Monday, March 8, 2010

RIP Mark Linkous

Mark Linkous, the guy behind lo-fi band Sparklehorse, a band I have followed since the release of their debut album in 1995 has, sadly, committed suicide.

He collaborated with such luminaries as Tom Waits and PJ Harvey and was responsible for some brilliant songwriting and eccentric albums.

The following 2 songs represent each end of his distorted, fuzzy spectrum:


obtuse-a said...

Really sad to hear about this

I saw Sparklehorse a few years ago at the Corner, and they were great, with the sombre Mark Linkous standing in his own little force-field.

Thanks for the tribute post, Bob, and thanks for reminding me how wonderful they were.

Perseus said...


I have an I-tunes playlist called 'Top 100'.

'Pig' is in it.

Dr. Golf said...

Also did a nice Daniel Johnston cover with the Flaming Lips.

Pepsi said...

A shotgun to the chest at point blank range?

What a mess.

I feel for the friends that will be haunted by that image for the rest of their lives.

The music is lovely, the man sounds like a pathetic coward.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Pepsi, it's neither fair nor helpful to describe this bloke as a "pathetic coward".

We can only guess at what terrible demons drove Mark Linkous to do this.

WitchOne said...

Suicide is the most public form of cowardice. I don't care who you are or what you're suffering from.

Suicide is an absolute, it can't be taken back and the emotional and mental torment it leaves your loved ones with make it the most selfish and cowardly act a person can ever do.

I will never get my step brothers face out of my head, when I identified him after he and his girlfriend had deliberately overdosed on heroin in the back of his panel van, which was found 3 days later in bushland.

I'm sure her daughter who was 3 at the time will never understand why her mother didn't love her enough to stay.

Pepsi said...

Sorry Ramon, I've seen it too many times to care about people who dont have the guts to want to deal with the bad times.

I've had to pick up the mess these people leave behind too many times to feel alot of sympathy for suicides.

Try explaining to a kid how Daddy loves them, but not enough to live for them.

Demons - we've all got them in varying degrees. Its the people who have the really bad ones and live through it that I admire and respect.

Makes me wonder too, if he didnt have a shotgun close at hand, he may of had more time to reflect on his decision before carrying it out??

Perseus said...

I've been close to people who have taken their own lives.

They were fucked up... but cowards? Nah, I don't reckon.

I once thought they were, but as I get older I have changed my outlook. I don't think it is a case of bravery vs cowardice. They had lost the will to live, and will is different to bravery, I think.

squib said...

I don't think it's selfish. If you've had enough then you've had enough. We're all going to die anyway, one way or another

obtuse-a said...

Severe depression is an illness, sometimes treatable, sometimes terminal.

For my dear tortured friends who have succumbed, and those who nearly did, I could never accuse them of cowardice or selfishness.

Puss In Boots said...

I agree with Pepsi and Witchie. I think suicide is a very selfish and cowardly act.

My mother attempted suicide when she was married to my father. My elder sister found her in the toilet, having written her note on toilet paper, overdosed on fsm knows what. I even find attempted suicides selfish and cowardly.

She was prepared to leave her two daughters (both under 7) because she didn't want to seek help (our father was emotionally abusive towards her). I can't condone that sort of thing.

Yes, it's a terrible tragedy that someone feels they have no choice but to end their life, but when they don't stop to think about the effect their choice is going to have on their friends and family, that's very selfish. When they don't have the courage to seek assistance and try to turn their life around, that's cowardly.

squib said...

Puss, snap, except I was 7. However I still don't feel it was selfish or cowardly. It just seems perfectly understandable, somehow

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Depressive illness is an illness Puss - it's not a moral failing.

This reminds me of those quacks who say people get cancer because they didn't have their chackras aligned.

Puss In Boots said...

I know it's an illness, Ramon. I've had it. And anxiety. I understand. But it's my personal opinion it's selfish and cowardly to take your own life. Whether you agree with that or not, fine. That's your opinion. I'm merely stating my own.

Mr E Discharge said...

In june last year I had a stroke. Lying in a hospital bed paralysed down one side unable to speak clearly, day after day, facing the very real possibilty that my life was never going to be what it was, I made a very concious clear decision to end my life if things didn't improve. I thought about the impact this would have on my friends and family. But in the end my decision stood. Furtunately ,with a lot hard work I recovered to the point where I could continue to live my life as ME.
To those who would regard that as selfish or cowardly I suggest you put yourself in the place of someone staring at a future which holds nothing for them. Unless you've been there, STFU.

