Articles, Blog

Oinkbarf Pandemic! An Intellectual Response to Swine Flu

November 21, 2019

Good morning, Hank, it’s Sunday, May 3rd, 2 days before your birthday. And as you can tell from the grey speckled wall behind me, I am in an airport. Fancy that. So Hank, today I’m gonna talk about swine flu – PANIC! But before I do that, I’m wanna talk about me. And you. Mostly me. Nerdfighters, if you wanted to go to the event in Melbourne, Australia, but you couldn’t get a ticket, good news, there’s a second event. Link in the sidebar. And also, I’m going to be in Sydney on June 3rd. Secondly, Hank, as you know, on Thursday night, my book, Paper Towns, won an Edgar Award. An award given out by the Mystery Writers of America to the best mystery novels of the year. Hank, this means that I now own a bust of Edgar Allen Poe. That’s right, I own a bust. So Nerdfighters, I need your help. Please answer the following question for me in comments: What can you do with a bust of Edgar Allen Poe? [singing] What can you do with a Poe bust? Oh, and Hank, about you, your birthday is on Tuesday, uh, I’m gonna getcha a little something. Hopefully nerdfighters, you’ll make some videos and do some stuff as well. Please do not ask for my attention right now. So Hank, here’s a little-known fact about me: I am somewhat terrified of new and strange diseases. I think it’s because when I was in college, I had to fulfil a Science requirement, so I took a class called ‘AIDS, Ebola, and Emerging Viruses’, because it was purportedly easy. And it was kind of easy, but the downside was that I learned about AIDS, Ebola, and emerging viruses. Which are just not topics that hypochondriacs should be exposed to. Anyway, Hank, you could imagine my dismay when the news broke about H1N1 flu, or swine flu, or oinkbarf. I think oinkbarf is its technical name. Here was this flu in Mexico, travelling easily between people, killing 10% of its victims, most of whom were between 25 and 45. Hank, I find it alarming when people between 25 and 45 die of flu, first off, because that’s the same thing that happened during the pandemic of 1918, which killed more people than all of World War II. And secondly, because, Hank, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but it so happens that I am between 25 and 45! So, of course, I was extremely alarmed. But then, since then it turns out that people may have been slightly overreacting. Uh, it appears for instance that oinkbarf does not kill 10% of its victims, but closer to 1%. And also it appears they kill not just those between 25 and 45, but, y’know, just people generally. Now Hank, I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m still a little bit terrified of oinkbarf. In fact, that’s probably why I’m calling it oinkbarf. But what interests me is why we’re all so afraid of it. I mean, obviously, there’s the fact that if 10% of people who got it actually required hospitalisation, we would, like, run out of hospital beds in short order and everyone would freak out. But my suspicion is that our fear of pandemic goes deeper than that. What pandemic forces us to think about is the fact that not only am I going to die, and you’re going to die, but everyone’s going to die. And in fact, there will come a time when there are no human beings left to remember that there were ever human beings. Which is, I’m willing to acknowledge, a little bit alarming. Hank, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold 2 opposing ideas in the mind at the same time. In that same essay, he wrote,” I must hold in balance the sense of the futility of effort, and the sense of the necessity to struggle.” But in general, the way that we respond to the futility of effort is by, y’know, ignoring it. So I just don’t think about the fact that someday that no one will read Shakespeare, let alone my books. Even though it is an Edgar Award winner. I don’t think pandemics make us afraid of death, I think they make us afraid of oblivion. They force us to grapple with the futility of effort. Also, they make us barf, which isn’t fun either. Hank, nerdfighters, wash your hands, cover your coughs, and find a way to hold in balance the futility of effort with the necessity to struggle. Hank, I, for one, am gonna keep struggling on. Ergo, you’ll see me on Tuesday.


  • Reply serafinassong May 25, 2012 at 4:18 am

    "Me and you…mostly me." Any other Book of Mormon nerdfighters out there?

  • Reply Maddy Otto May 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Seriously, John Green, way to make TFIOS references before they were cool.

  • Reply Victas June 18, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    put bows on the bust and put make-up on it -then take it of when 'real' people might see….

  • Reply Aida Barberena June 23, 2012 at 7:17 am

    I love watching this videos (because ive been a NF for only like a year and a half) and remembering what was i doing when this videos where happening. In this specific case, I remember being in school around june and surprisingly have been told that we got a whole week free cause of the swine flu. And it was the exams week so.. Since it didnt became a pandemic, That really ruled haha DFTBA

  • Reply Neda Valcheva June 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    00:17 "You and me, but mostly me–" musical theatre nerds?

  • Reply Lexyan23 July 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

    My thoughts exactly!

  • Reply Neda Valcheva July 3, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Yay, I'm not alone!

