People Sprout Squirrels, Flies

Feb. 11, 2119
LINCOLN, NE–Organizers of last weekend’s Conference on Spontaneous Biodiversification indicate that the recently identified phenomenon has spread beyond the thinly-populated rural farmlands of the American Midwest and has begun to crop up in isolated cases in urban centers as far afield as Chicago and San Diego. “The real take-away from the Conference,” notes Dr. Wendy Chimer, the Conference’s keynote speaker, “is that spontaneous generations of the sort we’ve seen in this area for several years are not localized aberrations, but part of a larger biogenetic process that we are only now beginning to recognize.”

The phenomenon, known variously as “Organismic Teratoma,” “Noah’s Ark Disease,” and “Intronic Alter-Generation Syndrome” was first identified by a team of research oncologists working at The Nebraska Health Consortium to formulate courses of treatment for strange tumor-like growths that appeared to contain small animals. “We’d never seen anything like it,” explains one member of the team. “One of the patients literally grew a squirrel right in our isolation unit. I didn’t realize that such a small animal could cause such a big mess. Have you ever tried to catch a squirrel with just a mop and an emesis basin?”

Though researchers have yet to agree on a formal definition of the phenomenon, experts confirm observed gestation periods of varying lengths, from as short as 48 hours to as long as 3 months, and have noted the generation of a menagerie of both rare and common animals, including squirrels, toads, blue-bottle flies, and a species of brown garden snake. “Every day brings a startling new story,” admits Dr. Chimer. “Just yesterday a colleague recounted an examination of a patient during which a carbuncle erupted, emitting a small nuptial flight of Jackson Hole Bees.”[p]
Most experts point to a likely connection between the phenomenon and the presence in the human genome of what is commonly called “junk” or “vestigial” DNA. “One of the continuing mysteries of the human genome is the fact that most of it appears unused,” explains Dr. Chimer. “We use some 3-4% of it, but the rest appears to be either an evolutionary artifact or simply a structural glue of sorts. Now we’re beginning to realize that a number of non-human genomes may be stored there, dormant, waiting for some activating cue we have yet to identify.”

Preliminary findings from several clinical surveys appear to confirm the presence of “appropriate, intronic, non-human genomes” in patients expressing mice and amphibians. “Our assays have consistently found species-appropriate shadow-genomes in all subjects yielding tree-frogs,” explains Dr. Harald Hopping of The Johns Hopkins Gene and Cola Center. “While our conclusions aren’t yet generalizable, they are suggestive.”

Most popular among theories of the origin and causes of the syndrome is that identified by Dr. Chimer as “Spontaneous Biodiversification:” “Why is this syndrome concentrated here, in the Midwest? Well, the phenomenon has been observed most in biomes that have become largely monocultural through intense cultivation of a single human foodstuff. Biodiversity in the state of Nebraska is now extremely narrow: pretty much people and wheat. Everything else has been driven out. It may be that this syndrome is a previously unidentified natural mechanism for kick-starting diversity where it has been lost. These animals are erupting like symptoms of a genetic unconscious in distress.”

Among avenues of treatment, excision has offered temporary relief from some “generations,” but the syndrome is remarkably persistent. “Frankly, we are not recommending treatment at this time,” notes Dr. Hopping. “The syndrome involves some physical and emotional discomfort, but does not, at this point in our research, appear to have lasting physical side-effects. In the cases of patients known to be gestating endangered or extinct species, we strongly encourage them to let symptoms run their course.”

New Camera Offers Product Placement in Snapshots

Oct. 3, 2006
ROCHESTER–Eastman Kodak today announced availability of a line of free digital cameras developed in partnership with digital advertising giant DoubleClick. The cameras, to be distributed for free to consumers under the “Phreeto” brandname, generate revenue in the form of sponsored digital product placements powered by DoubleClick ad-targeting technology. “Phreeto means freedom,” explains Kodak Marketing Director Helmut Juice. “By working with DoubleClick to enable an ad-driven business model we’ll be able to offer digital photography solutions to a much wider audience.”

Featuring gigapixel resolution and a materials-based flex-polymer zoom, the Phreeto offers two modes: a ‘sponsored’ mode in which select products are digitally placed in the ‘image environment,’ and a ‘premium’ mode offering added features for a modest subscription fee. “The idea is to give people choice,” notes Juice. “Price-sensitive consumers will get access to good, standard, network-ready personal imaging equipment. Those interested in added functionality or in disabling product-placement will be able to unlock those features with a subscription key.”

