Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Death From Above or the Ultimate Spoiler Warning

Warning: this is an extremely long entry.

Today I happened upon an interesting article that put to rest the debate on how dinosaurs were wiped out. Some scientists have theorized about a gigantic volcano in India that released a mega-explosion that essentially turned the world into one gigantic lava pit. Biblical scholars theorize that the dinosaurs missed Noah's last call and were all drowned. Gary Larson thinks that smoking was the cause of the downfall.

Turns out all of these ideas were wrong. According to a 20-year study, a nine-mile wide asteroid slammed into Chicxulub Mexico traveling at a speed of 20 times that of a speeding bullet and hitting the Earth with force that is akin to one billion (with a B) atomic bombs.

The dinosaurs that weren't impacted by the impact were soon dead because of the drastic climate change. Basically the entire planet went Hoth in a matter of days because of the debris that kicked up pretty much blotted out the sun. And since dinosaurs were mostly warm-blooded, they died pretty quickly*.

* The week before my brother left for college he took all of the money that he made working during the summer and told my mother that he was buying a bunch of stuff for college—all of which she vetoed. One of the things on the list was a snake, for some reason he wanted to be “that guy” on your freshman year floor who had a snake. My brother went crazy saying that it was HIS money and he was going to do what HE wanted with it and there was nothing that she could do to stop him.

ANYWAY, he went out and spent a couple hundred bucks on the snake and the heat rock and the tank and brought home the snake. My parents put both of their feet down and told him that he can bring the snake with him to college, but there was no way in hell that it was living under their roof. And since my brother made such a big deal about it being HIS money, he couldn't argue with their logic about THEIR roof and he kept it at his friend's house.

His friend was a moron and felt that since it was August in Massachusetts the snake would be perfectly fine if the tank was near an open window. The snake was dead by morning and my brother was left with a heated rock and an empty tank.

What does this dinosaur story have to do with anything? I'm glad you asked. What if an asteroid was bearing down on us at this very minute and we didn't have a handful of brave Texas oil riggers to blow it up? Would you really want to know that you and everyone that you knew and cared about was about to be wiped off the face of the Earth in a very, very painful way?

And I'm not talking about snarky radio station programming directors playing Def Leppard's “Armageddon It” on a continuous loop.

I'm talking about the intense and insane amount of fear that your life was about to end. And this wouldn't be a plane-crash realization that you were among a small-group of people that were going to die, this is a world-wide cataclysm. I can't think of anything that would effect 100% of the world's population and observing what would happen would be extremely—is interesting the right word choice here? because that's the word I'm going to use—interesting.

The first thing that I would assume that would happen is that there would be no looting, because what's the point? An asteroid is six hours away from blowing the planet to smithereens and you're busy trying to hook up a 60inch flat screen that you swiped from Best Buy? There's going to be nothing on TV and you want your last flickering memory to be a Judge Judy rerun? I don't think so.

Secondly, you'd have to assume that all churches, synagogues and mosques would be jam-packed. Even the atheist and agnostic sets would be heading for the houses of worship—though I bet that there would be one or two who would spend their last moments arguing, “If there was a God, why is He hurling a gigantic boulder at us? Doesn't He love us? How could something who supposedly love us want to wipe us all out.” At that point, you'd be begging for the asteroid to speed up.

While in your house of God, the priest or rabbi or cleric or shaman would probably start trying to calm everyone down, but wouldn't be able to resist getting a few barbs in—especially if the guy is Catholic or Jewish. “Oh, I see that some of you finally remembered where the church is located. Seems pretty convenient that you remembered this once a big rock was hurtling towards the Earth. I'm sure that these last few moments will save your eternal soul.” He'd also probably wish that he had the foresight to bust out the collection plate. At this point, you'd also be begging for the asteroid to speed up.

There would also be a segment of the general population that just won't give a fuck, no matter what happens. These are the people who will be laying in their pools or sitting on a beach chair on their front lawn or roof with a beer in one hand, goading the asteroid into hitting them. “Come on, you stupid space rock, hit me! I dare you to do it, you chicken shit lunar pebble. You're nothing!” After a few hours of screaming at the sky, these are the folks that will be crying the most.

So if you aren't screaming at the sky or going to some sort of church, what would you do? I'd wager that there would be all sorts of arguments amongst the married: “Why do we have to spend the rest of our lives with YOUR family?”

“What do you mean? What's wrong with MY family and why do you think that we'd spend our last hours with YOUR family? Maybe your mother can get one last dig at me.”

