, and doors open at 8. Even then, these things never start on time, and he had an opening act anyway.

My plan was simple. Get to The Roxy (where he was playing) first, get tickets, then go around to this store I knew that was in the area, which sold used CDs. So I took the T (Boston's subway, and first in the country) to Boylston, and come out next to this park where, as luck would have it, I chanced upon the graduation ceremonies of Emerson University. I figure, I'm early enough as it is, I have some free time, there might be a nice photo opportunity here, so I stay a few minutes to watch. The part where they all scream and throw their hats in the air is nice to see firsthand. This is my first time to see it happen, except of course my high school graduation, but that sucked because it was held in the evening and was inside the covered courts anyway. This was a beautiful (albeit cold and slightly windy) day. I must say, they're very LOUD. Screaming abounds, and continues for a good few minutes even after the tossing of hats, and the tumult subsides slowly. It's a very senti moment, because everyone's hugging each other, crying, or jumping up and down in pairs or groups. One girl even kisses me in her delirium, running around the grass. On the cheek, you perverts. After absorbing some more good vibes, I head towards The Roxy. When I get there, there's a small group of people outside of the building. A small knot forms in my stomach. I go up to the least-threatening-looking of the bunch, and ask if this line was for the show itself or for tickets. "For the show" was the reply. A little twinge of panic slices its way into my gut as I enter the Roxy and go upstairs, looking for a ticket booth. The walls are already posted with promotional pictures of Elliott Smith and the new album. When I get to the second floor, I see the ticket booth, with no one there. The lights aren't even on, so I have to go nearer to it to see the sign beside it, which I thought would say when it was open. When I read it, though, my heart freezes into ice.


I'm in shock. Well, I should have expected it. I should have reserved tickets. Shouldawouldacoulda. I can't speak, and inside I'm kicking myself in the head. I go down the stairs with my heart heavy, and it doesn't even occur to me (as it does now) to at least steal a poster. What now, I think. Well, I should come back later, try and see if anybody's scalping tickets. It's worth a try. So, with a few minutes spent in shellshock and the onset of heavy depression out on the curb, I head for my other destination - the used CD store, Looney Tunes.

Turns out it's not in the area after all. Massachusetts Avenue is a long, long road. But I don't care. Depressed as I am, I decide to start walking since I'm really early anyway, and so I begin to walk, wallowing in self-pity. I pass the FAO Schwarz, even stopping by to check out the place. There's an entire section on Star Wars, and the people there just depress me further. It's nothing compared to the New York branch, of course. I walk further and pass 3 different Starbucks, 2 Au Bon Pains, several book stores (some of which I check out), the public library, and when I get to Looney Tunes, apparently it's at the END of Massachusetts Avenue. I figure I've walked about as far as from Ateneo to Greenhills. At Looney Tunes, I am able to get some CDs, then see a big-ass Tower beside me, and check it out too. Apparently, I was already on Newbury Street, though I didn't know it. I get a DVD (Short: 3; it was cheap), since I'm still depressed.

The Tower is beside the subway station so I decide to use that since I know I won't make it in time if I walk again. Besides, my feet were killing me, depression or not. I realize I've walked the length of 3 subway stops, which is pretty far. When I get to the Boylston street stop, I eat dinner at the nearby Subway.

It's a weird thing not to speak for an entire afternoon. I don't think I can really do it. Even if I tried, to spend so many hours just absolutely silent...it's just impossible. I'd end up singing a few tunes from my Last Song Syndrome. Or make up conversations, or at least maybe laugh at some people who look stupid.

Anyway, after dinner I go back to The Roxy, and it's about 9 PM already. I never have a watch so I'm never really aware of the time. It's also a nice excuse to ask pretty girls what time it is, even if you know perfectly well that they don't have watches too. But most of their voices suck. The line is pretty much gone, everyone's already upstairs. There's a cop car outside the place, and some cops hanging around, thinking there might be trouble. I position myself outside the place, trying to look as sad as possible. This is the routine, right? You hang around, and then someone approaches you asking if you'd like to buy a ticket? At least, so I figure. If the cops ask, I'll just say that I'm waiting for somebody to show up.

There are other people hanging around. Two girls, a group of students, and another solitary guy in an orange jacket. He's asking out loud, "Anybody got any tickets?", which was a better strategy than mine, but I somehow couldn't bring myself to do it, especially with the cops around. So I hang around, and the line becomes nonexistent. Everyone's already in, and the show should have started about now. Up until this point, I'd still been wallowing in my self-pity, and I had no intention of letting up. And while I thought I couldn't feel any worse, I was mistaken. As the minutes continued to tock by, I felt worse and worse, and the cold seemed colder. Then, one policeman started walking up to people, asking why were we hanging around here? Were we waiting for someone? Did we still want to buy tickets?

DID WE STILL WANT TO BUY TICKETS?! I ran up to him and asked "Are they still selling tickets?" He looks to the bouncer, who has a radio. He asks, listens to the reply, and says, "There are about five left." So of course I run for the door, bulky backpack and jacket and all, and head up the stairs. I'm stopped at the top by somebody. "ID?"