Beta-testers of the camera report mixed experiences. Though the Phreeto is designed to unobtrusively integrate placed-products into images, some users have noted limits to its compositing and re-touching algorithms. “Most of the time it seemed to not do anything that interfered with the pictures I was taking,” notes one tester. “It would just put a can of Pepsi on a table in the background, or maybe it would change your coat into something from Tommy Hilfiger. I think I’ve even got a picture at the Eiffel Tower with a McDonald’s in the background that I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist. Sometimes, though, it would freak out. I don’t know how many pictures I’ve got of a VW bug setting behind the Rockies.”

Other testers report problems with the targeting of product placements. The Phreeto is designed to exploit proprietary DoubleClick technology to place demographically-targeted products. Through analysis of the pictures users take coordinated with interaction with wireless servers housing databases of demographic and product information, the Phreeto selects user-appropriate products and collects fees from sponsors based on the demographic desirability of user profiles.

A number of testers, however, have reported embarrassing flaws in the targeting technology, including one user’s reports of pictures of “the stands at the Super Bowl, with everybody waiving boxes of tampons. In one picture my friend Joe is suddenly modeling some new Victoria’s Secret bra or something.”

Asked about flaws in the placement technology, Juice notes that the majority of the “kinks” reported by beta-testers had been addressed. “This is a first-generation product and there are bound to be some wrinkles to iron out,” he explains.

A number of activist and consumer privacy groups have expressed concern about the new camera. Reacting to news of the Phreeto, Jimmy Sale, director of the Product-Free Living Coaltion, bemoaned the “insidious invasion of technologies of memory by the artifacts of consumer culture. Personal, domestic photography is intimately bound up with both memory and nostalgia. By invading our snapshots, these products will begin to invade our memories.”

Other critics concede Kodak’s ingenuity. “It’s really quite clever if you think about it,” notes Columbia University Professor Carla Kin. “It’s all based on the simple insight that consumer photography is a medium just like any other, and, just like radio, just like TV, it may be amenable to exploitation by advertisers.”

Available in markets with 5.F wireless networks, the Phreeto comes in three eye-catching colors: cobalt, vermilion, and asphalt, and in three aromas: jasmine, oatmeal, and patchouli.

Ad Pox Cured by Branded Products

Aug. 31, 2064
ATLANTA–Officials at the Centers for Disease Control released Wednesday a set of guidelines for the treatment of ad pox suggesting that consumption of certain popular consumer products may offer remedial treatment of some of the disease’s symptoms. “Though we don’t yet have a full epidemiological understanding of ad pox, we have confirmed clinically that use of the listed products offers at least temporary relief from some symptoms,” explains CDC Director of Home Cures, Dr. Evan Tripe. “Since these products are already routinely used by most Americans, we have no concerns about recommending their use for treatment, even at this early stage in our research.”

CDC reports indicate that as many as 1 in 7 American children between the ages of 6 and 12 are affected by the disease, while infection rates among adults have continued to climb, with as many as 1 in 12 expressing symptoms while an estimated 1 in 5 are infected. “This disease has spread with alarming rapidity,” notes Dr. Tripe. “We’ve known about scattered cases for years, but because the condition is relatively mild and non-fatal, we couldn’t justify dedicating resources to it. Now that infection rates have reached these levels, though, we’re taking a serious look.”

Ad pox symptoms include headache, mild nausea, and sporadic, marginal fever, but the disease is best known for its characteristic sores, blisters and rashes, commonly thought to take the form of popular advertising logos and slogans. “I’ve had a very itchy outbreak of hives in the shape of the AOL pyramid thing,” explains one sufferer. “And I can’t tell you how many weeping Nike swooshes and Coca-Cola logos I’ve been picking at for weeks. At one point a rash on my thigh clearly said ‘You’re in Good Hands.'”

Companies whose logos and slogans have been associated with ad pox uniformly deny that their products have any connection to the disease. “This looks to me like the work of a bioterrorist with an axe to grind against successful American companies,” opines Gerri Cracken, McDonald’s VP of Public Information. “We certainly don’t want our brands associated with skin irritations of any kind. In fact, we plan to pursue trademark and copyright claims once the ad pox engineer is identified. Though, if you ask me, none of the sores I’ve seen really look anything like our Golden Arches.”