Pepsi said...

I have and I've done, Mr E, but unlike you, I put the feelings of the people I care about above my own.

And I learnt to live with it.

Mr E Discharge said...

How is living a life in which you place a burden on the ones you love in any way noble?

Perseus said...

As you know, I hate a fence-sitter as much as anyone, but right now I'm suffering extreme testicle discomfort perched as I am on this old rickety seaside fence.

I think this is far too emotive to debate. Death touches us all differently.

In a forum like this and with a topic like this, it is good to express one's opinion, feelings and thoughts... but there's no point denigrating others'.

As for Linkous... I've played the Good Morning Spider album four times today and it just makes me sadder every time.

Anonymous said...

I'm just wondering how the people saying that suicide is selfish and cowardly, feel about euthanasia?

I'm also curious about how the people on the other side of the debate would feel about a situation, for example, where a person with a young family felt they couldn't cope and simply walked away from their obligations to try to start their lives over.

I'm happy that your testicles are uncomfortable, Perseus. Personally, I reckon the issue is too complex to paint with a broad brush. I kinda have to assess how I feel about these things on a case by case basis and don't get too concerned if I come out conflicted.

In this case, I know nothing about the guy or his circumstances. I don't have an opinion.

Lewd Bob said...

I suspect people who suffer severe depression don't think particularly logically. I doubt that they're reasoning, and weighing up the pros and cons of their situation. They're in a black hole and they just want to get the hell out.

Anonymous said...

Bob, I suspect that's why people call them selfish and cowardly. Their focus is on how bad things are for themselves and not the people around them.

If you're saying that severe depression diminishes a person's responsibility for their own actions, where do you draw the line? What about someone who decides to take their family with them when they go?

On the other hand, if a person killed themselves because they believed that their mental state made them a danger to others; that would be a noble act, no?

TubularBells said...

The term I would use is "cognative constriction", and it is one of the classics of depression. It is not that someone who is depressed and contemplating suicide could think of others and willfully chooses not to - there is just no room in their head for anything other than their pain. It is all consuming and there just isn't any spare processing power left for considering how others are feeling.

From a literal definition of the word, yes it is totally selfish BUT it is a symptom of the disease and focussing on that aspect of suicide is not helpful to anyone. It doesn't help those left behind to understand, and it doesn't allow you to provide help if you encounter someone having suicidal thoughts. From a very simplistic perspective, the decision to suicide goes something like: 1) my pain is utterly unbearable and I can't go on like this; 2) there is nothing that can be done to help me with my situation; and once you have 1) and 2) then suicide is pretty logical. The instinctive response is usually to focus on 1), to say things like "it could be worse" and "think of others and how their pain if you suicided would be worse than your pain now" etc.... however it is far better to focus 2) and challenge the idea that they can't be helped.

At my workplace (mental health related) "committed suicide" has been replaced with "suicided" or "completed suicide", the logic being that you committ a crime and referring to committing suicide is a hang-over from when it was against the law. People experiencing mental health issues are "consumers" rather than "sufferers", which doesn't make much grammatical sense but does at least have fewer negative connotations attached to it.

WitchOne said...

My original opinion stands however I have to say, on the euthanasia debate, I agree with euthanasia!

Now, someone ask me the difference between a physical disability/illness that qualifies someone for euthanasia (without getting in to "how" they qualify) and a mental illness by which suicide is a selfish cowardly act.

Go on, ask me.

Anonymous said...

Witchy, I have a feeling that you're going to be drawing an arbitrary line across the term "suffering" and saying "I stand here". But I'll play:

what's the difference?

Puss In Boots said...

I don't have a problem with euthanasia. Mostly because I think in a majority of those cases, those seeking euthanasia would have consulted with their closest family members and friends about their decision. Therefore, their family and friends are prepared for the loss. In those situations, it's not a completely selfish act.

Of course, I am sure there might be some instances where they haven't consulted their family, but I think as a general rule (or at least in the cases I've heard about), they involved their family members in their decision.

As for cowardice, people seeking euthanasia have generally exhausted all other treatment options. It's not the same as someone suiciding because they're in a dark place and unwilling to seek help.

But again, this is just my opinion. Obviously people will disagree with me, and that's fine.

Anonymous said...

