Interpretations:Museum Of Idiots

From This Might Be A Wiki

Definitely deforestation[edit]

I'm stunned at the number of responses thinking it's about people!

Different Meaning[edit]

I think that this is the saddest TMBG song (If not saddest song ever) for so many reasons. I think that If you are going through a rough time, no matter what the situation whether it be a relationship, or just feeling as if the world has turned it's back on you, i think that you can relate to this song. I think that the meaning of the song is what you make it. Sure the most obvious thing is a bad relationship, but I think that it is so much deeper than that. The museum of idiots is not a place for the weak at mind, but a place for the strong a heart, the people that no matter what happens, they try to be happy and help others, and never give up. Many people whould find it "smart" to give up and accept defeat, so this place is for the idiots in that sense. The narrater (no doubt it was intentionaly written about a relationship) Is always looking out to make the one he loves happy, no matter how many times he is shut down, because of love. The line "They built this whole neighborhood out of wood, out of wood" is describing how the relationship was built (whether it be with a person, or just a point of view) and he would watch it burn downfrom the museum of idiots, meaning that even though it has crashed and burned he would love, and keep a more optomistic view. The next verse is pretty self-explanitory. He is just saying that he will always be there for his love. The lines "Chop me up into peices, if it pleases, if it pleases. And when the chopping is through, every peice will say 'I love you'" are the saddest lines in any song ever written to me. He is saying that he would let his love destroy if, if it made it happy. And even afterwords, he would still love her (If it is about a relationship, which, I'm sure JL intentionally wrote it about, but still It can be about anything.) This is truly the saddest song I've ever heard, and it really tears me up inside when I listen to it. If you can relate to the narrator, I think that you will agree.---drworm818

Yeah, I sort of agree with the "chop me up into pieces" thing. It's a good interpretation. How a guy loves someone so much and would do anything to please her. And even when he get's chopped up by her (because it pleases her), he will still love her as much as he can. -- Buzzmusic100 ("Keep your voice down...")
"... it really tears me up inside when I listen to it." Me too. Koray Orhun

Couple breaking up[edit]

This song is obviously about a couple fighting external circumstances beyond their control. Again Linnell shows off his polymath musical styles and provides the Spines second best song with ease. Linnell sounds magnificant. (Mr Tuck)

I think this is about breaking up through circumstances beyond the couples control.

Love despite abuse[edit]

Someone who unconditionally, and foolishly, loves their partner no matter what they do to hurt or ignore them. This is probably the most obvious one, what with the talk about love and ``chopping me up into pieces`` could be a metaphor for domestic violence.

I'm not saying there's a connection at all, but this song reminds me a lot of a comic strip that Dave Eggers drew before he became a bigshot author:

February 12, 1997. Think about it, man

Unconditional love IS abuse, of a sort.[edit]

The narrator sounds like a cynic who has fallen deeply in love with someone for the first time. Based on his experiences, he finds that most people who fall in love or are in love are in pain a lot of the time, because relationships never go exactly as planned. So this guy pretty much expects his love to dump him ("I'll still be right where you left me, if you manage to forget me"), and knows that he'll be crushed. But though he is cynical, he is still a romantic, because he still trying to build a relationship with this woman. Think of the word "wood" as a personifed memory.

"They built this whole neighborhood out of wood, out of wood. I guess I'll still be around when they burn, burn it down."

He knows that if the two of them break up, his neighborhood of memories will burn to the ground, and take him with it. Yet, he says that he will still love her, even if she no longer loves him. Every piece of [his heart] will still love her. The title "Museum of Idiots" refers to the cynical point of view that anyone who falls in love is an idiot, and the world is as full of them as museums are of art. And although this may be true, the narrator still wants to take the chance of getting burned. Good for him.


That is definitely what my interpretation of it is! Especially the "chop me up into pieces if it pleases, if it pleases. And when the chopping is through, every piece will say "I love you."" line. ~~

Corporate version[edit]

A plausible variant on this theory is a smart man, loyal to the company, but buried at the bottom of the corporate ladder. He sees them building a massive project ("a whole neighborhood") in a stupid way. And he'll see them "burn it down" too when they realize the flaw. But nobody will listen to him even though he's "right there when you need me". He tried introducing himself to some higher-up, but the guy didn't understand what he was saying. So "where we met is where you may forget". But still, he blames himself for not thinking of a way to tell the people in charge ("If you and I had any brains, we wouldn't be in this place").

