Friday, December 25, 2009

Crimbozilla Appears: Festive Holiday Monster from Beneath the Sea!!

The ocean floor and its numerous volcanic vents have traditionally long since been one of the last things most human beings thought to concern themselves with - particularly around the holiday season. It's time to grab some wrapping paper and get your gift on, then maybe grab a little viscous courage in some egg nog and get your drink on. Upon imbibing enough of that courage, it's time to find some suspended leaves to hang out under and get your sexual harassment and slapped-in-the-face on. It's a holiday tradition. Most people need help.

This year, humanity could make no greater mistake than ignoring the wild realm of the bottom of the sea. No, the sand golems and see-through fish aren't rising up to enslave humanity for the fourth time - you'd think we'd have learned by now, but no - does the air pressure feel like it's drastically changed lately? Unless that happens, they're not coming back anytime soon. (Unless they invent some kind of specialized pressure-suits, in which case, we're all doomed.) The threat lurking beneath the waves at this, the end of the decade, is perhaps both the deadliest and most festive mankind has ever faced.

That is to say, the arrival of Crimbozilla! First detected by the USNOAA in 1997, the nature of Crimbozilla long remained a mystery until his sudden rise from the cover of miles of ocean to cross the Gulf of Mexico and set foot on land at the Florida panhandle. Local residents weren't sure what to make of the 100-foot tall red-and-green lizardman as it stomped their neighborhoods flat. Local gas station owner Vernon Hammett commented, "If that giant asshole ruins my light show, there'll be hell to pay!"

The scientific community was dumbfounded that such a creature as Crimbozilla could stalk the globe without their notice, having explored and mastered the seas in ways that would make Jacques Cousteau weep. As such, skepticism soon grew, leading scientists suspecting that Crimbozilla's timely holiday appearance and festively colored scales were planned - Crimbozilla had to have been engineered by some sort of nefarious Christmas mastermind.

When reached for comment at the North Pole, celebrated rogue Uncle Santa denied any link between himself and an aquatic genetic research lab recently discovered within the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch - despite the elves that staffed it all being card-carrying members of SantaCorp. When he was questioned further, Uncle Santa became belligerent and hurled a bottle of his patented Ho Ho Holiday Lager at a journalist from Reuters and ended the press conference early.

Three more journalists were later hospitalized after they were beaten senseless by surly talking reindeer who discovered them snooping around the outskirts of Uncle Santa's heavily fortified arctic compound. Such extreme actions are legally permissible in the private territory of Santaland where SantaCorp is headquartered, but only when said actions are carried out by legal citizens of the territory.

As Crimbozilla made his way further inland, he stomped through the city of Tallahassee, pausing only occasionally to pelt the skyline with hails of candy canes he breathed. (As opposed to fire or ice or anything remotely useful to a gigantic rampaging monster.) The children were overjoyed even as highrises collapsed around them.

The US military attempted to mobilize against Crimbozilla as he crashed through Georgia, only to find that there wasn't a single enlisted man or woman willing to take up arms against the lovable behemoth. Lieutenant Nathan Portly told The New York Times that, "I just can't shoot at that guy. My kids love him too much." All other soldiers interviewed echoed his sentiments, many of them overwhelmed with childlike nostalgia at the sight of the festive lizard monster. "I just want to climb onto his back and live there forever!" said Cadet Lindsey Merrick. Cadet Merrick was referring to the actual gingerbread village populated by apparently sentient cookie-people that made their home on Crimbozilla's back.

As Crimbozilla went out of his way to demolish every major city in North Carolina, he scattered his surroundings with snow laced with hormones inducing joy in all those subjected to it, causing the notoriously cranky hill folk and notoriously corrupt banking executives alike to emerge from their respective burrows to fill the air with the cheerily discordant sound of improvised Christmas caroling. This was reportedly incredibly annoying to all who did not celebrate the holiday, as well as those who'd taken the time to cultivate a taste in music beyond "whatever's on the radio."

