One of Our Commenters Has the Plague

04/30/2009 1:33 PM |

It can be a blow to the ego when a commenter writes something in response to an article you’ve written and that comment is smarter than the original piece. So, commenter Paul, I’m not too big a man to give you props for writing the following:

While Camus’ novel is among the most notable 20th-century literary appropriations of plague (as metaphor, as impetus for existential crisis resolution, as actual event, as invariably eternal associative context through which to reflect on how much it must suck to sit in bed all day counting peas), there is also a rather notable 14th-century appropriation that bears mentioning here, Boccaccio’s Decameron.

And for making this joke:

My favorite joke about swine flu that I made up yesterday (and that many others have probably already thought about as well):

Swine flu! And boy are their arms tired!

(more showing off after the jump)

On the origin of the term “quarantine”:

Also, ‘quarantines’ are often used to separate the sick from the healthy (or to marginalize those who are reeling from pus-ridden buboes, bleeding from the eyes, coughing up their souls, etc., from those who are still blissfully chomping away at BLTs), and that word itself resulted from the plague. When Venice was a major nexus of trade, they would make all ships hailing from plagued areas wait out in the lagoon for a period of forty days before passing through the city’s central waterway to conduct their business. The assumption was that if the ship’s crew was still healthy (i.e. not dead) after that much time had passed, then they were safe to barter, trade, copulate, cough and so on. On the other hand, if they were all or mostly dead, then the ‘sick’ ship could be justifiably looted (plague doesn’t stick to gold florins, after all) and covered with all kinds of witty graffiti, tags and wheat-pastings. Anyway, the expression for the lengthy period during which such ships were moored in the lagoon was ‘una quarantina di giorni,’ where ‘quarantina’ means ‘about 40.’ Hence ‘quarantine.’ Bubble-boys are something different.

On the etymology of the Italian word for “fan” (as in fan of a team):

In Italian, one who is a fan of something is called ‘un tifoso,’ derived from ‘tifo’, meaning Typhus, supposedly because one has a weird tendency to scream like crazy and wear a large foam hand displaying “#1” when suffering from said illness.

On watching the film Outbreak on a plane:

Regarding Outbreak, I saw that movie on a plane. It was a while ago, sometime before there were those little screens that allowed you to choose to watch or not to watch (which Godard would tell us is not really a question, which it isn’t). So the airline’s logic was that everyone on a plane would be delighted to spend a couple hours of a transatlantic flight being forced to watch a movie about how the slightest sneeze or cough radiating away from some pseudo-Europhilic sociopath might turn everyone into real-world versions of that ‘bends’ scene in The Abyss. Yum.

Flight attendant: “Savoury or sweet?”

Passenger: “Both please, as death is upon us.”

And the first glimmer of Commenter Paul’s incipient madness:

Of course, I’m now appropriating Boccaccio’s self-preservational act, avoiding swine flu by writing about someone else supposedly saving himself by writing about the plague to avoid the plague, which was initially brought up to expand to context on swine flu. Mise-en-abime? I’ll be my mirror. Moreover, this is all derived from pop culture because I learned it by listening to Biggie’s entire oeuvre backwards (and you thought P.Diddy was just saying meaningless things like ‘yeah,’ ‘aww yeah’ and ‘dat’s right’ all the time!).

Umm, did I mention Biggie? RIP.