Sunday, March 8, 2009

On the importance of teaching our next generation, and the ease of Spreading the Word

This child is being well cared for.

For the rest of my days, the practice droid that Luke tested his mettle against on the Millenium Falcon shall be known as "The Pokeball".

It's just over a year old now, first posted on Fist of Blog. But the awe and mystery of the electric-type internet is that there will always be people out of the range of infection who will wander into the hot zone accidentally, think they are the first to discover the thing they found, and spark off a whole new explosion of emails titled "You have GOT to see this!"

There's a reason they call these things viral videos. Because it's exactly how they spread, with mad infection vectors (and other such words I learned by watching Outbreak) and one email sent to an obscure enough friend will spark off a whole new infection pattern.

It happened before the Internet as well. You know how everybody in the country would hear the new off-color joke about the latest news item, but nobody could remember where they heard it? More than morning radio shows and late-night talk shows, I always heard one of the biggest distribution networks was Wall Street. Apparently in between Telex transmissions, the operators would trade jokes they'd heard or made up, and that would get the joke spread nationwide in an instant.

Another fun thing to watch is how the joke mutates from telling to telling, like a massively multiplayer online version of Telephone, or its far cooler (and more threatening to the easily offended) British name, Chinese Whispers. For example, after Michael Jackson got set on fire on the Pepsi commercial, the following joke was told on the Imus in the Morning (back when Imus was young, popular, and funny) show by a caller:

"Did you hear that Michael Jackson is starting a new charity?"

"No, what?"

"The Ignited Negro College Fund"

Now, some weeks later, I heard two yentas tell the following version of the joke as they waited on line at the B. Dalton I was working at:

"Oh, you gotta hear this...Did you hear that Michael Jackson is starting a new charity?"
"No, what"
"The Ignited Negroes"

And even though the joke had lost its pun, its relevance to modern culture, and its inherent funny, they still laughed.

Same thing with urban legends. If can't tell you how many of those stories my mother would tell me as if they were the absolute emis. Even at the young age I was at when she told me the cautionary tales about the guy who would dress up as an old lady and sit in the back of people's cars in the mall parking lot, I knew they were, to be polite, apocryphal.

But I was always at a loss as to where she heard the stories, as I never actually saw her talking to anyone, ever. I don't think Dad let her, lest she get Ideas. I assumed she received a newsletter every so often, filled with cautionary tales to be used on children that wanted to go to the mall or eat pop rocks. Because in my Mom's version of the story, these horrific events didn't happen in some far off land like the rectangular midwestern states that nobody can actually keep straight (Utah is the one with the notch cut out of it, I know that one), no no, they happened at out local mall (Green Acres, the one that (actually) had the trampling death at the Wal-Mart last Black Friday), and it only happened last week, and it was just in the paper.

To this day, I cannot honestly say if she told these stories because she honestly believed them and wished to protect me from the dangers of the evil shopping mall, or if, like the Giant Hairy Killer Bats which lived in our basement (which were wide awake if I wanted to go and play, but coincedentally sleeping when she wanted me to go down and get a can of beans) they were just used as a bugaboo to warn me away from sources of potential harm. Like, apparently, people who would hide under cars, reach out and slice your achilles tendons as you came up to unlock your door. Seems like a long way to go to lift a purse.

In second grade at Saint Boniface, I was the kid in class everyone foisted their Bubble Yum on. In retrospect, this meant I was the kid in class that people used to get rid of their spider-egg infested candy, in the disguise of a charitable act, but at the time, all I knew was that a bunch of gullible children were giving me free gum.

I tried to explain to them...

1) How in the name of all that's holy would the Spider eggs get INTO the gum machinery? Surely there were security measures, and screens, and they had to wash it occasionally.

2) Even if they DID get in the gum, the mixing and cooking process would reduce them to their component molecules, and thus harmless.

3) Even if THAT didn't happen, the chewing process, and saliva in your mouth (and the hydrochloric acid in your stomach if you preferred swallowing to spitting) would also reduce them to harmlessness.

They did not listen. Probably because my mouth was filled with gum.

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