Crimbozilla neared New York City by late morning on December 24th, causing many to both celebrate and dread the prospect of a Crimbozilla rampage through the city perhaps resulting in the greatest Christmas in human history. Many wondered, how exactly could you could you top a giant monster who spread happiness and joy with every bit of destruction he caused? In England, a quiet ceremony was held where the Queen knighted Crimbozilla in spirit, having been unable to draw his attention away from his unrelenting trek across the eastern United States at a time when the British isles were facing a paralyzing shortage of holiday spirit in the face of a devastating figgy pudding shortage.

Early that morning, Japanese researchers mobilized their own artificial monster to subdue Crimbozilla - Kuwako the 90-foot silkworm moth. Demonstrating an astonishing lack of foresight in their choice of giant bugs to engineer, as a domesticated insect, the docile Kuwako showed no interest in leaving her massive silk cocoon and only responded to offerings of mulberry leaves from the SDF. As such, Operation Tone It Down, Buddy, was a nonstarter.

When Crimbozilla at last reached New York City, he took an unexpected turn - knocking several Long Island homes into the Atlantic Ocean - and instead trampled Rochester into the ground. Nuclear supermonster experts suggested that avoiding the Hollywood cliche of wrecking New York City indicated a previously undetermined advanced intelligence in the jolly holiday beast. Several rumors began to circulate on the internet that Crimbozilla held the secret of eternal life somewhere in the gumdrop castle atop his head.

Shocking Americans with the notion that their nation was not the only one in the world, Crimbozilla crossed the Canadian border, leaving Rochester behind as a pit of overwhelming joy and peppermint-scented death. Crimbozilla sneezed a torrent of expertly-prepared and carefully-wrapped gourmet chocolates down onto Winnipeg before setting his sights on Toronto.

Toronto mayor David Miller teamed up once again with actress, director, and political activist Sarah Polley and staged a protest, forming a circle around the vicinity of the city to make it clear to the incoming Crimbo colossus that while they appreciated the cheer he stood for, they were a culturally diverse people and would prefer he respect that - also, nobody was too keen on the rampant destruction he brought with him everywhere he went. So moved by this heartful protest was the nation's beaver population that they converged on the city and constructed a glorious impenetrable domed dam structure as so to hold off seemingly unavoidable holiday horror. That dome - constructed entirely from love, and also really sturdy logs and some twigs - was the only thing Crimbozilla could not pass.

Following this show of unprecedented solidarity - completely one upping that time that moose looked at a disgusted Republican tourist from America threateningly when he set foot outside of Alberta - Crimbozilla once again turned northward. Just barely missing Ottawa, Crimbozilla crunched his way through the frozen snows of Quebec. The American media stopped covering Crimbozilla at this point, as there were far more important things - like after-Christmas sales - to cover. Besides, who cares about a giant monster traipsing across part of the globe if they aren't on US soil anymore?

To much disappointing, Crimbozilla ignored Montreal and made a beeline for the Labrador Sea. As it became more apparent that Crimbozilla's destination was somewhere in the arctic, the scientific community once again hurled accusations - mostly conjecture - at Uncle Santa, insisting that he knew something the rest of us didn't. In response, Uncle Santa affirmed that it was sheer coincidence that Crimbozilla was heading toward his territory, suggesting that perhaps Crimbozilla wanted to meet the grand ruler of the holiday season himself. When a BBC reporter crossed a line by asking Uncle Santa if he'd ever stop treating the public like idiots, he threatened to use his time machine to go back and cancel Christmas that day. That shut everybody up.

Crimbozilla disappeared somewhere in the arctic, leaving many to wonder if we wouldn't perhaps see him emerge again in time for the holidays in 2010. By the end of Crimbozilla's rampage, the body count was somewhere between five and six million. Nobody really seemed to mind too much.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How Happy are the Forgetful

Hey, it's already Christmas Eve. I said there would be more posts, and this will be the first! Several more massively substantive ones are in the works, and I'm still trying to come up with a couple of holiday season ones for this week. To say the least, I'll be posting a lot more than usual to make up for lost time this and next week.

