There’s the *Good* Going Viral and Then There’s the *Bad* Going Viral

As a blogger, an artist, and a writer-type person, it almost goes without saying that a I would find it beneficial, if not outright pleasing, to have my work catch on like wildfire for some (or no) reason. Few people, I’d guess, get into blogging in the hope that no one ever notices them.

Nobody who spends any time on the interwebs, of course, has any excuse for not seeing and understanding that what ‘goes viral‘ is often nasty, lowbrow, and destructive stuff. We all still fall for it, but that’s a failure to accept experience, observation, and logic, not one of lacking evidence: tell me there aren’t a dozen topics, from celebrity rumors to fake medical claims and offers of specious Free Fabulousness galore that are patently impossible. And our collective gullibility, willful or not, leads us to pay attention to such lunacy, even to buy—or buy into—it, until the Likes and Shares, the Tweets and Pins reach critical mass. Fans and friends are lost over this stuff, health and fortunes risked, and even governments stand on the edge of oblivion over it. This is not the pretty side of going viral.

Yesterday I was reminded of the sense of the word “virus” I first knew: bugs. Ugh, bugs. Not insect-type bugs, which in the abstract sense I admire greatly. Germ-type bugs. Which I really, really do not.

Apparently, they don’t like me much either. Yesterday when I went grocery shopping around dinnertime, I was not feeling especially perky, but didn’t think much of it. I was a bit hungry, and attributed my discomfort to having let dinner wait too long. I got home, started having a little pain around my midriff, fixed a quick dinner, felt much more awful all of a sudden, left dinner in the kitchen, and curled up on my bed like a snail.

I won’t go into further details, but by 10 last night I was feeling lousy enough that I asked my dear spouse to call the 24-hour nurse line to see what the person on duty would recommend I do. Go to the Emergency Room, she said. And so I did, with a lot of help from my sweet chauffeur, of course. After the examination, a couple of nice refreshing pints of rehydration, a small whack on the head from a dose of morphine, and a long morning’s sleep, I am intensely glad to say that the flu bug that knocked me for a loop appears to have been the classic 24-hour variety. Viral gastroenteritis sounds so much more interesting and magical than Flu. It can, obviously, still knock me for a loop. This was only my second-ever trip to the ER (my first, for stitches over a tiny hockey-acquired slash on the chin when I was in grade school), and I hope it’s my last-ever, but I am grateful that the personnel there diagnosed and helped me so quickly.Photo: Detritus of Enteritis

And boy, am I glad that I had what looks like a narrow escape from the 3-8 day version that the paperwork tells me is the norm. Going viral sucks. Bugs suck.

That kind, anyhow. I haven’t by any means lost my admiration for insect-sorts of bugs. Real bugs, by definition, are only a smallish portion of the insect population, but since I’m recovering from an illness that I grew up knowing as a Bug when it was really a viral infection, I shall indulge my childhood terminology and leave you with a few pretty pictures of insects that, though they are not bugs, cheer me up whether I’m bug-bedraggled, bugged, or just a bit buggy.Photomontage: Pretty Insects

PessimOptimism

Graphite drawing: Self-Inflicted“Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.” It’s part of my credo, I guess, and may well have been aided in its development by doing those hilariously futile duck-and-cover atomic bomb drills of the Cold War era. And the air raid drills—we lived in a Ground Zero area near several military bases, strategic coast, and a handful of Nike missile sites in those days—fire drills, earthquake drills, tsunami drills, and later when we lived in the midwest, tornado drills. You’d think we’d all have grown up incredibly paranoid after such stuff in childhood. But I think that besides being remarkably resilient, kids use logic on such daily puzzles far better than they remember how to do when they hit adulthood and have been taught their prejudices, and are much more easily distracted and blinded by grey areas.

I don’t remember ever believing that crouching under a flimsy little wood-and-steel desk would save me even from the shrapnel of shattering windows and imploding walls in the event of an attack or large-scale disaster, particularly since I imagined the desk itself would become shrapnel along with everything else in the atomizing roar of a bombing. Little and naïve though we were, we had gleaned hints of the enormity of such things from our beginning school studies of the world history of war (skewed to our own culture’s view, of course); no matter how grownups think they’re shielding kids by sanitizing and limiting the information the wee ones are allowed to see and hear, children are quick to notice the blank spaces where redacted information interrupts the flow of facts, and no adult is more curious than a child to hunt for clues as to what was redacted. Frankly, if there really is any use for an institution like the CIA in this day and age when practically anyone can find out practically anything with the aid of easily accessible tools like the internet, cellular phone, and, apparently, privately owned drones, along with all of the more traditional tools of spy-craft, I suggest that the crew best equipped to uncover any facts not in evidence would probably be a band of children all under the age of about twelve.

