Pre-Blog Age poisoner Graham Young.
This post contains some material that I found disturbing. Nothing visually shocking or verbally explicit, but disturbing nonetheless. If that's going to bother you, don't read this.
I’m a bit evangelical when it comes to technology.
I don’t believe in overtechnologizing life, or that a new chipset and more RAM is the solution to every problem, but I do believe that more good – vastly more good – has come out of the genius and innovations of the digital age than bad…despite the dodgy origins and checkered provenance of some of our shiniest and coolest toys. In my case, although it took some patience and charm, everyone in my family circle – from 8 to eighty – has a computer of some kind, web access (even if it’s dial-up) and knows how to make use of them both. I consider such access as fundamental to a 21st century in a modern society as a telephone or smoke detectors.
Can you do without them? Sure.
Does doing without them put you at a competitive and cultural disadvantage? Definitely.
But quite apart from any perennial “boon or ruin” debate, it’s also undoubtedly the case that technology has changed social patterns and rhythmes in very strange ways. For example, when you can take pictures anywhere, anytime with almost-complete anonymity, and send them immediately to the other side of the continent, things change in two paradoxically opposite directions: change is at once radical and yet slips in almost without anyone noticing.
A minor bane of my existence has been the invisible rise of “soft scheduling”. Where everyone makes multiple, overlapping, mutually-exclusive plans for, say, a weekend night…which exist like in a foamy, indeterminate, neo-quantum state of flux until just before the go-time for a primary option. Like Schroedinger’s Cat, if Schroedinger’s Cat stood in front of the mirror at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday, still nattering away on its cell, still juggling six possible options for the same date/time. Used to be by Wednesday we all knew pretty well what we were doing on Friday, where, and with whom, and who was in charge of bringing the beer.
Now people really are much busier than they used to be, and multitasking has become totemized. Fetishized. A lot of us “sample” life a lot more than we live it because we want to do it all, and the definition of “all” has bloated up in the last 15 years like Windows OS Code, while the time we have to focus on one task or pleasure has slowly evaporated. Throw cell phones into that mix and “soft scheduling” was as inevitable as it is irritating.
Moving from the annoying to the horrific, this from Japan about a serial-killer-hero-worshiping girl and her blog…
November 03, 2005
Schoolgirl blogger poisons mother in homage to killer
From Leo Lewis in Tokyo
A HIGH-SCHOOL girl has been arrested for gradually poisoning her mother to the brink of death and keeping a blog of her progress — all done as a grim homage to a British serial killer whom she idolised.
Over the summer the 16-year-old student is alleged to have laced her mother’s food with increasing doses of thallium, a potent rat poison. Her mother is now critically ill and in a coma.
The girl, who is from rural Shizuoka, central Japan, was apparently inspired by Graham Young, the notorious Teacup Poisoner of Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, who, in 1962, aged 14, slowly killed his stepmother with what was thought to be the same lethal substance. Asked by the compilers of her school yearbook to identify the historical figure she admired the most, she named Young.
In further emulation of her deranged hero, who poisoned numerous family members and work colleagues and died in Parkhurst after nine years in Broadmoor, the Japanese girl recorded her mother’s horrific daily sufferings in a matter-of-fact internet diary.
The girl’s blog has been removed from the internet but extracts apparently copied from it survive on other Japanese websites.
“It’s a bright, sunny day today, and I administered a delivery of acetic thallium,” the girl wrote in August. “The man in the pharmacy didn’t realise he had sold me such a powerful drug.”
Several days later, her blog mentioned rashes on the victim’s body and problems with her breathing. The girl goes on to report her mother’s hallucinations and other agonies, before criticising her inadequate life insurance policy.
Both the girl and Young tested poisons on living things. Young treated his co-workers as human guinea-pigs, while the Shizuoka girl is believed to have relied on animals. A severed cat’s head is understood to have been discovered in her room along with a stash of thallium. “Up until now I have killed various creatures,” her blog reports, before describing the mother’s poisoning. “It was fun to play with them, but all the same rather tiring. It took rather a long time to dispose of the lumps of dead flesh.”
WEB DIARY OF A HIGH SCHOOL GIRL
July 3 “Let me introduce a book: Graham Young’s diary on killing with poison. The autobiography of a man I respect. He murdered someone at the age of 14.”
September 4 “To kill a living creature. The moment of sticking a knife into something. The warmth of the blood. The little sigh. It is all a comfort to me.”
September 26 “My mother will go to hospital tomorrow and nobody has yet found out what the cause is. To my regret, she is not covered by good insurance, so life will be a little difficult.”
October “I took a photo of her today as I did yesterday. My brother said I had a penetrating stare and that he was horrified.”
Jesus that's chilling.
Not why would she do it. I don't even ask such things anymore. Shit, no one need go any further than watching any random 20 hours of All-CSI-and-Law-and-Order-All-the-Time teevee to earn college credit towards their Bachelor’s degree in sociopathology. But why write about it on a web log?
Why document your crime in detail and then put it up in the public square when any of a billion people can read it (of course if Atrios had posted it, the first comment would have been “Frist”.) She appears to have wanted to get away with it, and this didn’t sound anything like a “cry for help”.
I dunno. There is something about the collision of reptilian sadism, attempted matricide and technology that makes this story especially creepy to me.
And from bestial brutality to the possibly tragic…
You all know what spambots are by now, right?
Little automated advertising barnacles that badly mimic human language and intonation that affix themselves to the comments section of a blog. I have my little spambot tanglefoot at the top of this blog – which still cracks me up and which has become a modestly renowned thing in its own right – but even that seems to only create a relatively spam-free wake for the seven or eight posts that trail directly behind it.
The ones further back can still get pretty weedy with the little pests.
Well I ran across a blogger many long months ago when I was zigging and zagging around, web-window shopping. Looking for this and than. I may have been checking out the more eclectic stuff that people who link to my site also link to, and came across a pretty good writer who was also a working prostitute. I’m going to be deliberately vague about the specifics, but suffice it to say that this person was very bright and wrote English with the accent and peculiar muscularity of someone who had mastered it as a second language.
And I would drop by once in a great while and read the new posts. The sexual particulars were very much not my cuppa joe, but the writing was always good…until it veered sharply into despair. And then writing about life being painful and not worth the trouble appeared.
Then a rally.
And then the site “went dark”, and there have been no new posts since.
Ok, perhaps they just got bored or busy. Perhaps they changed their lives. Perhaps to move on they had to shed old haunts and habits like a skin. But I really don’t think so.
Now I wouldn’t have known this person had we passed on the street, and it’s highly unlikely we ever would have crossed paths in the analog world, but I came to admire their voice and while I have no way of knowing what actually happened (no email option on the site) my imagination can’t help but run out ahead of the facts and what I think probably happened saddened me.
However what makes it more than just another poignant story to me is the last time I checked, this dead site was not completely inert.
Spambots in their mindless, relentlessly insectile way were slowly filling it up with fake-cheerful salutations. Mechanically excreting ads and a sliver of text about “Really liking your blog” and then scuttling on.
For reasons I can’t quite explain I find that particular image thoroughly unnerving, and I am quite aware that the very same technology that's been a boon to my family made this scenario possible and delivered it into my head.
What a strange world it has become.