Ironically, when everything does go wrong, the company needs a scapegoat and he ends up being it. They tear him to shreds ("Chop me up into pieces") and feed him to an angry public, but he's not angry. He's still loyal to the company. Despite the fact that they screwed up, ignored him, and scapegoated him, he still says "I love you, I love you".

A museum of idiots, indeed.


Sad, but happy[edit]

Wow - I love this site. It's amazing to me how a song for which the interpretation seems so obvious to me could inspire such widely varying responses. (Deforestation?!) This is part of the joy of TMBG, I guess, and I say more power to us all. My take: This is a song about the way we stay in bad situations despite our best interests. It begins with a metaphor - a "neighborhood made of wood" - and moves into the more personal relationship stuff from there. The "Museum of Idiots," I think, is just an imaginary place where the people who have been ruined by these self-destructive decisions are remembered. I would also say that although the song is obviously sort of sad, the horns and the overall feeling of the song are positive - I think John L. is the melancholy type, and I think he appreciates how blind and stupid and beautiful we can be.

- - - Northside Jonny, Sept 2007


A song about deforestation. A forest is a "neighborhood [built] of wood". Deforestation and forest fires brought on by humanity "burn, burn it down." A tree can't do anything to protect itself from being burnt down, so the tree will always be standing around "when they [the humans] burn, burn it down". A tree, being rooted, never moves from its spot ("I'll still be right where you left me"). Even if you forget it, a tree will still stay there for you "when you need me". No one bothers to remember a tree they saw in the woods, so wherever you met the tree, that's where you'll forget it ("Where we met is where you may forget.")

If a tree were sentient, it wouldn't want to simply sit there in the middle of the forest to die in the same spot it's always been, at the mercy of humans and nature. If a human wants to, he can chop down a tree while it sits idly by, never protesting or changing its opinion or feelings toward you. Even after a tree is cut down and chopped into pieces, it doesn't hate humanity or the person who killed it.

Every piece of wood will say "I love you" -- This is the line which tipped me off that this was about deforestation and the opinions of trees on people. The pieces of a tree are pieces of wood. So, in summary: Trees unconditionally love humans, whether they chop them up, burn them down, or utterly forget them.

The problem with this theory is that it doesn't explain why the tree will still be there when they "burn, burn it down". If it's a tree, shouldn't it be equally affected by forest fires and deforestation?
It thinks it will still be around "when they burn it down" because it, as a tree, is unable to leave. It, too, would burn as a consequence of still being there when the neighborhood goes up in flames. But its guess was wrong, it got chopped up and made into valentines cards instead. --Upthorn
Also, your key line is a misquote. He says "every piece of me", not "every piece of wood".
Are you saying that trees love the people who chop them down? Thread Bomb (talk) 03:24, 24 March 2020 (EDT)

I think this about a place (a museum) where girls takes their boyfriends to dump them. The guy is an idiot, and he pledges his undying love for his woman who will "forget" that he's there. She's bailing out of the relationship because he is stupid and naive and loves her too much. He will wait for her forever, even when the neighborhood is being demolished by flames. The place is a monument to people like him: many other people without "any brains" have been left there too. --An orangutan

Another Rohrschach from Mr. Linnell; gaze into my lyric inkblot and see a reflection of whatever is in your mind. Well, there is the usual theme of "I am a devoted dog, whip me, beat me, make me write bad checks," etc.

This wonderful piece reminds me of some of Frank Zappa's stuff - I want to shout, "Shut up, SHUT THE FK UP! Stop singing, and just play, wouldja!" The lyrics are completely at odds here with the every other sound in the song, and the Weird Al voice he uses for this one is just _wrong_.

I want him to re-record this with no singing. If he cannot refrain, let him sing in French or German to obscure the lyrics, and please use his _professional singing voice_, that one from "Whistling in the Dark" and "Pencil Rain." Stop diddling around.  :p

That said, I agree, this is from the point of view of either a tree or of a "wooden indian." There is a famous song by Hank Williams, I think, in which a life-sized carving of an Native American out in front of a tobacco shop falls in love with his counterpart across the street, a carving of a maiden. You don't hear it anymore, because it's kinda insulting if you're Native American, but the Johns are of the age they are probably familiar with it.