"Uh, I'm not a resident, but can I use my country's driver's license?"

"Do you have your passport with you?"

"No." I'm panicking, and I stutter out: "Look, I'm 19."

"When were you born?"

"1980. Besides, I won't be drinking anyway--"

"You won't be drinking? Oh, okay then, go right in." I get a red X on the back of my hand.

In my rush to get upstairs, I even accidentally hit someone. But I don't stop to say sorry, as I customarily do. After all, they might want tickets too. I get to the ticket booth, now manned, out of breath. The girl looks at me for a few seconds, and I manage, "Elliott Smith, please." (the booth was for other events as well) She, in turn, looks to the girl behind her, who is apparently in charge of the Elliott Smith tickets and already has her coat on, about to leave, and she says


I slam my 16 dollars on the table and swoop it up.

The gig hadn't even started. Whiskey Biscuit was opening for him, and they weren't onstage yet. Meanwhile, I'm finally able to buy Figure 8. Unfortunately, they don't have Roman Candle, the only other Elliott Smith album not currently in my possession. I'm able to also get a video of the music video of Son of Sam, and steal another one for Quark.

Whiskey Biscuit are good with melody, but their singer needs some work. He's like a punk, but with a hick accent. The kind that's high-pitched and sings about lost loves.

Anyway, he comes on about a half hour after Whiskey Biscuit conclude their set, dressed in a simple black shirt, black cap, and corduroy pants (add respect points). The songs are, of course, mostly from Figure 8, since it's a promotional tour for a new album, and so I'm not able to sing along as I would have wanted. This would have proven awkward anyway, since I was alone. However, he sings some favorites, like "Bled White," "Bottle Up and Explode," and the newer songs are so good that I have no reason to complain. His third song was "Everything Means Nothing To Me," which is basically his voice, and a piano, until the end when the song erupts with drum accompaniment. This was one of my favorite performances, coming as it did after a noisy song ("Bled White"), where he just stopped, and held his guitar to the side while the pianist already began. If you've heard the song, you know how good it is. Don't get me wrong, every song he sang was excellent, and sang well, but some stood out. "Amity," which wasn't always my favorite song, featured a new arrangement and really impressed me. One time, during the fourteenth song, he interrupted himself when he said, mid-song, "FUCK! I CAN'T HEAR SHIT!" and waited while they got him a replacement guitar.

He had an encore, which is famous, I find out later, for being very intimate. This was no different. After a few minutes of the crowd's continuous applauding, he came out, alone, with nothing but a guitar, and sang the more intimate songs.

Here I have to digress a bit and address my appreciation for the crowd. Having been bred on insipid audiences back home who don't know when to shut up, this crowd was perfect. No assholes to shout during moments of silence, no immediate clapping when he ends a sentence. They knew when to be quiet, and even waited for Smith's prompting before they clapped. Maybe it was because he looked so fragile and vulnerable, and we didn't want to scare him away. I know I didn't. But God bless Boston, and its people. They were very well-behaved.

Another aside: most of Boston is young smart people, because it's a college town. In Boston proper alone, there are 19 universities, excluding Harvard, since that's in Cambridge. Perhaps this explains the excellent crowd. Lots of brainy people.

The best perk of the concert was Smith sang 3 brand new songs.


Rest in peace, man. God knows you deserve it.

This is horrible. I really feel like crying.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I realize that I haven’t written anything creative in a long while. Nothing substantial, anyway. Not to denigrate my recent projects. I think I did okay with both First Time and Captain Barbell, but they were both projects with clearly defined parameters: one had to have a girl getting devirginized, and the other was a remake of a character with his own history, powers, continuity, etc. And both were commissioned works. No, what I mean is I haven’t written anything purely for myself, to satisfy no one but me, in a long time. Where I can do anything I like. I thought I’d take the chance again, but it’s scary. I’m out of practice.

So I’m thinking of getting ideas from other people. Collaborating. Primarily, comics. At least, right now. There are some film ideas that are in various stages of development, but those can wait. I’m sort of excited to go back to writing for comics since I’ve been away from it for too long. I’m asking all sorts of people for their portfolios to get an idea of what they’d like to do, what they’d be good at, or just for inspiration.

So while I am writing for myself, I am also, in a way, writing for other people. The artists. Because I don’t want to simply hand them a script and wait for the art to return, I want them to become involved in the story and its creation, I want them to be enthusiastic about it. Also, I think it’ll be very interesting to see what I come up with in collaboration with others as opposed to merely working by myself. Should be surprising. At the very least, the prospect is exciting because I’ll be working with some people who I’m big fans of, and I feel that they’re truly talented.

And right as I was finishing writing this, I got asked to co-write another remake. But one that I was thinking about before Barbell even came my way. Ah, such is life… :)


Shotgunned through Douglas Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic in 2 days. Then, went through Hey Nostradamus! in a little over 24 hours. Whew. Haven't read a book in a day since... Choke, I think. Am now reading Chuck Palahniuk's Diary.