  • Reply Kenny M. July 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    When John said "PANIC!", an ad came up on the screen that said "4 signs of a heart attack"

  • Reply Liz Campbell July 18, 2012 at 2:37 am

    I would be afraid to yell in an airport.

  • Reply Saminamfuhs July 20, 2012 at 7:12 am

    WHOOO! On my journey back through time this is my 500th VlogBros video! Also OinkBarf should have caught on.

  • Reply SilverIlly July 22, 2012 at 1:47 am

    There's also a brief reference to oblivion in Katherines, which of course is about mattering, so that makes sense. I think maybe oblivion is something John's put a lot of thought into during his life.

  • Reply Grace Franklyn July 23, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Whenever he says '10%of the population', I cant help but think of the Master saying to the Toclophane, 'Kill 10% of the population' and seeing what a disaster that was. This makes me scares of H1N1.

  • Reply almostheroine July 29, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Oh TFiOS references. I love them.

  • Reply almostheroine July 29, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Well John, if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.

  • Reply Peta Hillier July 30, 2012 at 8:12 am

    You know you're a real nerdfighter if, in the first second of this video you know where John is and what he's going to say about his location.

  • Reply fuliajulia July 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I got H1N1 back when it was a big deal…IT SUCKED!

  • Reply hopawaylittlebunny August 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    ha. he's got something in between his teeth. ha ha.

  • Reply Laura Norda August 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    I wonder whether he should be shouting PANIC in an airport :o.

  • Reply Carey Elaine August 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    So many thoughts and ideas in this video that are repeated in TFiOS…

  • Reply user4567897654 September 18, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Some of the lines in this video remind me of a book….I can't remember the author, but I think it was called something like "The Fart in Our Butts".

  • Reply paperpancakes October 19, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Both. The Flu Pandemic of 1918 killed approximately 18 million people worldwide, while the casualities of WWII and the holocaust add up to about 12 million.

  • Reply NERDSareTHEfuture October 20, 2012 at 3:44 am

    wow that sucks ok thanks.

  • Reply Jay Donnelly November 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I know its late but I would give the Edgar bust to hank for his birthday

  • Reply Just Plain Something November 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Speaking of oblivion, I just finished TFiOS and cried.

  • Reply kittyria7 November 18, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    I think there needs to be an airport playlist as there are so many of them.

  • Reply scarabbi November 21, 2012 at 9:37 am

    If he's really worried about the inevitability of human oblivion, I have a book he can read on that topic. Conveniently, I'm fairy certain he has or can easily obtain a copy.

  • Reply princesskatie333 November 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I remember this. I got the swine flu and so did all my sisters. We spent an entire week on the couch with high fevers and threw up every couple of minutes. But we survived. My school had about like 40 percent of the student body and teachers out sick. That sucked.

  • Reply strangeswift November 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    One could immure the Edgar Allan Poe bust…

  • Reply awesomesheen December 27, 2012 at 8:18 am


  • Reply San Fels January 13, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    You deserve a hug, many hugs.

  • Reply Nikifuj908 January 27, 2013 at 7:32 am

    0:18 Did John Green just predict "The Book of Mormon"?

  • Reply Jennifer Apter February 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    When are you coming to Australia again?! Please tell me it's soon! D:

  • Reply kikibirdball February 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    My doctor just told me i have a strain of swine flu at the moment

  • Reply Rose Violet February 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    When he said the Mystery Writers of America, I thought he was talking about secret writers in the States…

  • Reply editingpractice March 11, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Oink Barf. Oh, John.

  • Reply CalindaSharisse March 17, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    I can see his pores and something about that makes me consciously aware of the fact that John is a human somewhere in the world and not just a person on the internet that I will most likely never meet. That and the content of the video is making me bug out a teeny bit.

  • Reply mustardsfire22 April 14, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Wonder what John's reaction to Contagion was? Soryy, wonder what was John's reaction to Contagion. Stupid grammar always messing up my comments!

  • Reply Theresa O'Brien May 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    I'm not sure if you know this john, but the swine flu virus IS the Spanish influenza virus and also really really closely related to bird flu. It's the new name that freaks everyone out, also thats why old people weren't getting sick from it, a lot of them have been exposed to it.

  • Reply Emrigael A May 8, 2013 at 11:46 am


  • Reply Veronika May 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    I remember the swine flu panic! That was scary for a while

  • Reply Kri May 25, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    #450: If I had an Edgar Allen Poe bust I would just place my Edgar Allen Poe collection under it so it looks like Edgar Allen Poe is holding his works… Boring I know, but piratical.

  • Reply Amber Riffle May 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I remember the swine flu well. Those were the worst two weeks of quarantine in my life. Ugh. Oinkbarf is not nearly a strong enough word to describe how awful it was!

