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post #257
bio: stu

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Swine Flu Freakout
I tend to avoid alarmism as much as possible. In fact, I probably err on the side of not being alarmist enough. I scoff at people who get terrified of child molesters waiting in every unmarked van, or terrorists on every subway car, or the threat of nuclear war, or anything like that. When I heard today that some New Yorkers were freaking out about an alleged photo-op of Air Force One and a military jet flying near the Statue of Liberty, my response was a) those aren't real New Yorkers if they're freaking out like that, and b) whoever the fuck they are, they need to chill the fuck out.

Any fears on the global level I tend to find myself suspicious of. I'm not denying that I'm a paranoid, anxiety-ridden person, but my anxieties are largely on an individual level: the fear of getting hit by a car, of relapsing and going back to the hospital, of finding out my friends secretly hate me or my girlfriend is cheating on me or that I'm about to be fired from my job.

My anxieties are typically not global pandemics. But maybe I'm a more emotionally fragile these days than I used to be, because this swine flu thing has been weighing heavily on me these past couple of days. Part of it is that I have a little too much knowledge about earlier flu epidemics, both real and fictional. I've read Stephen King's The Stand at least a dozen times over the course of my life, and seen 12 Monkeys probably just about as many times, but, of course, the big flu-infected elephant in the room is the Spanish Influenza pandemic, which killed anywhere from 50 to 100 million people, and possibily infected as many as half the people on the planet at the time.

It was just the flu, except instead of killing the people that the flu normally kills--such as little children, the elderly, and the immune compromised--it killed a lot of strong healthy people. Some people got sick and went from healthy to bedridden over the course of hours, dying within a day, either by drowning in their own bodily fluids or, essentially, shitting themselves so violently that the blood loss and damage to their intestines killed them.

The virus wreaked havok partially because of what's known as cytokine storms. While this is an awesome name for a band, as an experience it leaves much to be desired. A cytokine storm is basically an immune system freak-out where the body overcompensates to a foreign invader and starts to mistake the immune response to further invasion, escalating quickly to a total body meltdown. If you've been following me closely, you might recognize the similarities between a cytokine storm and the effects of lupus in the body. They're different, but related, autoimmune freakouts, and I don't know at this point whether having lupus makes me more succeptible or less succeptible to a swine flu related explosion.

So, I've been following this story very closely; there's the hyperventilating aspects of the story.
  • There's the insane aspect, such as the president for the conservative group Concerned Women for America, who claims that the swine flu is just a hoax to help push the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius through to run the Department of Health and Human Services (Concerned Women of America objects to Sebelius because she's pro choice, and so they believe that there's nothing else important enough in the country). The spokeswoman says she heard about this from Talk Radio.
  • There's the news that Congressional Republicans cut $900 million in pandemic prevention monies from the stimulus bill, and are still to this day trumpeting that as a victory, because why would we want to prevent pandemics or predict volcano eruptions or anything like that.
  • And then there's just the silly news that Rich posted yesterday about how Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, of Israel, announced that Israel would not call the swine flu by it's real name, because pigs aren't kosher (and apparently it's important that viruses be ritually pure before you get them.
That's the crazy stuff. On the lighter side, my obsession has led me to attempt a new punchline about every fifteen minutes, via email, Twitter, or Facebook.
  • I fear I have the bacon flu. The symptoms I have are: 1) I have been sleepless in my desire for bacon, 2) an feverish craving for pork belly, 3) sniffles that I do not currently have bacon or pork belly.
  • When life gives you a virus, make virusade.
  • I have Bacon herpes.
  • My flu started out as bacon flu, then it became jowl flu, and now it's pork butt flu.
And that's just the best stuff (and yeah, I realize it's not all that great). I have a minor (and hopefully fleeting) obsession about all this.

Oh well. If nothing else, hopefully, the swine flu will put an end to the ongoing bacon meme. Yes, bacon is tasty. Yes, it's really tasty. Yes, it was funny when John Scalzi taped bacon to his cat, thus ensuring a fame that far exceeds his fiction writing (which is nevertheless great). Bacon is indubitably awesome. But it's an internet cliche. Let's just go back to eating bacon. If I had to choose a moment when bacon jumped the shark, however, it is probably at the moment the Bacon Bra became an internet meme (warning, the link to the bacon bra is technically safe for work, but it's a little bit sexy, and a little bit disturbing. It is, after all, a pound of bacon draped around a set of perky breasts). It had definitely left the shark far behind around the point where people started posting lampshades made out of bacon (note: people like bacon, and they like breasts. People are not terribly concerned about lampshades. Please, more memes involving breasts, fewer involving lampshades).

Bacon's moment has passed. Let's just let it go when this Swine Flu bullshit has passed, okay?

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