Alcoholic backseat trinkets

Act 4: If anyone wants to tell me what's going on here, I'll be in the lounge

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You gotta drive all night just to feel like you're okay.
When I was at the checkout counter, there was a guy who was twitching like he had the DTs because he couldn't find facemasks and the store wasn't getting a new shipment until next week. Bonus quote from him: "I already have a whole box at home, but I want to be sure." -- RATMM's Chris Gleason*

Ah, yes. The Great Pandemic.

When I was in J-school (or as close as my student loans would get me to one), I had a prof, an old newspaperman who'd spent something like a half-century in the biz, printer's ink in his veins, the whole bit. And he gave us a very important -- and, for me, instructive -- assignment: pick your favorite movie of all time, and then write a glowing review of it. 

Then, write a scathing review of it.

It was probably the most useful such exercise I've ever undertaken, because while most college courses gave me little more than a refresher in Western culture, history, and thought, this one, in the grand old liberal arts tradition, taught me HOW to think. Not what; how. It also taught me that truth, while not subjective, could be made to appear so very easily. It was like a glimpse into the dark side, and yet, it also taught me to see the world through eyes other than my own.

Now, let's take a look at this paragraph, which I just pulled out of my arse.
   The swine flu epidemic of 2009 has become a nationwide pandemic, a global health crisis, with over 150 reported deaths in Mexico, its country of origin. The World Health Organization has raised their alert to its second-highest level, reporting outbreaks in Canada, England, Spain, israel, and New Zealand, while in the US, the virus has been reported to have spread to Arizona, California, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Texas. Hundreds of students are thought to have been infected in New York City, while hundreds of schools across a dozen states have been shut down. In Egypt, 300,000 pigs were ordered to the slaughter in anticipation of the swine flu.
   There is no vaccine for this mutated flu virus. President Obama yesterday asked Congress for an emergency appropraition of $1.5 billion, stating, "we are continuing to closely monitor the emergency cases of the H1N1 flu virus throughout the United States... this is obviously a very serious situation." Global pandemics have killed millions in the 20th century, with the most famous, the 1918 "Spanish Flu," estimated as having caused 100 million deaths worldwide. 

And now, a second paragraph about the same story, from the same unfortunate location.

   The H1N1 virus, a mixture of bird, pig and human flu strains often erroneously referred to as the "swine flu," is on track to become the world's first pandemic outbreak since 1968, a distinction that refers to the widespread outbreak of a disease and not its deadliness. In fact, only seven deaths have been confirmed worldwide to this new mutation, all occurring in Mexico City, where the first outbreaks occurred a few weeks ago. 
   Though there is no vaccine for the new virus, which is passed from human to human and not by eating pork, symptoms have so far been mild in developed countries, so much so, in fact, that hospitals often have trouble determining if a patient is suffering from the new strain or a traditional flu virus. The drugs Tamiflu and Relenza have both been proven to alleviate symptoms, and 73 million doses have been stockpiled by the US government and individual states, but most of the patients infected with the strain do not, in fact, require hospitalization -- only five of the 109 confirmed cases in the US have been hospitalized. Indeed, most patients recover at home within days, including Patient Zero, five-year-old Edgar Hernandez of La Gloria, Mexico. And while many have resorted to wearing masks to avoid infection, World Health Organization spokesperson Vivienne Allan says that's not necessary. "This virus is not airborne, it's caused by droplets ... so it's not a time for worry. It's a time to be prepared," said Allan.
   The Centers for Disease Control also estimates that in a normal year, 36,000 patients in the US die from flu and flu-related symptoms.

Now. Which one of these is true?

Answer: they both are. Every statement in both passages is true, at least as we now know the facts to be in the great Swine Flu outbreak of 2009.
The difference is that the first one talks about possibilities. Not even probablities. It is an exercise in "what if." And if you want to move papers, or commercial time, or whatever, this is your product. Fear. It always sells, because people are always afraid.

The key words in the first one: suspected. reported. thought.

AP barfed up an article recently, very ironically entitled Many In Media Strive For Calm With Flu Story, where the MSM pats itself on the back (at least) for being so wonderfully reserved. Such reservation coming in the form of headlines that tell you not to panic. 

Question: If I, as a friend, come up to you and say, "Listen, don't panic," how does that make you feel? Calm?

The same article, to save you the trouble of reading it,  offers up this little gem:
The New York Daily News sent a reporter walking through the city in a face mask to gauge reaction, and he was stopped by a British TV crew wanting to film him.

That Daily News article also laid bare the horrors of the disease, as recounted by high school senior Sophia Goumokas: "I couldn't text."

Coming up next: my five-part series Millions Dead! Can You Sext?

*RATMM stands for, once the funniest place on the internet

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I'm trying to remember who taught me to look for the facts and avoid the sensation. That teacher of yours was a wise man. Definitely had a Wisdom score in high teens if not low twenties.

That Daily News article also laid bare the horrors of the disease, as recounted by high school senior Sophia Goumokas: "I couldn't text."

My thumbs -- they had laryngitis.

Yeah, the logic escapes me, too.

pick your favorite movie of all time, and then write a glowing review of it.

I would've liked, and been very challenged by, that assignment when I was in J-school.

Great minds think alike :)

Ah, dammit, Rob, now you've posted this on my friends page! It's touching other posts! I'm gonna catch sanity, I just know it.

I'll need to close my borders, I guess...

Off topic...

When is QuarterCon? November, I know, but which weekend?

Weekend before Thanksgiving, always. 19-23, I think.

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