So Puss, it wouldn't be so bad if a person with severe depression killed themselves, so long as they had sought help and discussed their intentions with their next of kin?

Lewd Bob said...

Puss, where you see it as 'unwilling', I see it as 'unable'.

patchouligirl said...

Those who opt for Euthanasia are often going to die soon anyway, it's simply a less painful, slightly faster exit. I'm too pragmatic to have a problem with this.

I have a friend with depression whose aim right now is to stay alive and it is a daily struggle that has been going on for over 5 years now. His kids are grown up, his wife left him and he just can't get his life back.

I don't understand how anyone (I'm talking physically healthy person) with a dependent child could suicide that does seem selfish.

Anonymous said...

The problem with your thinking, Puss, Pepsi, WitchOne, et al, is that you are still attributing a moral dimension to a mental illness.

A severely depressed person who has decided to suicide is incapable of seeing the viewpoints of the others they will hurt. Their thinking is so negative about themselves and their situation, that they assume everyone shares those negative assessments. If you thought your existence was worthless and utterly devoid of value, and that everyone else thought the same of you, and your continued existence was a burden and a pain to everyone important to you, it wouldn't even enter into your thinking that loved ones would be anything but relieved by your removing yourself permanently.

I would suggest that you are actually the selfish ones, because you are capable of rational thought, and yet you consider only your own hurt and your own reactions to your loved one's attempted suicide, rather than considering what that person must have been going through to seriously contemplate such an action.

Anonymous said...

So Boogeyman, does the presence of mental illness void personal responsibility and accountability in 100% of cases? No matter what the person does, or to whom?

Anonymous said...

Alex, you ask that question as though it is a question of volition. A mental illness is a disorder of the mind - an inescapable part of that is that the ability to control one's actions, feelings or logical processes is diminished. It's not like such people choose to abdicate personal responsibility because they have a mental illness.

And if a crime is committed against another person, the presence of a mental illness changes the nature of the crime, sure, but the perpetrator doesn't get off scot-free - they still have to be locked away, whether in a mental institution or a prison, both for the protection of others and for their own rehabilitation, just as would any other criminal.

Anonymous said...

Boogeyman, I ask the question because I see a level of inconsistency with people who feel nothing but sympathy towards a mentally ill person who drives their car of a bridge and nothing but outrage towards a mentally ill person who drives their car onto a crowded footpath (Not saying you were doing it, just saying).

Also, you could question how much volition any of us have over our actions and how much comes down to biochemistry, behavioural imprinting, trauma and other factors beyond our control. On a practical level, however, the presumption of personal responsibility is necessary for an ordered society and I think you have to take great care when deciding if that doesn't apply to a someone.

Anonymous said...

On a practical level, however, the presumption of personal responsibility is necessary for an ordered society and I think you have to take great care when deciding if that doesn't apply to a someone.

Well, yes. Because when you decide someone doesn't possess personal responsibility it becomes necessary to institutionalise them for their own protection and that of others.

Lucky I'm no judge.

obtuse-a said...

Alex, you raise a really great point about murder suicide - which I personally could never sympathise with, Jonestown, plus more personal examples. This is more about control and power.

But to respond to pespi, witchie, and puss, regarding those who have contemplated or completed solo felodesia, the reaction of the "those they left behind" is what could you/me have done to help them? in thinking of our response ie. grief sadness guilt anger, unless we personally can commit ourselves to 24 hour of caring and also a super-natural ability to solving in a straightforward and successful way the multiple problems that the suicidal mentally ill face, or even have a detailed understanding of what they are suffering, is just not possible, even for those professional trained.

I may be wrong, but from observation, I think it's a brain-chemistry anomaly, plus/or culmination of a lifetime of grief - deserved of the same compassion as those suffering from physical illnesses who also seek relief.

To return to Bob's original post, look up Linkous' episode with his legs - and I don't know him personally so I can't make assumptions - but there appears to be a long term struggle. Maybe incidents like this can contribute to making us more actively compassionate rather than passively judgmental.

Anonymous said...

The point I'm making (in a roundabout fashion) is that if you say that every depressed person who commits suicide is in a position where their actions are completely outside of their control, you're also basically implying that every severely depressed person should be institutionalised as a public safety.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's not so much that their actions are completely outside their control, just that their thinking and emotions are so disordered that self-harmful actions appear sensible.