I could do a healthcare followup, but at this time of the year, most don't want to think about the sad turns that took, since we sacrificed many of the best things we were fighting for just to appease Joe Lieberman (Amongst others) in the Senate, and a large number of people will continue to go without healthcare access and inevitably die because of the compromises made. (It's kind of funny how when compromise comes up in government, it's always from the Democrats, while the Republicans seem to believe they can simply get away with outright obstructing government function now, showing how broken our congressional system is getting, as slanted against the interests of the American people as it now is.) We're turning "healthcare reform" into a giveaway to the insurance industry, propping up a system citizens need to be able to circumvent, as healthcare does not work as a for-profit industry. But of course, like all things noble, the right-wing would have to turn this into a farce, their interests vested elsewhere than the best interests of the people. At this rate, I'm a still pretty skeptical that anything will get passed and that we'll see anything resembling meaningful change due to obstructionists who couldn't care less about healthcare access as a human right. As a sort of federal Xmas gift for the American people, the Senate bill passed its final hurdle this morning - though even Howard Dean has said that it wasn't worth passing as it stood - so we've got something to expand coverage to another 30 million people. Likewise, getting something passed is technically a victory over obstructionists and lays the groundwork for future revision and work on improving our healthcare system, since even in having lost the public option at this point - one of the most important things previously on the table - that's not say we can't bring it back at some point, perhaps if we can elect a congress actually interested in representing the people instead of running the country into the ground for corporate profiteering. (This is me acknowledging that I probably will have to leave this country sometime in the next several years to have any hope of living in a decent first world nation where standard of living is actually considered important - more so than corporate money.) So overall, I'm displeased about what we've ended up with, but at the same time, my feelings are mixed - we're teetering on the brink of what is technically at least some sort of reform despite all the obstructionist efforts to stop it entirely, a lot of non-insurance industry people do still stand to benefit. (We still have to reconcile the House and Senate bills in the spring before we'll see anything cross Obama's desk, but we've got two bills passed now, in the least. And I have a feeling we'll see the right fight to hold onto the House bill's Stupak-Pitts amendment, which seeks to decisively eliminate a woman's right of choice by removing the ability to purchase health insurance that covers abortion. Downright misogynistic.) But it does have to be said that our obsession with corporatism and the idea of corporatism as the "free market" guiding everything winning against humane thought once again is never pleasant to see. That kind of thinking - and seemingly intense disinterest in reform in China - made the Copenhagen climate change summit into a sad farce as well, and I hate to think about how much shrieking we're going to hear about climate change legislation here next year. (Particularly from the crowd convinced that those leaked emails including terms like "trick" and "hide the decline" that global warming deniers want to take as proof that somehow industrial pollution is having no negative effect on the world at all and it's all a big hoax. All people who have no understanding of the science, nor any interest in the objective reality of what's happening in all its complexity - it's sad that these bottom of the barrel conspiracy theories have been brought into the mainstream by today's furious Republicans in this country. They wouldn't be so angry if they actually took the time to understand what it was Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin were trying so hard to get them steamed up about.) Irate, further disillusioned political tangent over.

Time to cut to the chase instead of rambling as much. You're all overdue for another of my science posts. You can't get enough of them. In fact, I'm your only source for science news. (Don't ask me how I know that - I just know.) So it's time to drop a few more brain-factoids on you. Just like that one dream you had. You're weird.

Back in early November, a study was published in the Australian Science journal's November/December issue on the effects of good and bad moods. The study was carried out through inducing happy and sad moods in the research subjects through film viewings and recollections of positive and negative events.

Their findings included that people in negative moods were more attentive to and critical of their surroundings than happier people, who were more inclined to accept things they were told at face value. (You've heard it here first - happy people are suckers. All of them.) The findings also suggested that sadness "promotes information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations."