- - - ~Christina Miller, Aug 2004

Just a note, but the bass riff does remind me of the lead in Edvard Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King"

It does have a classical music feel, if you tune out the vox. I kept thinking *Beethoven,* as in "An Die Freude," but couldn't say why - it's very emotional, with a sense of building, of winding the audience up? Made me want to invade Poland. I wish someone with a knowledge of classical would dissect out the ways in which this song pilfers from classical, because I can hear it, but not describe it. --[Christina Miller September 2005]

This song has always reminded me of the town I grew up in because, well, it's full of idiots. The neighborhood made out of wood reminds me of the suburban sprawl in a rural area, and they may burn it down to make way for some "progressive" new strip mall or somethingorother. Thus, rural becomes suburban, then, possibly, urban, but in a copletely contrived way.

Also the "Where we met is where you may forget" line makes me think of wondering back to how you got to a place or a point in your life that is especially disappointing. Let's say the Museum of Idiots is this poorly-run city so much like the one I grew up in. Two people are talking; one is moving out of the city, and the narrator is staying (this seems especially plausible with the "If you and I had any brains/We wouldn't be in this place" lines). The narrator says not just that he'll be there, but that he was LEFT there. Something is preventing him from leaving the Museum of Idiots (his lack of brains, as the song implies?). Where the two met (the Museum of Idiots) may be forgotten by the deserter, but I also take this line to mean that these people's relationship goes back a long way, and the time, place, context, etc.--HOW they met--is forgotten in time; how many times have you asked, "How did I get here?", or "How do I know this person?"

As far as the "chop me up" part I have no idea. But this song has always reminded me of some coplex relationship between two people living in a cappy town and one is staying and the other is leaving. Maybe I'm just interjecting my own life too much into my interpretation!

Is it just me, or do the lines:
Chop me up into pieces
if it pleases, if it pleases.
And when the chopping is through,
every piece will say "I love you."
remind anyone else of Fantasia where Mickey is chopping up the broom, however all the splinters become smaller brooms and over take Mickey?--AnklePants 08:13, 17 May 2006 (CDT)

"If you and I had any brains We wouldn't be in this place."

Linnell seems to accent the word "brains," which makes me think that he may be referring to zombies (a la Wearing a Raincoat, another song from the same album). Just as Linnell says this line, the horns get all wonky for a minute. Not to mention that the "chop me up into pieces" comes up right after the part about having no brains. -Mark (8 Nov 2007)


At first I really loved the sound of this song and didn't pay much attention to what the lyrics 'meant' but now I think about it, it sound a lot like a person who goes to Hollywood. The first line about building the whole place out of wood could either be a metaphor or just some of Linnell's classic wordplay. As the song goes on it details the rise and fall of a succesfull actor/director/whatever. He's so frustrated because he loves what he does but all he sees is a 'musuem of idiots' doing the most expedient thing, building the town out of wood and then burning it down. He says "If you and me had any brains we wouldn't be in this place" This could be to a lover of just to whoever he's talking to then at the end he gets chopped into pieces because it "pleases" another example of somebody doing the most expedient thing and yet he still loves what he does.

It could also be about the John's own experience in the music industry.

I think it's about high school. Being around when it burns down, or becomes so much less important to us, like a high school reunion. The love described in the song could easily be a first love of high school time range. Trying so hard and getting so little. Maybe I just like thinking that a high school could be called "Museum of Idiots".

C'mon, do you really think so?[edit]

While it is fun to interpret our own meanings of this song, we must remember that just because our view makes sense when looking at the lyrics, that does not mean in the slightest that it is what TMBG had in mind. The song was written to sound good. Sure, there are some obvious themes most of us can pick up on, and the tone of the piece too and all that, but when it gets right down to it the man needed the words to rhyme and to fit the melody. Also, keep in mind that when the Johns reveal the meaning of their songs it can usually be summed up in a sentence - for example, "Its a song about a night light". Just remember that there really is no hidden meaning...and if you want to understand the song the way the Johns do ( which should be the goal of interpretation) than just listen to it, feel it by hearing it, and you'll KNOW it better than if you just make up a little story in your mind.

  • Well, aren't you a downer.
  • I think that THIS guy doesn't understand the goal of interpretation. You're supposed to find out what the song means to YOU. There are thousands of songs that have been released that people interpret differently than the artist intended, but that doesn't make the audience wrong. As a poetry teacher once told me, "Most artists don't sit down and labor over symbols in their work. They can create themes and motifs, and force some symbols, but often the best ones are the happy accidents they may never have realized."
Interpretation is about discovering meaning in what exists, not making up new things or ignoring what's there. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 03:29, 24 March 2020 (EDT)

Museum of Idiots = The Planet Earth[edit]

II see this song as a message about the imminent socioeconomic collapse and necessary changes needing to be made in this world either to prevent it or to survive afterwards.

