Posted 2005-08-31 01:24:00 by
Ben Shelton, a
#trax regular, died a few months ago. I haven't been involved in the demo scene or even talked to anyone who has in a long time; I found out via Jake Kaufman's web page. Jake, a.k.a. Virt, composed a song called Heaven is in Europe for Ben. You can read what Virt wrote about the song by scrolling down to the entry on his page for April 5th, 2005.
I never knew Ben, but his death really got to me. Obviously much of it is the tragedy of a good person cut down in the prime of his life, but in this case there's more to it than that; the pictures available via Ben's web page really drive home for me that it's the tragedy of a good person who very much resembled myself cut down in the prime of his life.
“I talked to Ben last week on the phone. He was supposed to come down on a biking road trip to see us but he was complaining of being a little under the weather. He did not think it was anything serious since he mentioned that it may be his allergies acting up due to being around some animals recently. Sometime on Thursday Ben collapsed and passed away in his apartment. He was found by a friend a day later. The cause was Staphylococcus Aureus, a bacterial infection that can be fatal if not treated right away.”
Let me tell you about the demo scene.
Demos started out as intros to cracked games. The programmer who cracked a Apple ][e or Commodore 64 game would often tack on a small intro to the beginning of the game, that showed off his programming skill and bragged about his group. Some of these intros were very creative and interesting, and a lot of people in the cracking scene thought they were more more interesting than the cracking itself. So, they started making standalone “intros.” To this day, “intro” means “small demo.”
Over time, demos evolved from way for a programmer to impress people with his graphics programming skills to something resembling an artistic medium. But there was still an aesthetic built up around doing everything from scratch in assembly language, and doing everything in real time. These are aesthetics that aren't really practical because they're not visible in the final product, but an understanding of them is important to the appreciation of the work.
As you can imagine, a demoscener is rare even in a crowd of nerds. In 1996, my family was planning to go on a vacation somewhere I didn't much care about, possibly Hawaii, when NAID, one of the few North American demo parties, was happening. I must've mentioned it to someone, because without my even asking, my mother handed me plane tickets to Quebec.
Though I wasted much of the experience due to my lack of actual scene friends and of the social skills to make friends on site, NAID was great. When you can go for years without meeting anyone who shares your interests, it's pretty fucking amazing to go spend three days in a building full of them. I was 17 at the time.
To sum up, Ben was my kind of nerd.
This really isn't that close a relationship, truth be told. But I didn't have a close relationship with my grandfather either, and I cried when he died, too. This makes me wonder: how will I take it when someone that I care deeply about dies? I'm suspecting badly. On the other hand, it's possible that I'm really crying because I'm reminded that some day I will also die.
|<AdamMil> ||here's what you can do, though|
|<AdamMil> ||turn to religion!|
|<pf> ||yeah, great, then i just have to feel even worse about all the people i know who are going to hell because they don't share my belief system|
|<AdamMil> ||pick a better one :-)|
|<AdamMil> ||like, uhh, everyone who dies goes to a magical happy place|
|<pf> ||i much prefer reincarnation|
|<pf> ||and i kind of even believe in it|
|<pf> ||but only on a basic, keep-myself-sane level|
|<AdamMil> ||i'm trying not to believe it|
|<AdamMil> ||because i have no experience of it|
|<AdamMil> ||if you doubt, you'll continue the search for truth!|
Or maybe it's just that when I die horribly and unexpectedly, I don't think anyone's going to write an unspeakably gorgeous and sad guitar tune in my memory.