  • Reply Ben Allen June 5, 2013 at 3:36 am

    well, if you have a bust of Edgar Allan Poe, you obviously need to mount it above your chamber door.

  • Reply PandDaBaby June 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    TFiOS!!!!!!!!! Fear of oblivion!

  • Reply Christopher Sedlak June 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    It really bugs me when you're depressive John, but more over it bugs me when you are wrong.
    I think it's a pretty broad assumption to say that one day there will be no humans left, since as you may have noticed there are 7 Billion of us and counting, and as a species we're really good at not dieing.
    The world will eventually end as a result of being boiled by the sun, but we have 5.6 billion years before that, and since we got from having no flight to the moon in 100years, I think we'll make it.

  • Reply 9ronweasly7 June 19, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Not many guys own a bust…

  • Reply Nerdfighter5 June 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    "They make us fear oblivion." ~John Green
    "I fear oblivion. I fear it like the proverbial blind man who's afraid of the dark." ~Augustus Waters

  • Reply ptb415 June 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

  • Reply Victoria Maras July 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    "There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings left to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will have been for naught…And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that's what everyone else does.

  • Reply JessiFlow99 July 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I had swine flu once, and surprisingly, it wasn't as bad as the normal flu if you don't count the really high fever I had.

  • Reply Keith Reece July 12, 2013 at 6:20 am

    How big is your bust?
    *context is everything*

  • Reply Robert Marks July 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    i hope im not the first person to think he should put the Poe bust above his Chamber Door

  • Reply Tobey B. July 24, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    The peanut butter face in the suggestions is following me. Why is this happening?

  • Reply Theodore Jones July 30, 2013 at 2:14 am

    Step 1: Look up in Google "xkcd Swine Flu"
    Step 2: You are welcome!

  • Reply Theodore Jones July 30, 2013 at 2:15 am


  • Reply SketchLea f August 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    It was even scarier when my friend's sibling had it…

  • Reply SketchLea f August 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    The fear of oblivion + knowing that we all will not exist in the future= The Fault In Our Stars

  • Reply jyjryu22799 September 16, 2013 at 5:03 am

    Oh my god. Tfios themes! Ah!!

  • Reply Abby Byington September 19, 2013 at 2:48 am

    seriously i think hes one of the greatest human in this generation

  • Reply WurdBendur September 27, 2013 at 12:59 am

    I'm just a Poe bust from a Poe family.

  • Reply Jayme Paige October 7, 2013 at 2:32 am

    It just makes me want to cry when he makes TFIOS referances without knowing he's doing it '_'

  • Reply TrebleGirl13 October 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fault in Our Stars quote before the book's inception! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Omijkngvkjafhgldjk I can't even-

  • Reply Gay commie November 14, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Put the bust in your living room cus its awsome

  • Reply Terence Clark December 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    If there is one silver lining on the grey cloud that was oinkbarf (which my family was fortunate enough to contract) it was the term oinkbarf, which I sadly have only recently been exposed to (get it, exposed to? sigh).  And now with oinkbarf passing quietly into oblivion, the term is following it down.  I can't believe I miss some component of a transmissable disease.

  • Reply Emily Black December 13, 2013 at 5:40 am


  • Reply RvenclawPadawan January 4, 2014 at 1:14 am

    It's interesting how everyone gets so excited when John mentions something that he later uses in TFIOS. Like it makes me wonder what future commenters will be flipping out over when he writes future books that deal with other philosophical concepts that he's mentioned throughout the videoblog.
    By the way it also makes me SUPER HAPPY when he does this stuff it makes me do an internal happy dance I am not exempt just interested in People Doing Things And Why

  • Reply james taylor January 12, 2014 at 5:15 am

    i thought it was ww1 not 2 

  • Reply WhiteAsianGurl February 16, 2014 at 2:18 am

    My mom walked in on me watching this and was genuinely concerned about my watching a 30-some year old man talk and stare into a camera without blinking. Oops.

  • Reply Owen22 February 18, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Ok god. John was so fat!

  • Reply Lindsey Hewitt April 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    A TFiOS quote before it was even published!!!

  • Reply Julie Graves April 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm


  • Reply Laura Clarke May 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I had a horrible cold/flu like thing, that I still won't admit was swine flu. What made it much more tolerable was the reaction from other commuters in central London, they would hear me cough, look around and then back away. What wasn't so much fun was the colleague that wouldn't speak to me unless she was covering the bottom half of her face with a piece of paper, presumably in case of germs, it wasn't just a thing she did.