Saw Matchstick Men. It's terrific! Just a great little gem of a movie. :) Very nice surprise indeed. You think the con is the center of the plot, then you think it's the father-daughter relationship, then it's back to the con, but then, at the end, it's really about none of these things at all, and the center is what's been in front of you this whole time, and that's what makes it unique, to my mind. It very successfully plays several cons on the viewer, but as Roy says, "You didn't take it, I gave it to you."

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Someone took the time to type my poem and put it on their blog (or lj, if you're anal). I don't know the guy (Paul Doble?). This is the second time it's happened (that I know of). Thanks to Alexis for the heads-up.

Friday, October 10, 2003

"Don't forget, with Lacuna, you can forget."

And here is the actual trailer, which is great, and just makes me more excited about it than I already am.

Some other great trailers have come out: Tim Burton's latest, Big Fish, which gives a kind of The Majestic feel. The Majestic was kinda bland, though not without its merits, but I don't want to get that feeling from a Tim Burton film. Some of the scenes remind me of Katherine Dunn's book Geek Love, which Burton was slated to adapt at one point, so it's looking rather doubtful he'll still do that. Also, a powerful trailer for Gus Van Sant's Elephant, and the latest from Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, 21 Grams. It's a better year for film than I thought.


The Italian Job is a horrible film, way worse than I expected from director F. Gary Gray, with decent photography, and only the first 20 minutes takes place in Italy. It's a good ad for the Mini, though. I wanted one after watching it.

I'm currently enjoying Gabrielle Bell's When I'm Old and Other Stories. She's a real find. Good storyteller with good stories and an idiosyncratic art style that can change as needed. I can't remember the last time I was this impressed with an indy creator.

Also barrelling through Chris's copy of Douglas Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic, which goes straight onto my list of Favorite Book Titles. It's quite compelling, as I finished half the book in a day. Very difficult to put down. Got two books waiting for immediate consumption after this: Coupland's latest, Hey Nostradamus!, and Chuck Palahniuk's Diary.


Scary fact: California, by itself, is the world's fifth largest economy. And now Conan the T-800 is Governor. And he is a devout Republican. Who loves Bush. So we're looking at a 2nd Bush term.

We're fucked.


Go here. I don't have the words right now. See for yourself. And check out the health benefits.

Monday, October 06, 2003


An example from the "graphic design playing" period, quoting one of the comics that dragged me back kicking and screaming into a final, conclusive, lifelong commitment to comics. Written, of course, by Alan Moore.

Dated Oct. 21, '99.
I've started downloading fonts again.

The other day Neva reminded me that I used to download fonts all the time, particularly when I was depressed. At the time I was still playing around with graphic design (and I do mean playing). It got to the point where I had something like 700 fonts on my computer. Sometime between then and now, my computer crashed and I lost everything. But the downloading fonts thing was something I forgot about until recently. So I have begun again, and am surprised that I still remember the names of some of my old favorites.

And the idea has struck me that you could use font selection as some kind of a personality test. I mean, the fonts I get now are probably much different than those I used to get. So if someone could analyze the choices and come to some conclusions, those would be interesting. Would it only be developing tastes, or would it have something to do with my outlook on life, attitude, etc.? What does it mean when I still love a particular font, and would now never use another font that I used to love?


Some new links for you: Rinzen and Floria Sigismondi. Sigismondi's one of those surreal visual stylists; she's directed some really good videos including Interpol's "Obstacle 1," Tricky's "Makes Me Wanna Die" (a nice disturbing video I recorded onto VHS back in the days...), one for Sigur Ros, but maybe the work most people have seen is the one for Christina Aguilera with all the butterflies ("Fight"? I don't remember the name of the song). My favorite video of hers is David Bowie's "Little Wonder." Amazing stuff. The photo gallery has a few pictures with Melissa Auf Der Maur, too. Sigh...

And it occurs to me that Aguilera's had some good video directors: David LaChappelle, my favorite photographer, Sigismondi, Jonas Akerlund...

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Today I went over to Erwin Romulo's house and we were both photographed by his lovely and talented girlfriend Yvonne while in conversation in his driveway. And I saw his room which sort of looks like mine except it's bigger, with more space and shelves. He's got hundreds of books, all of which look interesting. He's a big Alan Moore fan, and has the original VG edition of Voice of the Fire and The Spirit Archives Vol. 1 which has a Moore introduction. He's got DVDs, VHS tapes, and CDs strewn about.

Best of all, he showed me a couple of comics that Yvonne did. One was from college. Both were good, but I liked the one from college better. It was bleaker than 8mm, if you can imagine that. Not a single ray of hope or sunshine in its sci-fi universe. Which is certainly not what I expected from the cheery and sunny Yvonne.

Meanwhile, recently Alexis told me about someone he knows who's also an Alan Moore fan, who got him to read the massive, yet unforgettable, From Hell.

See? EVERYBODY loves comics.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

My desktop wallpaper for the past 2 months (and one of the pictures I'm proudest to have taken).


And here we go.