"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Blowing up on Twitter on a Wednesday morning: the news that the developer of an app that does nothing but send the word “yo” to a chosen recipient has received $1 million in investment funding — and is hiring!.
The Financial Times broke the story. Think Progress ties the mania to the impending doom of a tech bubble. Business Insider reports that “everyone is going crazy over” it. Vox, of course, has an explainer.
And at Salon, your grizzled veteran of two decades of Internet sturm und drang stares at his laptop and contemplates the grievous question of whether civilization has finally completed its collapse into nihilist meaninglessness or merely erupted in all-consuming surrealist folly. Yo, what is up with that?
Or both! Why choose?
But wait! Who am I kidding? There’s a there, here. I can’t count the number of times in my life when I have texted or Internet-chatted a friend or my son or daughter with nothing more than the word “yo.” Busy people, busy lives — just typing “yo” is an act of extreme efficiency: Why waste any effort on more excessively alphabeted communication if your recipient is not around to engage? If Yo, as is claimed, reduces the typical number of clicks necessary to send the word “yo” from 11 to two, well then, it’s only a matter of time before we see meaningful improvement in global labor productivity statistics.
But Yo also signifies something deeper, something that expresses our most essential humanity. The uttterance of the word “yo” is a declaration, first, that I exist in this world, and second, that I seek connection and community with something outside myself.
Yo … I am here. Is anybody out there?
The word “yo” therefore provides the bedrock for both individual consciousness and the existence of society. From this perspective, the case for giving “yo” its own app for the purpose of, as the Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw put it, providing “messaging without the messages,” becomes the very definition of a no-brainer. I yearn to mock, but perhaps extremism in the pursuit of pure minimalism is no vice. The reduction of all culture, all communication, and the entire digital telecommunications infrastructure to a single two-letter word? Brilliance. If it is true that our future behavior patterns will be primarily guided by the notifications that we receive from our smartphones, then what could possibly be more important than crafting the Ur-Notification app?
Genius like that is worth a lot more than a million dollars, yo.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)