Same outcome really. I assume psychiatrists have to be sensitive to how much someone's illness makes them a danger to themselves or others when making such a decision, just like any other doctor.

patchouligirl said...

Lucky I'm no judge

In a discussion I had once with a mental health worker, I was told a person must be considered a danger to themself and others before you can start taking their liberty away, or words to that effect. This is often difficult to prove. The relative concerned had exhibited quite crazy behaviour for a long period of time before they were finally considered eligible. This meant removing their drivers licence, handing their finances over to the protective commissioner, being moved to a hostel and put on compulsory injections to keep the voices in their head away. It is a big call to make the decision.

In the same hostel is a teenage boy who decided to throw himself under a train and survived. He is wheelchair bound and brain damaged beyond recovery. I met him and his parents one year at a Christmas function. Some things there aren't enough pieces to pick up but they have to try.

My friend with depression has been told he must not live alone but does anyway. He sees a psych regularly and wants to stay alive. When he gets sick he phones a relative or goes to stay with them. I think he's planning to move in with the relative full time. He says the psych can tell him why he's like this but not what to do to get better. His friends ring and call around to check on him if we havent' heard for a few days but really it wouldn't stop him from checking out.

WitchOne said...

Alex, it is simply, for me, a question of stigma.

Suicide involves sneaking around and leaving big messes for people to clean up.

Euthanasia is open, everything is organised and everyone knows what is going on. There is no shock, no mess, it's neat and tidy.

I put it flippantly and I don't mean it that way but if someone close to me was ill (mentally or physically) and wanted to check out because they hadn't a chance of ever getting better, and they then organised a safe (ok, relative term people, don't laugh) way to go. How could I or anyone who professes to care for them, disagree with this decision?

Anonymous said...

So, what you're saying Witchy, is that the difference between euthanasia and suicide is whether or not the person killing themselves informs the people around them of their intentions? What if a terminally ill person informs their family that they wish to die and the family is not supportive of that decision. They would still have to sneak around and leave a mess. Does that fall under your definition of suicide (a selfish and cowardly act), then?

WitchOne said...

By my previous comment, the family would be the selfish ones wouldn't they?

Anonymous said...

Right, so then, it'd be okay for someone with unbearable depression to top themselves, so long as they made their suicidal tendencies clear to their family first?

eat my shorts said...

I know I've talked about this before, but at my school a few years ago, we had a few kids suicide. Also, I remember when I was in Year 12 there were a couple of suicides, when my older sister was that age, there were a few & the same for my younger brother. Where I live the suicide rate for young men is relatively high compared to other parts of the country.

When it happened to the kids I went to school with, & when my brother & sister went to the funerals of their friends, I was convinced that people who committed suicide were selfish and nothing else.

When our students committed suicide, that was the first time in my life I was ever offered counselling. As staff, we went through grief counselling & there was one woman who said something I've never, ever forgotten.

There is no way to communicate the amount of pain & hurt felt by people who suicide. It's useless to even try to put into words the pain felt by someone who wants to end their life. [I'd even argue that with some suicides - not all, these people are only thinking of others, not themselves. They really believe the world is a better place without them. Those of us who love them know better, but when they've convinced themselves otherwise, it's hard to turn them back.]

When I was a teenager dealing with the suicides of my peers, I was incredibly judgmental, as an adult who works with kids, these days I judge less and care more. Well, I try to.

Another part of counselling that stuck with me was the notion (described to me by a nun, nonetheless), that everyone of us carries around with us a bucket of shit (and yes, the nun used that word - before then I'd only ever met one other nun, & I'd never met a nun who said 'shit'). Some days the bucket is more full than other days. For some people the bucket is more full than for others. Most of us can walk around with our bucket of shit without it slopping around everywhere, but sometimes, some of us, for whatever reason, can't.

Wouldn't it be great if, even if our bucket of shit slopped about a bit (or a lot), those around us had the compassion to forgive us for that. Because, we've all got shit, and at one point or another, our shit slops about (and let's remember, everyone's shit stinks).

Anonymous said...

Suicide involves sneaking around and leaving big messes for people to clean up.

Euthanasia is open, everything is organised and everyone knows what is going on. There is no shock, no mess, it's neat and tidy.

Sheesh. I realise you're not the brightest wiccan in the coven, WitchOne, but it makes my head hurt contemplating just where to start with such a supremely asinine comment like that.

eat my shorts said...