Meanwhile, we still have large numbers of people who think it prudent to withhold or skew the information passed along to not only kids but even fellow adults, giving out misguided or even malevolent half-truths or remaining stubbornly silent and in full denial about things considered too dark for others’ knowledge. And what do we gain from this? Are there truly adults among us who still think that even smallish tots can’t quickly discern the differences between a fable or fairytale, no matter how brutish and gory it may be, and the dangers and trials of real-world trouble? Does delusion or deception serve any purpose, in the long run, other than to steer us all off course in search of firmer, more reliable realities?

As I just wrote to my dear friend Desi, it seems to me that the majority of humans always assume a fight-or-flight stance in new or unfamiliar circumstances before allowing that these might be mere puzzles to decipher, and more importantly, we assume the obvious solution to be that whatever is most quickly discernible as different from self IS the problem. Therefore, if I’m white, then non-white is the problem; if I’m female, then male. Ad infinitum. And we’re generally not satisfied with identifying differentness as problematic until we define it as threatening or evil. This, of course, only scratches the surface—quite literally, as the moment we get past visible differences we hunt for the non-visible ones like sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, and so on.

Unless and until we can change this horribly wrongheaded approach on a large scale, we’ll always have these awful problems, from petty playground scuffles right into the middle of the final mushroom cloud. The so-called justice systems of the world are set up and operated by the same flawed humans who make individual judgements, so the cycle is reinforced at all levels. Sometimes it truly makes me wonder how we’ve lasted this long.

Can we learn from kids? The younger the person, the more likely to blurt out the truth, whether it’s welcome or not. The subtleties of subterfuge are mostly wasted on children, who unless they’re engaged in happy storytelling for purposes of amusement and amazement, would rather be actively puzzling out the wonders of life than mucking about in search of evasive answers and duck-and-cover maneuvers. We might gain a great deal by reverting a little to a more innocent and simplistic view of the universe, one that blithely assumes that others are not always out to get us, that direness and doom aren’t lying open-jawed around every blind corner, and that the great powers of the internet and cell phones might just as well bear cheery tidings of goodness and kindness, and drones be removed from deployment as spies and weapons to work instead at delivering birthday presents to friends and packets of food to hungry strangers.

I’m not fooled into thinking any of this is easy to do, any more than any savvy kid would be, but I’m willing to believe it’s possible if more and more of us will commit to such ideals.

Mayday! or, How Telecommuting Saves Lives

digital image from a photoWhen Face to Face Meeting is Obsolete

The business is dead! It’s technology’s fault–

the lighting, AC and the big central vault

Are scrambled and frozen and jolted and jammed–

the intercom’s buzzing, the plumbing is dammed–

Email is blacked out and the network is fried

and what’s in can’t escape or what’s out, get inside–

Alarms are all ringing but signals are dead–

the boss would’ve canned me and then had my head–

The one thing that saves me (although you may scoff) is

she can’t recollect how to get to the office.digital artwork from a photo

The Wild West in the Computer Age

Though the wolves and rustlers may indeed have changed their guises many a time over the years, danger still lurks on every frontier.photo montageTombstone, Parts I & II

I

A heavy pall hung over the brush

And the sagebrush rolled with a whispery hush

Beware! Beware!, the townsfolk cried:

The killer’s coming! Take cover! Hide!

Call in your children, rescue your wife;

Tether the horse if you value your life!

Your grave is marked, man–hold your breath–

For your desktop bears

The Blue Screen of Death.

II

Well, it’s lonesome, lonesome, lonesome beneath the broad blue sky

If he weren’t way too manly, a poor cowpoke could cry-yi-yi

The Ethernet‘s gone silent and left me all alone

My email has been down for days; no voicemail on my phone

Yes, it’s lonesome, lonesome, lonesome beneath the empty sky

I know my days are  numbered and I’ll soon curl up and die-ie-ie

As I slump down o’er the keyboard and draw my terminal breath,

I look up one last time to see

The cold Blue Screen of Death–

Yes, I look up one last time to see

The cold

Blue Screen of Death!photo