Friday, April 03, 2009

Link Proliferation: Intelligence can be eaten!

You Know What Will Do You Know What to Us

Here's a 1979 live telly performance of "Transmission" by Joy Division.

And here's their big one – you know the one – live in '79.

"Suicide is just what people do here because there is nothing else to do."

A strange and depressing tale from Wales.

Vanity Fair tackles "The Mystery Suicides in Bridgend County." For several years, the small Welsh town of Bridgend has suffered from an outbreak of suicides. All from a similar demographic and almost ever one of them using the exact same method. From the article:

Since January of 2007, 25 people between the ages of 15 and 28 have killed themselves within 10 miles of here, all by hanging, except for one 15-year-old, who lay down on the tracks before an oncoming train after he was teased for being gay.

The article discusses the phenomenon:

Outbreaks like this are rare but not new. Plutarch writes about an epidemic of suicide by young women in the Greek city of Miletus that was stopped by the threat that their naked corpses would be dragged through the streets. Sigmund Freud, who himself committed assisted suicide, held a conference in the 1920s on teen-suicide clusters. They have happened in Germany, Australia, Japan, the U.S., Canada, and Micronesia. Psychologists familiar with the phenomenon are saying that what’s going on in Wales is a classic case of the Werther effect, named for Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, about a young man who puts a gun to his head to end the agony of unrequited love and because he can't find his place in the provincial bourgeois society of the day. The novel's publication, in 1774, prompted young men all over Europe to dress like Werther and take their lives. It’s also called the contagion effect and copycat suicide: one person does it, and that lowers the threshold, making it easier and more permissible for the next. Like 10 people waiting at a crosswalk for the light to change, and one of them jaywalks. This gives the rest of them the go-ahead.

For a while, investigators suspected that wonderfully multipurpose villain, the Internet. Theories that the suicides were part of online community pact were bandied about.

The first known Internet suicide pact surfaced in Japan in 2000, and a new epidemic has been raging there since last April. About 1,000 Japanese have killed themselves by inhaling fumes created by mixing common household cleaning products. Police have asked Internet service providers to shut down suicide Web sites but have found it harder to keep people from posting the recipe for the mix or raving about how this method enables you to “die easily and beautifully.” Why these young people are so eager to die—what it is that their life in Japan isn’t giving them—is as much of a mystery as what is happening in Bridgend.

In Wales, however, the victims’ friends all say that the Internet has nothing to do with what is happening. “It’s nothing like that,” a girlfriend of Natasha Randall’s told a reporter. The victims acted on their own, she believes. “People get down, and they do it.” The Internet is just how young people communicate and, to a large extent, socialize these days. This certainly isn’t a suicide pact like the one made in 1997 by Heaven’s Gate, the cult in Rancho Santa Fe, California, 39 of whose members, dressed in matching black shirts and sweat pants and brand-new Nike sneakers, swallowed phenobarbital-laced applesauce with a vodka chaser, then put plastic bags over their heads to asphyxiate themselves.

Ryan's Song

Having a death sentence hanging above you (firing squad, if prosecutors get their way) might diminish the productivity of a less passionately creative person; but, from his prison cell, Indonesian serial killer Verry Idham Henyansyah, a.k.a. "Ryan" (pic above), is just hitting his stride. From the Australian edition of the Herald Sun:

The smooth-faced 31-year-old has already achieved national infamy with his confessions to a series of grisly murders - including a mother and her toddler - and details of his life as a gay man in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

Now Henyansyah, popularly known as Ryan, is chasing fame of a more orthodox kind - with a prison-penned autobiography published in February and a collection of pop songs due out next month.

Holding court in his jail cell recently, dressed in flowing white robes and a matching Muslim skullcap, Henyansyah trilled a sweet-voiced rendition of one of his songs for an appreciative crowd of court officers, local residents and reporters.

"Release me, forget me, release me from these shackles," Henyansyah sang.

"Enough for now. You can get my album soon," he said, as the applause and cheers for an encore turned to visible disappointment.

The serial killer has confessed to at least 10 murders. He claims that jealousy over the attention men gave his boyfriend and unwanted sexual advances directed towards himself were the cause of his many homicidal episodes.

Remorse for his crimes was the motivating force behind the album, which he recorded in prison, Hensyansyah said.

"I write the songs for people I love. Forgive Me Mother is for my mother. Another song, Sun, is about lovers missing each other because they are separated until they die,'' Henyansyah said.

Henyansyah has never denied the crimes that could earn him the death penalty.