Oh, and at the risk of pissing some of you off (which I've no care to do because I honestly have the utmost respect for all of you)... you can intellectualise it or rationalise it all you like, but anyone considering suicide isn't even remotely intellectualising or rationalising, so what's the point? Why apply those criteria? They aren't relevant.

Anonymous said...

I love you bucket of shit analogy, EMS. I shall have to remember it for later use.

anyone considering suicide isn't even remotely intellectualising or rationalising, so what's the point?

People kill themselves all the time, for all kinds of reasons and in all kinds of states of minds. Sometimes it's the direct result of mental illness, sometimes it's arrived at rationally by a sane mind and sometimes it's just done in a fit of passion. It's this lumping of everything together, for the convenience of saying "suicide is X" that I'm basically arguing against.

eat my shorts said...

I love you bucket of shit analogy, EMS. I shall have to remember it for later use.

Oh, it's not my analogy. I wish it were. It's just something a nun said that never left me. I wish I could remember her name, she was freaking awesome.

It was an awful time. I never thought I'd feel so strongly when students suicided, as opposed to my own peers. No-one tells you about that in your teacher training. It's so different, I don't know why, but it is. It's still horrible, but you just feel so completely useless, & your other students are looking to you for answers, when there never are any.

At least on the other side, when it was your peers/loved ones suiciding, you didn't have to try to explain why it happened.

Which is why I believe you can't moralise about it. Half the time you can't place yourself in the head space of someone who suicides, so why try to?

It's this lumping of everything together, for the convenience of saying "suicide is X" that I'm basically arguing against.

Abso-fricken-lutely, Alex. I hear you.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Oh, BTW Alex, I haven't forgotten your request for a political post.

I'm waiting until the Oz publishes the next Newspoll on Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Oh, BTW Alex, I haven't forgotten your request for a political post.*

Like I said earlier Ramon, you're the best.

*There's also those two questions I rudely and inappropriately tacked onto Poetry Slam Friday.

WitchOne said...

Now now Boogey, there's no need for name calling.

My feelings arise out of having a relative suicide and also having had to watch a relative slowly and painfully wither away because euthanasia wasn't a legal option.

They are just that. Feelings.

catlick said...

It might seem obvious, but I've just realized that my long held plan for self termination at 84, (or before if pain ridden) has much in common with suicide. I'm lucky in that I won't have family to consider, but I note that the motives for suicide seem somewhat constant despite age. i.e., I am in pain, I want it to stop, I have had enough of life. I was assuming that I can get nembutal legally by 2040. Not sure what plan B is.

Anonymous said...

I know one old bloke who gassed himself in his car. Seemed peaceful enough, I guess. You can even pop in a tape full of your favourite tunes while you wait.

Of course, by 2040, green cars are probably going to have taken this option off the table, too.

patchouligirl said...

I don't want to die until I'm at least 90. And when I do, I want to go from being completely alive to completely dead in the shortest time possible.

I wonder what some teenagers think when they go to the funeral of a peer and hear them spoken of in glowing terms. Perhaps they have never heard themselves praised in such a manner and think 'they'll be sorry when I'm gone'. I'm not saying this would be the sole reason for a teenager to suicide but it could influence them. The tragedy is that they don't quite get the finality of death.

catlick said...

I had a friend who topped herself in the bath listening to a mix tape she had asked me for weeks earlier. I blame Michael Franks.

eat my shorts said...

Perhaps they have never heard themselves praised in such a manner and think 'they'll be sorry when I'm gone'. I'm not saying this would be the sole reason for a teenager to suicide but it could influence them. The tragedy is that they don't quite get the finality of death.

In my experience, they get the finality of death alright.

I've had a lot of experience with suicide, & there wasn't one case where it seemed (and I say "seemed", we'll never really know what their intentions were, because they aren't here to tell us) as though they were thinking along the lines of "they'll be sorry when I'm gone".

All the suicides I've had experience with appeared to be based on that person just being sick to death of living. It appeared that they had no concept of anybody else thinking anything about them at all. And if they had an idea that someone thought something about them, those contemplating (and eventually completing the act of) suicide, figured no-one cared whether they lived or died. In the cases I've had experience with, the notion of "they'll be sorry when I'm gone" wasn't a factor at all.

squib said...

I have a similar plan, catlick. When I turn 70, I'm going to take up smoking again. I must be the only person who is looking forward to the big seven o