The Null Device


The Atlantic Monthly has a fascinating piece on apotemnophilia, the neurological/psychological condition that causes one to want to have healthy limbs amputated.

In May of 1998 a seventy-nine-year-old man from New York traveled to Mexico and paid $10,000 for a black-market leg amputation; he died of gangrene in a motel. In October of 1999 a mentally competent man in Milwaukee severed his arm with a homemade guillotine, and then threatened to sever it again if surgeons reattached it. That same month a legal investigator for the California state bar, after being refused a hospital amputation, tied off her legs with tourniquets and began to pack them in ice, hoping that gangrene would set in, necessitating an amputation. She passed out and ultimately gave up. Now she says she will probably have to lie under a train, or shoot her legs off with a shotgun.
Some wannabes are also devotees. Others who identify themselves as wannabes are drawn to extreme body modification... Some wannabes, Robert Smith suggests, want amputation as a way to gain sympathy from others. And finally, there are "true" apotemnophiles, whose desire for amputation is less about sex than about identity. "My left foot was not part of me," says one amputee, who had wished for amputation since the age of eight.
I met Price through an Internet discussion listserv called "amputee-by-choice," one of the larger lists. At first I had simply prowled through the archives and listened to the ongoing conversation. I found many of the archived messages very creepy. Here were people exchanging photographs of hands with missing fingers; speculating about black-market amputations in Russia; debating the merits of industrial accidents, gunshot wounds, self-inflicted gangrene, chain-saw slips, dry ice, and cigar cutters as means of getting rid of their limbs and digits.
The idea of having one's legs amputated might never even enter the minds of some people until it is suggested to them. Yet once it is suggested, and not just suggested but paired with imagery that a person's past may have primed him or her to appreciate, that act becomes possible.

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Life imitates an Italo Calvino story: An Italian man, burned out from his work at a hospital, has abandoned the rat race of terrestrial life and taken to living in trees.

Mollo spends his days bare-chested, playing a harmonica and lives by foraging for berries, nuts, mushrooms and wild greens which grow in the park in the Villa Borghese. He wears torn green trousers, bandanna, trainers and a mossy complexion. He says the trees give him power and keep him young.

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Yesterday, the SEA-ME-WE3 submarine cable, which provides the bulk of Australia's overseas Internet access, was mysteriously severed somewhere near Singapore. It is expected that Internet access will remain crawlingly slow for a week or so.


"Be the envy of your friends by thinking up the coolest baby name ever. Viripulus, Equinox or Shaniatwaine are some great examples."

-- Making the Most of Your Teen Pregnancy (warning: politically incorrect)


Odd search requests recieved yesterday: The Vivian Girls (presumably looking for the punk-pop band, not the Henry Darger masterpiece (which, it turns out has a play written around it)), cliques in high school (sorry, can't help you).


Graham: I looked at the so-called Gurners Gathering, and found nothing whatsoever about gurning; just a bunch of UK raver kids going on about clubs and drugs. Fat lot of good that will do you when you've got a demon to ward off. Kids these days have no sense of tradition...