Paper Planes

404 Pages, Old Hoaxers
& Staying Dry in the Rain

This being Summer Solstice time, it seems appropriate to bring you these stories, each with a temporal slant. One would not be possible a few decades ago; another no longer makes much sense; and yet the other one is ageless. So, no sweat, we’ve got you covered.
On the Internet, no one knows you got lost; or that you landed on a ‘Not Found’ page. The Society Against Quackery would not tolerate such nonsense 130 years ago. And yet, since time immemorial, there’s been Virga, a special kind of rain: the type that doesn’t make you wet.
What? Didn’t they use to count paper planes on New York City streets? Or holes in Blackburn Lancashire? Indeed they did, so it shouldn’t shock you if we pick the odd or the unusual for a summer read, rather than the bloody or the bombastic. For there’ll be plenty of that too.
There’s a new Pride Flag with a welcome element of racial tolerance. And, yes, the season‘s proverbial love stories already abound, along those from the 1967 Summer of Love. And the breeze, and that girl from Ipanema, and all cliches about heat and hurricanes.
Since warm days go by faster in the north, they’ll still be filled with talk about ice cream and beaches, parties and drought. Just as Earth will keep on getting warmer, and this sort of conversation feels like sand inside one’s swimming suits. Blame us for wanting you to take it easy.
So what’s wrong with searching and not finding? Not acceptable these days. See, even when one lands on uncharted territory, it’s no longer an excuse to avoid making assumptions. Or post your cluelessness on Facebook. No opinion should be spared. Thus the 404 pages.
Which is now as entertaining as if you’d reached a site about scientific curiosities. Museums, institutions, companies, and individuals, all jockey to come up with clever ways to cushion your crushing results. It’s Ok, the image and wording seem to say. Here, it’s funny, see?
As for the code number, like a lot of what still compounds our journeys online, it had a nerdy origin, such as some room number in a building once fully occupied by an electronic brain, as it was known. Or it was by chance, depending on who you find still wondering in the space formerly known as cyber.
Way before Tim Berners-Lee was born – the World Wide Web inventor just turned 62 last week – or there was a need for Snopes, a group of Dutch skeptics recognized the potential harm hidden behind human gullibility. And decided to mount a defense against those who’d gladly take advantage of it. Boy, haven’t they got their work cut out for them.
If the Internet metastasized the power of deceivers, in 1881, snake oil salesmen, mystics, end-of-the-world profiteers, and an entire array of their ilk, were already spreading irreparable damage all over. (more)
Read Also:
* 50 Summers
* Freaky Links
* No Way Vacay

Thank goodness for the angry folk of The Society Against Quackery.
Many a con man’s artwork came unraveled due to the VTDK, the society’s acronym in Dutch. Their influence began to fade only in the 1960s, with the rise of better methods of exposing fraud. But not before taking exception to what became the template for every conspiracy theory etched in stone ever since: that of JFK assassination.
For those whose sandwiches got soggy, and sink their shoes into soft mud while rushing to wrap up a disastrous picnic, Virga is the kind of rain they like: visually stunning, soothing with its gentle, distant dripping, and a big plus, it never even touches the ground. Or you.
Now, this is not to knock the refreshing, and agri-positive, effects of a good washout on a summer day. Not to mention the earthy smells that precedes it, crispy clear air that follows it, and all that song and dance about the healing powers of water.
But for romantic planners of outings on the verdant grass by the lake, – would Saturday afternoon be convenient? – nothing spells disgrace like warm white wine or being stricken by lightning on a wet park. Many a lovely dove showed its true hawk colors with a change of weather.
But whether cursing Virga, and where it is when you need it, or taking it all with grace and sportsmanship, at least your Google search didn’t bring up an empty page. Neither you’ve bought the Brooklyn Bridge. Yet. You’re in the clear, old chap. Time to get out and take in the sun.

(*) Originally published on June 21, 2017.

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