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Fallen Angel: Evelyn McHale’s ‘Beautiful Suicide’
07.11.2017
11:14 am
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Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. On average there are 121 suicides every single day. Fifty percent of these are achieved with firearms. Just over a quarter are the result of hanging or suffocation. Poisoning makes up about fifteen percent. 

In 2015, seven out of ten suicides were white males, with the highest percentage being middle-aged men. A total of 494,169 were taken to the hospital due to attempted “self-harm.” That works out to an average of twelve people self-harming for every successful suicide. However, most suicide attempts go unreported which means there is an estimated one million US citizens who attempt suicide every year.

For those who have no access to a gun or to poison or worry that hanging might leave them paralyzed from the neck down, then jumping off a tall building or a bridge is the preferred choice for about five percent of all suicides. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is the top spot for those who choose to jump. To date, around 1600 people have jumped from the bridge—an average of one person jumping to their death every two weeks. However, approximately one in fifty survives the fall—usually with life-changing injuries. Part of the attraction to jumping is the spectacle, as one Golden Gate suicide survivor Ken Baldwin explained in 2011:

“Jumping from the bridge was going to force people to see me….To see me hurting, to see that I was a person, too.”

The moment Mr. Baldwin let go of the rail and began to freefall downwards, he quickly realized that:

“...everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable – except for having jumped.”

He was lucky enough to survive to tell his tale after being pulled out of the water by the coast guard.
 
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Suicide has had a bizarre, and let’s be honest, dumb romantic appeal since Cleopatra was bitten by an asp. This notion was further endorsed by the English Romantic poets, in particular, Thomas Chatterton who poisoned himself at the tender age of seventeen—supposedly in fear of having caught a dose of the clap. This trend to romanticize suicide carries on to present day which sadly suggests we never learn from our mistakes. And I can ‘fess up to being that special kind of stupid having survived two suicide attempts. As Dorothy Parker noted—it ain’t worth it and we might as well live.

The photograph that perhaps captures this strange romantic idea about suicide as somehow “beautiful” was taken by student Robert Wiles on Thursday, May 1st, 1947. His photograph shows the body of Evelyn McHale atop a limousine parked outside the Empire State Building on 33rd Street, New York. Evelyn was a 23-year-old bookkeeper with the Kitab Engraving Company. She had just returned to New York from celebrating her fiance Barry Rhodes’ 24th birthday on April 30th, in Easton, Pennsylvania. Rhodes later said he had no idea of Evelyn’s intentions:

“When I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.”

At some point on the train journey back to the city, Evelyn made her mind up to commit suicide. Arriving at Penn Station, Evelyn is believed to have entered the Governor Clinton Hotel where she wrote her suicide note which read:

“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

The most telling part is Evelyn’s line about having “too many of [her] mother’s tendencies.”

Evelyn was the sixth of seven children born to Vincent and Helen McHale. In 1930, the family moved to Washington D.C. where her father worked as Federal Land Bank Examiner. This was the year Evelyn’s mother Helen quit the family home leaving Vincent to look after the children. It’s not known why Helen McHale moved out.
 
Read more about the ‘beautiful suicide’ of Evelyn McHale after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.11.2017
11:14 am
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‘Chillstep hour of sadness’ has the most heartbreaking comments section we’ve ever seen
04.10.2015
09:57 am
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Today we’re going to talk about discovering new things outside our sphere of existence and rediscovering old, dark things deep within. Chillstep and sadness.

Even with a house full of music on nearly every physical consumer format produced in the past 100 years, I still sometimes opt to do my listening online, through a pair of shitty little computer speakers, because the Internet makes it too easy to stumble effortlessly into new sounds.  Earlier this week, I was on a late-night tear through YouTube, following links, uncovering new music, and rediscovering lost tracks from my youth, when a link on the right side of the screen grabbed my attention: “Sad chillstep hour of sadness.”

Chillstep? Something I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older: It’s not just that I don’t recognize the names of the new bands that “the kids are into” anymore, I don’t recognize names of entire genres—a harsh confirmation of one’s out-of-touchness. My first thought as I clicked the link was, “Chillstep is not even a real thing, right?” My second thought was, “I like sadness, let’s see how sad this thing really is. Bring it.”

A few seconds of buffering and I was into the sad hour of sadness. It struck me that “chillstep” was nothing at all like what I had imagined it would be—I was waiting for some wub wub wubs or some “drops” that never actually dropped. In fact, the whole thing sounded to me like a poppier trip-hop with what I usually describe as “new style girl vocals,” because, again, I’m totally old, and I was never really all that great at differentiating electronic music genres to begin with (though I can explain the difference between any type of “core” you care to name). As a tangent, let me interject here that when I say “new style girl vocals,” it’s not meant to demean or infantilize women—I find these particular adult female singers have a talent for sounding really young.
 