"They built this whole neighborhood, out of wood, out of wood. I guess I'll still be around when they burn, burn it down. I will be standing around when they burn it down in the Museum of Idiots."

The narrator starts by making a statement about how this whole world is built out of (runs on) money. Money is useless paper with pictures on it, and paper comes from trees/wood. He goes on to say that he will still be around when they burn it down. This could mean that when the economy falls to the point of complete ruin and capitalism is exposed for the fraud that it is, he will still be around to watch the show, so to speak. We have all had that moment in our lives where we could see something destined to happen but no one else sees it (and maybe thinks you're crazy). However, we stick around to see what happens to those who did not heed the warning. We watch it all "burn down" then simply say "told ya so". By saying he will still be around/standing around, he is stating that he will knowingly watch the results but keep his wits about him unlike the others who didn't see it coming and continue to ad to the problem (they burn, burn it down).

"Honey, I'm there when you need me, please believe me, please believe me. I'll still be right where you left me, if you manage to forget me."

Despite his warnings being ignored, the narrator states that he will be around to help when needed, perhaps to help organize and establish a new way to live, free of the control and corruption of money. Tremendous worldwide socioeconomic changes would disorient the ignorant masses and leave those who didn't see it coming in a state of shock, fear, and confusion. The narrator pleads to the people to believe him, although I'm sure they would just ignore him. He states that he will be there to help whether they ignore him/forget him or not. "Honey" is a term of endearment, which, in this case, is used to let the masses know that he still cares for the people despite their ignorance or lack of attention.

"Where we met is where you may forget. Here in the Museum of Idiots."

The Johns are very intelligent, galactically in touch, and "aware" people. In this case, I believe they are saying that "where we met" means where all life the energy of love (look up the big bang and string theories). All matter is energy condensed. Here on Earth, we live with a "psychic veil" that blocks all conscious memory of past lives and anything pertaining to our previous knowledge of the Universe. So here in the "Museum of Idiots" we call Earth, we don't recall what the Universe and life are about or where we came from (love may be the answer to both). What is "forgotten" is the love/energy that connects us all as well as our galactic origin (maybe one in the same).

"If you and I had any brains, we wouldn't be in this place."

Fairly self explanatory. If we, as humans, were smarter, we would stop the whole corrupt system and live on a planet of peace, love, and harmony rather than greed, fear and corruption. Therefore we would not be living "in this place" (of negativity and stupidity).

"Chop me up into pieces, if it pleases, if it pleases."

The narrator has been berated, bashed, and torn apart by those who wish to remain in the dark. They don't want to wake up to realize the truth about this world. Those of us who are also "truth seekers" understand this all too well... Friends, neighbors, and even family will "chop (us) up in to pieces" every time we present an inconvenient truth. This makes the idiots feel better about themselves and helps them sleep at night, continuing to accept the lies and ignoring the awful truth. They are comfortable in their dream state...The "American" dream.

"And when the chopping is through, every piece will say 'I love you.' Every piece of me will say 'I love you' Here in the Museum of Idiots. Every piece of me will say I love you, you, you' Here in the Museum of Idiots."

Once the people are done tearing the narrator and his message/warnings/truth apart, he will still love them. He will still love everyone in the world as his brothers and sisters. Every being, be it animal ("you"), person ("you"), plant ("you"), etc. His heart goes out to everywhere and everyone, all the idiots included. In the end, love is unconditional. The love we all share as beings on this planet and in this universe is the strongest force out there. I think many of us who understand this love also have feelings of disappointment, and in some cases anger, with those who just refuse to see what's real (even though we understand that their right to free will grants them the right to choose to remain unenlightened and evolve at their own pace). So despite our unconditional love for all living beings, sometimes, we too, call these people "idiots". ;)

Canajoharie a clue?[edit]

When reading up on Canajoharie, I found that the town of Canajoharie burned down several times, leading the town to ban wood construction. Maybe a clue, maybe just a starting point for the song's meaning, whatever that may be.

- - mishuga, November 2017

As simple as it seems[edit]

I'll summarize the song with one phrase: "I'm a fool for loving you."
Some people can't see the lyrics for the trees. ;)
-- Thread Bomb (talk) 03:24, 24 March 2020 (EDT)