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The Second Cold War:

An Analysis on The Bug Wars Timeline


Description The Bug Wars is a timeline running from 1940 to 2005 that shows the battle between bad bacteria and antibiotics. The bacteria that the timeline specifically looks at are Staphylococcus aureus (which causes staph infections), Streptococcus pneumoniae (which causes strep throat and pneumonia), and Escherichia coli (which causes meningitis). As new antibiotics are discovered and designed, the bacteria are evolving in order to overcome the drugs. The timeline maps the year in which the bacteria started resisting the different antibiotics. In order to reinforce the fight between bacteria and antibiotics, the timeline has a war theme. The Bug Wars was published in the October 2005 edition of Wired magazine. Wired magazine is a monthly magazine that reports on new and developing technology and the way it is affecting the world in areas such as culture or politics. The author of The Bug Wars is Patrick Di Justo, a contributor to Wired magazine. He reports mainly on science and technology and writes the monthly Whats Inside column for Wired magazine (OReilly Media, 2012).

Alicia Brackel ENGL 357 Brooks

September 12, 2012

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Formal Analysis Images and graphics are one way this timeline grabs a viewers attention. The main image that grabs attention is the continuous image of the bacteria. Even though bacteria are something that cannot be drawn realistically, the author represents the bacteria through video game-like images. These images of the bacteria are detailed, but abstract. McCloud uses a triangle to describe images. The three corners of the triangle are abstract, realistic, and iconic. Images can fall on one of the three corners or anywhere in between. On McClouds triangle these images of the bacteria would be between the realistic corner and the abstract corner. These images look nothing like true bacteria, putting them in the abstract corner. The details, however, are realistic
Abstract

rather than abstract or iconic. These images are similar to images we have used to portray monsters. They show superhuman traits, such as enormous muscles and frighteningly sharp teeth. These realistic details
Realistic Iconic

give the bacteria the feeling of being scary and evil. Patrick Di Justo uses other images in the timeline that make it interesting. For each time a bacteria resists a drug, a skull and crossbones is used to mark the time. Each time a new antibiotic is discovered or designed, a red cross is used to mark the time. Both of these images are icons that have meaning attached to them. The skull and crossbones usually represent something poisonous. The red cross is
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often associated with medical aid and relief. Both of these images would be on the iconic corner of the triangle. The same red cross is also on helicopters, tanks, and other things that are used to fight the bad bacteria. This helps tie the timeline in with the battle images. The textual material is somewhat limited. A description is given about the different kinds of bacteria. These descriptions are brief, but concise. They are more informative and scientific than narrative. For example, the description for staphylococcus aureus says it causes everything from skin infections to toxic shock syndrome. More than half of all staph infections found in intensive care units can be linked to a drug-resistant strain. These descriptions would be placed on the realistic corner of the triangle. Another text block explains three different ways the bacteria resist the drugs. These descriptions are a little more narrative than the descriptions of the bacteria, describing the resistance with battle terms. For example, one description says A bacteriums protein receptors morph so the antibiotic cant lock into them. (Staph used this method to evade the penicillin family.) The title for this description is Camouflage. Using words such as camouflage and evade make these descriptions a little more narrative. Closure

Alicia Brackel ENGL 357 Brooks

September 12, 2012

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In Understanding Comics, McCloud uses the term closure to explain how we perceive something as a whole even though what we see is merely parts (McCloud, 63). Di Justo relies on closure in order for the audience to perceive the whole story from the different parts. We see five different green monsters (that represent bacteria), but perceive them as one green monster that evolves over time. Although the timeline images shown above are one continuous panel, we are able to break the panel up into parts and perceive it as something that happens over time. Closure is also used to fill in the gap between the monsters shown. We are able to imagine the first green monster growing into the second green monster through the use of closure. The gap between the actual items on the timeline, on the other hand, requires us to use more closure. The timeline spans a length of sixty-five years. The timeline basically plots the year in which one of the three bacteria resisted a specific drug. The timeline implies an actionto-action approach to closure. As a new drug comes into play, the bacteria try to resist it and eventually do. Once the bacteria resist it, a new drug is designed. Some of the lengths between plots are over twenty years, leaving quite a bit of space for closure. However, because the timeline shows cause and effect, it can be easily closed. The basic information that is given is enough to understand the relationship between the bad bacteria and the antibiotics. The word-picture combination that Di Justo uses is mainly additive. The words tell us all of the information we need to know. The words even give us a sense of the battle that is happening, but the images make the battle come alive. They enhance the timeline and make it

Alicia Brackel ENGL 357 Brooks

September 12, 2012

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more entertaining. Without the images, the audience would still understand the timeline, but without the text, the audience would not know what the timeline is about. Time in this timeline is represented as a straight line. Lines on the timeline mark every year, while boxes with the year written in it mark every five years. The length of each line is relatively short compared to length between two lines. Because of this long space between the lines, the timeline could be compared to stitches. The stitches help keep the timeline consistent with the overall war theme. The color of the timeline helps reinforce the idea that a battle exists between bacteria and antibiotics. It also helps to reinforce the realistic aspect of the timeline. By having the timeline in color, the battle comes to life as cannons and torpedoes are fired. The bacteria are green, a color often associated with germs or slime. Having a gradient from a lighter color to a darker color helps ground the battle image. The text boxes explaining the three different bacteria have a black background, while the box describing antibiotics is white. The white background conveys a sense of goodness and the black background conveys a sense of evil. The heading for antibiotics is in a red font. This red font with the white background gives it a medical feeling, relating the text box to the overall war theme.

Alicia Brackel ENGL 357 Brooks

September 12, 2012

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Content Analysis The main purpose of The Bug Wars is to persuade the readers that the bad bacteria will eventually win the battle. Di Justo tries to persuade by giving facts about what has happened in the past. By showing the readers all of the times the bacteria have resisted to drugs, Di Justo is using logos to persuade that the readers that the bacteria will keep resisting. The Bug Wars uses battle imagery to help support the main point. The bacteria are portrayed as green scary monsters. We often associate monsters as evil. By portraying the bacteria as evil monsters in battle action, Di Justo is emphasizing that it a battle exists between bacteria and drugs. These battle images also help to make the timeline entertaining. They make the timeline something that the audience will want to look at and read. Evaluation Overall this timeline was an effective way to persuade. The timeline is clear and can easily be followed. It provides the right amount of information for the type of audience. Because it is for a general audience rather than a medical audience, it gives good descriptions of the bacteria and antibiotics that generally anyone could understand. The main purpose of this timeline was to make a statement that the bacteria will keep resisting any kind of antibiotic that we try and Di Justo clearly makes that statement. Through the use of images of the battle, Di Justo helped the readers realize that a battle is truly going on. The urgency to fight the battle was enhanced by the continuous panel, illustrating just how fast the bacteria are changing. Even though the speed of the evolution may have been exaggerated in the image, it still clearly makes the statement that we have to change our strategy in the fight against bad bacteria.
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References
Di Justo, P. (2005). The bug wars. Wired, 13(10), 52-53.

McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York, Harper Collins.
O'Reilly Media. (2012). Patrick DiJusto. O'Reilly Community. Retrieved September 9, 2012 from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/4994

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September 12, 2012

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