Indeed, his autobiography, The Untold Story of Ryan, includes maps to the graves in his parents' backyard, as well as photographs that chart his progress from village boy to Koran recital teacher, to simpering, shirtless male model.

The Future's So Bright

PopMatters has posted not one, not two, but – count 'em! - three sample chapters from David Janssen and Edward Whitelock's new book Apocalypse Jukebox: The End of the World in American Popular Music. Here's the two authors on the unlikely and short-lived musical career of Chuck Manson:

It is not necessary here to retread Manson's "philosophy" in detail, since that groundwork has already been well established by Vincent Bugliosi, John Gilmore, and Ed Sanders, among others. Suffice it to summarize that Manson's two central Family texts were the Revelation of St. John and the White Album. There are moments in the Manson narrative, though, that make one wonder if Sharon Tate might still be alive had Charlie been offered that record deal he had scammed and schemed so tenaciously to procure. Some of the anecdotes of Manson's musical development are almost romantic and fit the rock 'n' roll myth quite nicely. The world’s forgotten boy learned to play guitar in prison from Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, the last "Public Enemy #1" on Hoover’s list to be captured alive. Karpis was apparently quite the hot axeman as well, and he was impressed with his protégé’s natural abilities. In his exposé of the Manson Family, John Gilmore and Ron Kenner quote one “Wallie” Sallers, a contemporary hanger-on at Dennis Wilson’s place:

"Charlie cut an album," she remembers, "using the girls in the background, and it was really sort of an interesting album. Everybody thought he was a good musician, more or less, and he used to write a lot of songs ... Charlie had a very nice voice. He sounds something like the voice in, what was that record about Martin Luther, JFK and Bobby Kennedy all getting killed—Martin, John and Bobby—sounds just like the voice of Dion."

As grotesque as the Dion analogy might seem, it is not unreasonable to conclude that a man who could convince a young group of mostly young women that he was Christ, Satan, and the fifth Beatle would have a "nice voice." Certainly, Manson understood the power of rock as a persuasive medium, and on this point he is in close agreement with rock critics like Garlock and Larson. Manson’s following claims could have been argued just as plausibly by the latter two:

"The Beatles confuse you with what they say. They trick you with distraction, with the beat. You get programmed from the front or programmed from the back. Music doesn’t know time. Music is soul. And you can bring it in from the back. I can sing a song right now and when it’s over you forget the words, the music, but it stays in your infinite unconscious. And then a few months later you hear another song ... talking about a beer, Coors is great, Coors is great. Pretty soon you think of beer and you know that Coors is great. And this is what the Beatles do, they confuse you with cadence, and program you in the back, behind the beat, and this is what stays with you."

Manson understood and implemented the "programmable" potential of rock music, and he combined that force with the style, tone, and content of apocalypse.

The third section deals with everybody's favorite Spud Boys: Devo!


Ed Howard said...

Little known fact: Manson wrote a song that was recorded by, of all people, the Beach Boys, though Dennis Wilson first rejiggered the song's lyrics a bit. It's called "Never Learn Not to Love" and it's actually quite good, one of the band's better late, post-Smile songs.

The 80s pop-punk band Redd Kross later recorded the song as well, restoring Manson's original lyrics and title, "Cease to Exist," which perhaps says more about its songwriter than the title the Wilson brothers gave it.

Heather Santrous said...

I have often wondered, in the case of the internet suicide cult, does the media help warn people about? Or do they just help spread the word around? That is to say if there really is such a thing.

Sasquatchan said...

Suicide cult ? Boy, aren't they late to the game ?

"Now I've seen a lot of bullshit. Angel dust. Switchblades. Sexually perverse photography exhibits involving tennis rackets. But this suicide thing."

A new song by Big Fun, "teenage suicide, don't do it"

CRwM said...

Nice Guy Ed,

Though I'm a big Beach Boys fan (there, I've said it over the Internet, and I refuse to take it back), I know less about their post-Smiley Smile career than I probably should (w/ the exception of Wild Honey which I can sing all the way through). Thanks for the background info.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Heather,

From what I understand, Internet-enabled suicide pacts are a problem (if a somewhat over-hyped one) in Japan. But then, Japan actually suffers an absurd suicide rate - several times that of many other first world nations. That said though, does a pact qualify one for "cult" status? I doubt it. I suspect, though I'm not sure how you would or would not prove it, that the idea of an Internet-driven suicide cult is just a modern urban legend.

CRwM said...


What chu talkin' about? No more mid-day drinks for you.

Sasquatchan said...

Heathers ? You've never seen the movie heathers ? I mean, OK, I had to google to get the first quote right, but the band "Big Fun" .. Figured that was the give-away..