Zoe Johnston, adult female featured on the “sad chillstep hour of sadness”
 
So there I was listening to this “sad chillstep hour of sadness” wondering, “What makes this genre ‘chillstep’ as opposed to ‘downtempo’ or ‘triphop’ or ‘chillout’ or whatever,” and I decided to look to the YouTube comments for clues. What I found in that comment section did not answer my question, but instead, I discovered post after post of brutally real, absolutely heartbreaking stories of depression and suicidal thoughts. I spent the entire “hour of sadness” reading through the 500+ posts. Remarkably, there was very little trolling or assholeishness that I typically associate with YouTube comments sections. YouTube commenters are notoriously some of the biggest jerks on the Internet, but incredibly, that was not the case here. The sage advice of “never read the comments” did not apply in this instance. I couldn’t help but read ALL the comments, most coming from teenagers, who were experiencing depression, loss, and profound anguish.
 

 
Scrolling through these meaningful expressions of sorrow and desperate cries for help reminded me exactly of what my own teenage years were like. Though I didn’t have the Internet to share those thoughts with the world, it was always music—melancholic, depressing music, that helped to ease my pain. The fourteen-year-old me didn’t have a “sad chillstep hour of sadness,” but he did have a “sad goth 90-minute mixtape of sadness.”
 

It looked something like this.
 
Continuing to scan comment after comment of kids wishing for their own demise, I was reminded of the urban legends surrounding the 1930s recording “Gloomy Sunday,” also known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song,” which was purportedly banned from radio airplay for causing a number of suicides. Of course, it’s a “chicken or the egg” argument—did they kill themselves because of the song, or were they attracted to the song because they wanted to kill themselves? Perhaps this chillstep mix is the modern equivalent of “Gloomy Sunday” in that both are more likely to be attractive to people who are already depressed and suicidal, rather than being the actual cause of their desperate final action.

What I found most striking about stumbling onto this mix and its adjoining comments was the sociological significance of the music being a beacon to so many people of a particular emotional state—how the music reflected that emotional state and became a community for these people to express their sorrow. There are the clichés of the morose cafeteria lunch-table of goth kids, or emo kids, or, now I guess, chillstep kids—but these communities are naturally occurring phenomena when cultural forms reflect and acknowledge feeling. It just so happens that in this case, because of the Internet, we are watching this community develop publicly, in real time.
 
Listen to ‘Chillstep hour of sadness’ after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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04.10.2015
09:57 am
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Inner Vision: The suicide prevention video game
02.27.2013
08:14 am
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The narrator, Yama, named for the Hindu god of death, berates your attempts to help the suicidal
 
Sunil Rao is studying Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago; he’s also as self-described “Gonzo game developer.” In the space of four weeks, Rao created “Inner Vision,” a game/art project/social statement that manages to defy all three categories. From his website:

The main goal of the game is to convince three people not to commit suicide. Each person has a personality, set of problems, and issues that are specific to their character. You, as the player, get to interact with each person, and need to extract information about the character through conversation. Here’s the catch: These people are on the verge of suicide. If you say the wrong things to them while talking, they will kill themselves right there on the spot.

It’s a simple game with crude graphics and a completely psychological game-play, but it’s undeniably engaging, and somehow… reassuring? We have a tendency to blame technology for our feelings of isolation, so while it’s initially unsettling to play a “game” about suicide, especially a video game, the empathy and humanity that the Inner Vision forces you to engage with are disarmingly heartfelt.

Sunil is quick to point out that his game isn’t really supposed to be a teaching tool, but a mode of self-expression and communication with players/audience.

Inner Vision wasn’t supposed to become popular. I created it for myself to express some dying thoughts I’ve had for the past several months. I had a message I was trying to portray with the game, but didn’t think anybody would understand it due to the poor script I had written. Well, I guess I was wrong. Although I personally think the script is weak, a lot of people thought it was quite good, and they connected with the characters.

As self-critical as Rao is, I think the simplicity of the dialogue and graphics actually keeps the gaming experience starkly penetrant. The only refined adornment the game has is a dreamy string score.

You can play here.

Posted by Amber Frost
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02.27.2013
08:14 am
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Sarah Silverman clues America in on how to make it better
10.04.2010
07:57 pm
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File under “Ya think?”: the country’s baddest-ass comedienne provides a different perspective on the horrible uptick in bullied LGBT suicides…
 

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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10.04.2010
07:57 pm
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