  • Reply Sarah Chitwood June 7, 2014 at 3:44 am

    The complete and utter foreshadowing of TFiOS in this video is both alarming and fantastic, whether intended or not. 😀

  • Reply sami withacamera June 10, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    tfios ideas oh my goodness. 

  • Reply Fangirl^2 June 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    cough TFIOS reference cough

  • Reply Marie Ohlinger June 27, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    The (amusing?) thing about this video, is when it was posted, I was suffering from H1N1.While it may not be fatal, nerdfighters I can promise you this, it certainly felt fatal.

  • Reply Grace Anne Gasperson July 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Put it on the top of your chamber door with a stuffed raven on its head.

  • Reply Alli Crumley July 25, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Given where John is right this moment (with Bill Gates), this video is rather topical. I love it when the circle is unbroken. 

  • Reply Michael Hessel July 28, 2014 at 1:04 am

    The difference between oink-barf and Ebola is that Ebola Zaire killed 90% of the people who were lucky enough to contract it while oink-barf was thought to kill 10%.

  • Reply Alli Crumley July 30, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Oh, I'm remembering this now. I was in Texas visiting my family and had a teeny baby and the news was covered in it. 

  • Reply J-Dubb's Theatre August 2, 2014 at 3:12 am

    Oh yeah, the Swine Flu year. I remember, I did a video that year about a guy contracting the swine flu and turning into a zombie. It was basically about the beginning of a zombie apocalypse, but from more of a "Kafka's Metamorphosis" perspective.

  • Reply _RebeccaAwesome August 15, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Hazel's thoughts on not fearing oblivion. (:

  • Reply Sara Bennett August 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm


  • Reply Alanna R. September 10, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I love watching old vlogbrothers videos and seeing stuff from John's books that had not yet been published. You can see how much he cares about these ideas, that his mind held them for this many years.

  • Reply Ruth Moore September 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    TFIOS quoting before tfios even existed…..what an awful world it was when we knew nothing of Hazle Grace and Augustus.

  • Reply albee1717 October 7, 2014 at 5:48 am

    I appreciate all comments from fellow nerd fighters, however most of these are incorrect. John's statement on oblivion correlates to the views posed by Augustus, not Hazel. Fear of oblivion was still relevant before TFIOS was published, and though it is an uncomfortable word, it is also an important one- I believe it is the only word that can explain the sensation or experience of what instances in one's reality the are not conscious of. 

  • Reply Shea Elliott October 9, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Ebola… That spread and now I know about it. Weird how you learned about it so long ago and NOW it is a major issue in Africa.

    And on to Swine flu… I was in 4th grade and I got it, along with almost EVERYONE else in my class. I either had it for 3 1/2 days or 4 1/2 days(at least that's how long I was out of school for). I remember I had a sub that day in school, and said that I wasn't feeling well, and that I felt EXTREMELY sick, and she just said(it was right before lunch) "Oh you're probably just hungry, just eat something and you'll probably feel better."(something like that) But I insisted I was NOT okay, and when I went to the nurse, she saw me took my temperature and said- "You're going home."… Take that sub, I WAS RIGHT.
    And just to prove how right I was after that, pretty much RIGHT after I got home, I threw up… Good timing! Swine Flu though, was the exact OPPOSITE of fun.

    And John, you provided some inspiration right there in this video for TFIOS. FANTASTIC


  • Reply singingwriting December 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    It's funny how now Ebola is a big threat and he had no idea of this in 2009.

  • Reply corwulfattero February 3, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    the ideas that spawned TFiOS!! 😀

  • Reply Erin Awesome June 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    You could put a hat on a Bust of Edgar Allen Poe, (I really hope I spelled that right, if you wish to correct my spelling please do but please be kind, I am dyslexic)

  • Reply Sarah July 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Grey speckled walls= airport

  • Reply bridget fama August 30, 2015 at 2:53 am

    haha i had swine flu in 2009 and i'm not dead. yay!

  • Reply Jorge Frederson November 25, 2015 at 4:52 am

    "Everyone is going to die' – John Green – In an Airport

  • Reply Grace Andersen November 30, 2015 at 3:48 am

    give it to my teacher… eap is her model, the person she looks up to.

  • Reply Sandra de Vries January 17, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Okay, I'm going to die, of hayfever, today, I don't want to be buried.

  • Reply Aweis Kassim July 11, 2016 at 1:42 am

    World War 1

  • Reply Scott Korin August 14, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Honestly the Swine Flu was not that bad.

    I mean, it was bad , but not THAT bad.

  • Reply Gwendolyn H August 30, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Oink barf, tweet barf, what's next? Moo barf? God forbid: Bark Barf?

  • Reply unicorn dude October 28, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    What can you do with a poe bust?

  • Reply RockismyAir June 18, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    I love the word "oinkbarf".

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