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The Virus

by Joel Assaizky

The idea had come to me while investigating kabbalist art. I’d found some images on the internet, paintings in the mystical tradition, digitized. I’d also been listing to Deltron 3030, the rapper formerly known as Del the Funky Homosapien, specifically the track “virus” and had felt inspired to composite some images along with the music track.

The lyrics went something like:

“I wanna devise a virus,
To bring dire straits to your environment.
Crushing corporations with a mild touch.
Crash your whole computer system
And revert you to papyrus” etc.

It struck me that the kabbalist art had inherent virus-like properties, most of it dealing with words, branches of information and deep spiritual concepts, concepts that once incubated in the mind took root and unfolded almost as if alive.

At the time it seemed clever, a witty little motion graphics piece. I’d utilized the Hebrew names of God as the central motif, the container of the virus, and then placed other symbols and letters within the circular names of God, intending to let the symbols influence each other while also playing against the Deltron track.

While I was working, the phone rang. It was Farryl. His computer kept crashing, and from the sounds of it he had the w32.blaster.worm virus. I told him I would come over to fix it.

I continued working in after-effects, shifting the Hebrew letters and symbols along the timeline. I was enjoying myself. The symbols were very aesthetic and I was quite pleased with the progress of my DV clip.

Soon I began to feel that there was interplay of image and concept beyond that which I’d intended. I also noticed a slight nervousness edging into the excitement I had been feeling initially.

My computer suddenly froze.

Total system failure.

I had to reboot.

When the computer had restarted, windows informed me that the graphics card driver had caused a fatal error. That had never happened before. I was irritated, because I had lost the entire project because I hadn’t saved. I decided to start again from scratch, this time I was careful to save.

I didn’t try too hard to reproduce the original idea; I decided to just go with the flow. I thought it might be a good idea to break up the names of God into individual letters and reform them into other words, since I have a basic understanding of Hebrew. During this process the computer froze again. The graphics card had crashed. I restarted the computer and decided just to render what I had completed so far.

First I rendered to a windows AVI, but there seemed to be significant frame drop-out in certain parts of the clip, the parts where I was trying to manipulate the names of God.

Then I tried QuickTime, and after experimenting with various codices I managed to render a glitch-free QuickTime movie. This in itself was very unusual because I’d rendered loads of clips before without incident.

It was time to help Farryl remove the virus on his computer so I quickly burned a CD with the virus removal tool as well as the rendered movie which I called “virus” since that was my original concept, and I thought it was a neat coincidence and I could show the clip to Farryl while fixing his computer.

The first CD burn failed, a first occurrence on my new DVD-burner. The second time seemed to work, so I took the disc and went to Farryl’s house. The CD didn’t seem to work too well and after a couple of tries I managed to copy the virus removal tool to Farryl’s computer. The movie clip, however, would not copy.

We managed to remove the virus on Farryl’s PC, and I was due to meet Aryan so I left with the disc, because I wanted to show him my new movie clip.

After viewing some other works, I asked Aryan to check out the QuickTime file. At first we tried to open it from the CD and it crashed the computer. We had to restart the machine. We tried a couple more times but the file would not copy and the copy process caused major system instability on the computer, which was an Apple Macintosh running OS X.

By this time I had begun to feel that there was a certain level of coincidence at play, with all the virus ideas and crashes that were taking place. Aryan told me about a friend of his who had gone mad studying kabbalah and I mentioned that I knew of similar instances. We went out to play some pool. I wasn’t feeling so well and went home early.

The following day I started up my PC to begin work and check my email, and something seemed a bit out of kilter. A certain glitchiness had beset my machine and it was just not operating smoothly. I did all the usual virus checks and defragmentations but nothing seemed to help. I decided to check out the rendered movie clip but the playback got stuck every time the names of God appeared in their correct orientation. Weird.

I got a call from Neil, who told me that a lucrative contact that I thought was definitely in the bag, had been cancelled by the SABC. That came as a blow because I really needed the money. Oddly, the show was called ‘be a star’ and the stars used in the title graphics were 6-pointed, much like the star of David, one of the symbols I used in my little piece of motion graphics. Perhaps there was some connection between my playing around with what some considered ‘holy’ symbols and the recent turn of events?

Later that day my PC inexplicably crashed again while I was using Word. When I restarted, my wallpaper had changed. Somehow one of the kabbalistic images had set itself at the new background, the one representing the ten Sephirot by alphabetical symbols in a sort of hierarchical spiral. Items that I’d deleted days previously had reappeared on my desktop and some of the files had mysteriously segmented into smaller files. Every time I tried to delete these files they reappeared on my desktop a few minutes later.

After an email from Aryan asking me please not to give him any more CD’s contaminated with kabbalah, I decided to trash all the files I had used for this little project of mine. However I found that I could not do so. I would empty the trash and soon after the deleted items would reappear on the desktop. I was at a complete loss as to what to do.

I left the files alone to continued work, and soon they began to replicate throughout the file system on the PC. One night while working I heard a crash in my room and went to investigate. A book of mine, the kabbalah explained by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, had fallen off my bookshelf and lay open on the floor. I read the open page which was part of the preface, describing how Rabbi Kaplan had died very young. Some speculate that this was because of his premature involvement with kabbalistic matters. Pretty soon after that I contracted a flu virus, not the usual flu. I felt I was having out of body experiences at times and the flu came and went, but I couldn’t seem to shake it.

Soon my computer was unusable. My email inbox was flooded with spam carrying viral-loads. The system ground to a halt. I had to format my drive and lost everything because I couldn’t back-up.

The flu continued and I consulted a doctor. After numerous blood tests, something astonishing was revealed. My tests showed the presence of some previously unknown viral spore, and on closer examination it seemed that the molecular structure thereof looked like a six-pointed helix.

Every day I grow weaker, more detached. I dream of symbols at night, my dreams resembling a QuickTime clip that I once rendered. This is a short chronicle of what happened. I’ll have to stop using this word-processor soon because it keeps crashing. I am saving the document regularly, after

Copyright © 2005 by Joel Assaizky

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