Some of you happy-mongers out there might be yelling, "Hey, come on! Happiness can't be an altogether bad thing at your monitor right now!" Stop it. I can't hear you through the internet. See how happy people are!? Anyway, you should be happy to know that their findings also found that positive moods "promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts." Good for you. You're more pleasant to be around and all these other good things - though good arguments can be made for unhappiness and creativity, as a post coming in the near future will also discuss. (Noticing the recurring trend of the power of negativity on this blog? Have a cookie.)

Despite these findings on happiness, they also found that "negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking paying greater attention to the external world." It almost seems to suggest that happiness forms sort of a shell around people that helps them filter and somewhat disconnect from the outside world. The rest of us are raw nerves who know exactly what's what. (Or so the findings in this one particular study seem to suggest. Let's all not forget to wear our critical thinking scientific method caps. The last time we forgot them, we decided getting hamsters to smoke cigarettes was a good idea - let us not repeat that tragedy.) Speaking of which, one the experiments that made up the study entailed asking the subjects to judge the truth of various rumors and urban legends, and - as you'd expect from the rest of these findings - those in negative moods were less likely to believe the statements presented to them.

Those in unpleasant moods were also found less likely to make snap decisions based on racial or religious prejudice - apparently happiness is inherently bigoted (Or that hypothetical 'happiness shell' makes you less likely to care about offending someone with your bigotry.), are you learning anything today? - and were also less likely to make mistakes when recalling events they witnessed. The happier you are, the more you forget, shrouded in your warm fog.

The sour were also found to be better at making their case in written arguments, that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style." Is there no way in which misery cannot better us?

Concluding, study author psychology professor Joseph Forgas (University of New South Wales) stated that "Positive mood is not universally desirable: people in negative mood are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions and are better at producing high-quality, effective persuasive messages."

Begrudgingly, I'll give you that it's probably healthiest for us to live a more centered life where we maintain some sort of balance in our moods - what of one we can - as so to enjoy the positives of the ups and downs of daily human existence. But would this blog be anywhere near as sharp, biting, incisive, and impossible to tear yourself away from if not for my unrelenting negativity? I submit that it would not!

See, wasn't some more negative-thinking science exactly what you wanted for Xmas Eve? Don't worry, I'm going to come up with something weird and comical for Xmas Day within these 24 hours. And I've got a good several quality, substantive posts on the way to close the year - and decade! - on a good note here. Look forward to something goofy and likely inevitably slapdash in the next 13-14ish hours and have an enjoyable holiday, readers!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hey, Where Is That Guy?

I AM NOT A JIVE TURKEY YOU AREYes, I know what you're all thinking. (It's been established at least twenty or thirty times by now that I'm telepathic - through the internet.) This blog needs some more updates. Surely it does! And I have no excuse. November had a lot of stress and distractions, and there's not exactly a shortage of them in December, but I'm going to make a point of writing at least 5 or 6 posts of actual substance here this month.

I just wanted to come by and say that hey, this guy's not dead yet. I've got another goofy negative-humor science one in the pipeline - since midway through last month, technically - and I decided to spare you all another attempt at a Thanksgiving themed goofy short, mostly because last year's was pretty terrible and I couldn't think of anything worth writing this year that wouldn't have inevitably been some kind of stupid rehash. (Tofurkey II: The Tofurkeying: Starring Joe Tofurkey as the Tofurkey. Tofurkey.) You should be thankful I didn't try again.

I'm also undoubtedly going to chuck one or two holiday themed posts at you guys sometime this month. It's tradition, after all. Even if I probably used up all the good ideas the past two holiday seasons. Nothing like a little scraping the bottom of the barrel to flex those brain-fibers!

Also, I went from lurker to actual registered Something Awful goon the other day, so the internet can tremble in fear now as I pretty much just continue to lurk and read the forum instead of posting. I'm passive and observant like that. I trust you've all been surviving without your regular Spiral Reverie fixes. Perhaps getting clean and finding a new lease on life. I'll have to fix that.