H Anthony Hildebrand

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The Virus

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Ryan comes up to me with a bottle of red.

“Top up?”


He pours, probably waiting for me to signal when the glass is sufficiently full, but I don’t. It’s good wine, better than the corner store junk I brought with me. If things turn out right, my bottle’ll still be sitting there when it’s time to go, and I’ll be able to pop it into my distressed leather messenger bag discreetly on my way to the door.

Ryan stops pouring as my glass reaches maximum capacity. I move my head down to make contact with the meniscus, sipping noisily.

“Thanks, man,” I say, wiping the excess from my moustache.

“No problem, buddy. You want anything – food, more drink, my wife – just help yourself.”

“OK. Will do.”

“I was only kidding about Mel, though. Please don’t help yourself to my wife.”

“Haha – right.”

Ryan’s one of those guys that you can’t help but warm to – friendly, generous, intelligent, and successful without being showy. It takes a lot of effort to hate him, but I do my best.

He goes off to see to the needs of the other guests, none of whom are really as famous or as interesting as I’d hoped. I’m sure Ryan said he’d had some celebrity patients or clients or something. But then I kind of forget what sort of doctor he is.

In the hallway there’s a photo of Mel wearing a bikini. Five or six years ago, looking at her haircut. Ryan reflected in her sunglasses, his Canon EOS 400D digital SLR camera obscuring his tanned face.

The door to Ryan’s office space/potential child’s room is open. I can see more photos of Mel from the same holiday on the wall above the desk. I step inside, innocently, closing the door behind me.

The photos turn out not only to be from the same holiday, but from the same day. Mel’s wearing the same bikini. There are seven photos arranged in sequence, starting with a shot very similar to that in the hallway.

But there’s something odd about the rest of the sequence. They’re mostly shots of Mel, but she’s not posing in these. She’s happily cavorting on the beach as if she’s not being photographed at all. Sort of. It’s like she’s acting out the process of ‘having a good time on the beach’ for the benefit of the camera without acknowledging its existence. It’s weird.

The weirder thing is that when she takes off her bikini top – JACKPOT – she is joined by a shorts-wearing, sunscreen toting figure who I’m pretty sure is Ryan. Mel is looking back over her naked shoulder and laughing, presumably at something that Ryan has said.

But if Ryan’s in the photo, who has taken this picture? It looks like it has been taken from some distance, using a telephoto lens. It’s voyeuristic. Intrusive, maybe. A glimpse at a private moment.

It’s not strange to get someone to take your picture on holiday. Of course it isn’t. But to go to this much effort – to stage a “natural” shot with the active participation of an unknown other – strikes me as going some way beyond normal holiday snapshot behaviour.

Still, it’s juicy. I open the desk drawer to see if there’s anything more explicit squirrelled away. “That’s exactly the sort of thing I’d do,” I think. God knows I’m lonely.

Another slug of wine, which really is rather good. Quick rummage. Nothing. Papers and pens and envelopes and a couple of those old iPod cables.


On top of the pile, though, is a notebook, covered in Ryan’s neat, girlish script. I can never resist looking at someone’s notes to self. They offer an intriguing insight into an individual’s thought process – into the subjects that they deem important enough to record for future use. Notes are a unique mix of the practical and the philosophical.

Plus there’s always the chance I’ll find something embarrassingly gossipworthy.

So I pick it up, and scan the most recent entries. They’re… interesting.

Ryan’s notebook

–          In past virus had ltd means/transmission, so confined to smaller grps. But could begin to see effects. Some ppl –notably royalty – were subject to massive exposure. Almost always fatal.


–          When idealism becomes power the effect is often indistinguishable from fame, and thus from the virus


–          Over course of 20th century, virus found new and insidious means/transmission. Magazines. Newspapers. Radio. Film. Television. Until – the internet.


–          Cat food, cereal, toilet paper


–          Almost as if internet has been designed as ultimate celebrity virus transmission system. Reach is vast, coming into contact with huge percentages of world’s population simultaneously. Share + discuss meaningless trivialities at lightning speed. But this reach means it can infect billions of people in small doses almost constantly. Prolonged exposure to low doses of celebrity = many have built up tolerance. But tolerance ≠ immunity – instead appears to allow sufferers ability to withstand larger + larger doses without noticing the damaging effect this is causing to their brains – and subsequently their very personalities


–          Can have very serious results. Sufferer almost inevitably begins believing the medium of transmission is somehow significant – simply because opportunity to connect w/others exists, number of connections somehow = achievement?


–          MASS DELUSION – belief that having other people appearing to listen to what you have to say is more important than what you actually have to say. Or whether you have any skill in saying it.


–          DM Nick re: Stephen Fry RT


–          Seems to be hyper-narcissistic personality disorder. ‘Hyper’ because typical NPD case tends to exaggerate own importance, achievements, + talents, while HNPD sufferer also regards – IN ADDITION – the minutiae of their existence – the everyday goings on + regular life stuff (check Thes.) that healthy people tend to gloss over in conversation due to its insignificance – as worthy of discussion with wider world. Regard themselves not only as a celebrity, but an ‘über-celebrity’ whose every utterance, clothing decision + bowel movement requires/deserves analysis + discussion


–          Submit Huffington Post blog post? Cons: No payment. Pros: Massive exposure/credibility/author pic. Find writerly pic.


–          Some have suggested virus breaks down barrier between projected, ‘fantasy self’ + true self, allowing sufferers to believe that superficial personas – online identities – are who they really are. But I think it goes beyond this. I think these two ‘selves’ are merged in the physical world as well – but the price for projecting an imagined self-image at all times is negating of depth. Not literally, but seems that superficiality of thought is defining characteristic of those w/prolonged exposure to virus. ie almost all of us.


–          Is online bingo really that successful? Are there hordes of people waiting for an even more tedious way to gamble? Is bingo something people actually do while exercising? Talk to Nick re: small start up venture


–          What can be done?

–          Nothing? Most dangerous thing about virus is that those who seek to research it – even those with noblest intentions – are rapidly infected themselves. + publishing research on virus without suffering dire consequences is impossible


–          As soon as an academic paper on virus is published, author of paper wld be contacted by showbusiness journos, bloggers, talk show hosts, 24 hour news channels, podcasters etc. Academic would achieve a level of fame themselves. Virus is self-generating. Can’t be discussed without making it stronger


–          Imagine a news report about a celebrity virus that did not include reference to + footage of specific celebrities. You can’t.


–          Eternal self-perpetuation, streamlined through technology. Benefits of technology appear more + more likely to be sideshow to main event – transmission of pure celebrity into centre of brain of every person on planet. (!)

And that’s it. Confusing. They don’t even have a cat, I think.

I pull my iPhone out and tweet, which I should have done ages ago.

Wanker party update: wanker at party for wankers turns out to be wanker. Nice wine tho. #wank

That’s not bad. Succinct, sweary, mentions booze. Nice. I throw back the remainder of the wine and head for the kitchen.


Written by hahildebrand

April 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Things

Tagged with , ,

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