CDC guidelines suggest consumers use branded products associated with the logos and slogans in which they break out. “It’s quite a simple treatment methodology, and we have noticed significant reductions in swelling, weeping, and itchiness when it is followed,” explains Dr. Tripe. “People afflicted with lesions they identify as Nike swooshes experience notable relief while wearing Nike shoes and sportswear. The same goes for other sores. In many cases relief is just a Coke and a Happy Meal away.”

The origins and mechanism of the disease have yet to be understood. “The fact that the suggested treatment guidelines work suggests that ad pox may be an unprecedented disease,” notes Tripe. “What symptoms caused by a conventional infectious vector could be relieved by watching TV? Well, that’s what happens with the NBC Peacock rashes. How can using AOL remediate boils and blisters? This disease is a challenge to our understanding of disease itself.”

Martha Stewart Mauled by Dust Bunnies

April 12, 2045
NEW YORK–Speaking on Wednesday from the company’s Manhattan headquarters, Martha Stewart Omnimedia VP of Operations Victoria Waiste reassured shareholders and employees that a recent household mishap involving Stewart, the company’s chair and CEO, would not adversely affect the company or its prospects. “Martha had an allergic reaction to an unidentified household cleaning product,” explained Waiste. “She is receiving the care that she needs and I have every confidence that she’ll be back at work within the month.”

Sources inside the company indicate that the “unidentified household cleaning product” was 3M’s soon-to-be-released Dust Bunnies, an intelligent, distributed nano-scale soil and dust aggregation product that Stewart had been testing as part of a joint-marketing scheme between her company and the household products manufacturer.

The Bunnies, distributed in a sealed, foil pouch, start as a fine, graphite-like powder meant to be shaken liberally throughout a room, office, or entire house. The powder consists of small, RF networked nano-scale devices that seek out both dust particles and each other. Over time, the individual devices and the dust they collect self-assemble into tiny, rabbit-shaped dust creatures capable of hopping, and wiggling their noses and ears. The Bunnies continue to clean horizontal surfaces throughout their habitat by absorbing any dust they encounter and growing to the size of conventional rabbits. Reproducing through a process of Bunny-division, the creatures can be compressed and thrown away with conventional trash.

Stewart had reportedly been testing the Bunnies for several weeks and was in the process of shooting a special segment of her program introducing the Bunnies and demonstrating home-made Bunny accessories including colorful bows and gingham bonnets when dozens of the dust-creatures swarmed her, nipping at her face and hands. “It was really more frightening and terrible than it might sound,” explains an unnamed source present at the shooting. “I mean Martha was choking and coughing, really having a hard time breathing. People were running around trying to smash all those dust things, but they just kept coming out of the woodwork. It was like something out of ‘The Birds.'”

Responding to questions about the incident, 3M officials indicated that “an investigation is ongoing” and that researchers were focusing on the possibility of an unanticipated interaction between the Bunnies and Stewart’s company’s own “Face Au Fondant” home nanomechanical face-lift treatment. “The Stewart Omnipharmaceutical ‘Fondant’ product includes some nanomechanical processes and signals that our Bunnies might have misunderstood,” explains 3M Chief Media Officer Burt Bert. “We understand that both products make use of some components from the same outsource and that there may have been an unintended compatibility between them.”

Face Au Fondant, a widely-marketed topical cream that Stewart herself is reported to use, employs a combination of chemical and nanomechanical processes to recreate a young, smooth, collagen-rich layer that binds to the user’s conventional skin.

During the attack, a number of the Bunnies reportedly bonded with the Fondant treatment on Stewart’s face and hands. “Martha wasn’t really hurt in the attack,” confides an inside source, “but there’s been a serious, lasting effect that everybody’s afraid to talk about. She now attracts dust like you wouldn’t believe. She hasn’t been in public since because we can’t keep her clean, not because there’s anything medically wrong with her. She’s just like that kid Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoons. It’s horrible. If we can’t find a solution I’m sure 3M will be hearing from our lawyers.”

Stewart, founder and CEO of over a dozen companies that each bear her name, is the author of “Entertaining,” one of the most beautiful and influential books ever published.