Next Score View the next score

    It’s a Thing

    Hostile yahoos, horrifying ‘Cats,’ hustling bots, and thriving house plants

    FILE - In this April 10, 2002, file photo, a vehicle moves along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Rachel, Nev., the closest town to Area 51. The U.S. Air Force has warned people against participating in an internet joke suggesting a large crowd of people "storm Area 51," the top-secret Cold War test site in the Nevada desert. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch, File)
    Laura Rauch/AP/file
    In this file photo, a vehicle moves along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Rachel, Nev., the closest town to Area 51.


    Ever since the “Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us” event page launched on Facebook, people on the Internet have been getting this idea in their heads to, well, storm Area 51, seeing as how they can’t stop all of us. Seems like pretty sound logic. But with the proposed Sept. 20 storming date coming ever closer and over 1.7 million RSVPs (and 1.3 million maybes — how rude!), real-life actual locals in the towns surrounding the secretive Nevada military site are now bracing themselves for a close encounter of the fourth kind — i.e. a weeklong flash mob of lunatics. Asked for comment, aliens said, “Oh, heavens, no. A scheduled mob of humans approaching on foot? I’ll hide behind these drapes. Please stop calling us.”


    As if we weren’t already wading waist-deep in toxic trauma online, now they’ve gone and dropped the trailer for the forthcoming cinematic reboot of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical, “Cats.” Like a cat getting lowered into a bathtub, the Internet struggled to understand just what it was experiencing (beyond the sight of James Corden in a fur suit), coping through memes, displacement techniques (like setting the trailer to the scores of “Us” and “Annihilation”), and indiscriminate clawing. Asked for comment, the ghost of T.S. Eliot asked me, very politely, to please stop calling him.


    Facebook’s gamble on launching its own cryptocurrency, Libra, is going about as smoothly as a first date with an actual Libra (zing!), with Democrats and Republicans in both the Senate and the House cooperating to completely humiliate the social media giant in a way we haven’t seen since Carrie’s prom. Meanwhile Facebook’s actual gambling career couldn’t be going better, with its recently developed poker-playing bot, Pluribus, winning “decisively” over a table of professional challengers, including winners of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Facebook has yet to unveil prototypes for its forthcoming collections bot, “Joey Ambulance.” 



    And lastly, lest we mistake the Internet for an exclusively destructive force, a Vice report introduced most of the Internet to data engineer Tyler Wood, whose subreddit r/takecareofmyplant enlists the help of some 13,000 members to determine (by popular vote) how and when his Zebra plant gets watered. And despite the efforts of “occasional saboteurs” and even disinformation campaigns spreading false intel about the plant’s thirst, the community of benevolent clickers has spent a full three years successfully nurturing Wood’s plants. Now if only we could all vote to remove a fungus. 

    Get The Weekender in your inbox:
    The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here


    Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.