Seems like a lot of fun.

Of course as the asteroid is getting closer and closer and people are fearing their impending dooms, a world-wide soul cleansing like no one has ever seen will take place. Remember the scene in “Almost Famous” when the band Stillwater thought that their airplane was going to crash and they just shouted out the worst things that they ever did or thought? It'd be just like that, except on a much, much, much larger scale.

“I' had sex with your brother!”
“Those jeans DO make you look fat!”
“I've always wished that you had a bigger penis!”
“I never understood the plot to 'Synecdoche, New York', I didn't want you to think that I was stupid!”

So not only are you about to die, but you're going to die knowing what everyone really thought about you. Again, at this point you're on your knees begging for that asteroid to speed up.*

* What if the asteroid misses Earth and everyone is saved? Like Stillwater, wouldn't your life be one long, awkward moment after these revelations? There would probably be a ton of newly single people after this near-disaster. “I have a small penis? Well me and my small dick are leaving your gigantic ass!”

All of these reactions are happening on the micro-scale, what about the macro-scale? What if you were stuck at work when the asteroid was falling, you'd have to assume that you'd leave your cubicle and find your family, right? But you know that there would be one jerk boss who would tell you to go back to your desk and finish your project or insist that you punch out.

Every once in awhile you run into someone with a story about their boss that would not admit that 9/11/01 was a different day. People are huddled around computers, radios and TVs while he's screaming at you to get back to work. Its really a very sad defense mechanism and I'm sure that the same type of people would be screaming at their employees to return to their jobs.

Would people who need to be at their jobs stay there? Women would still be in the middle of giving birth or someone might be in the midst of a heart transplant or cancer surgery, would the doctors and nurses stick around or just leave without question. Would cops and firefighters stay at their posts in the case that they're needed?

Twitter, Facebook and any social interactive site would be a complete mess, with people spilling their guts about everything they've ever done and telling everyone how much they love them. Although there would probably be a few of your Facebook friends who would try to get the very last Facebook post before everyone went away.

For some reason, I think that I would be fascinated with what famous people would Tweet. I think that you would finally get to see what celebrities are like when all of the crap is taken away. I'm not sure why that matters to me or what that says about me, but it would be a silver lining in the dark cloud of destruction.

The point of this Blog entry isn't to detail what I think would happen during the end of days, it's centered more around the question: would you rather have the brain capacity that you have right now or would you rather have the walnut-sized brain of a dinosaur and not know that the universe was hitting the reset button?*

* This is probably going to be a long aside, so you can skip over it if you want, but I was thinking about it today and I felt like I had to write it down. Again, if you don't read this self-indulgent part—no offense will be taken, we're still good buddies. When I was in junior high school there were two things that I loved: arcades and baseball. Since I lived near Salisbury (MA) and Hampton (NH) beach there were about a half-dozen arcades within five miles of my house, each had scores of video games. One vacation, my family and I went to visit my cousin in Mt. Vernon, New York and we went to an arcade where I came face-to-face with RBI Baseball.

This game was my 12-year-old fantasy: you could play any of the 26 Major League Baseball teams and instead of random names, they had the actual all-time stars on each team. For example, the Red Sox had Ted Williams in left, Jim Rice DH-ing, Wade Boggs at third, Carlton Fisk catching and Jimmie Foxx manning first base. It was awesome. The only problem was this was literally the only place that I could find this arcade game. They didn't have it any of my home arcades (and I looked high and low).

Aside from liking the stand-up arcade games, I also had the eight-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the one that came with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt and R.O.B. (the Robotic Operated Buddy – and really what the hell good was that thing anyway?). I found out that RBI Baseball was being released as a cartridge and I begged my parents to drive me to Toys R Us and let me spend my Christmas money on it. They did and I remember staring at the box for the entire half-hour it took us to drive home from the Fox Run Mall.

I got home and it was pretty awesome, it wasn't the arcade version (there were 10 teams, eight of which were the 1986 and 1987 division winners and two All-Star teams) but it was awesome none-the-less. For over a year, I played that game every single day and became quite good at it. I got so good that when I would screw up, I'd hit the reset button and start the game over again. I'm not sure why I did that, I probably did so because I was such a geek that I was writing down the stats or something in a notebook, but that's not the point of the story.

One day, I was in a zone. I can't remember the exact day, but I do remember that it was late autumn because I was sitting to the side of my bedroom window and can recall how the light came in. The light shined in my room a certain way in the fall. Anyway, I was the Red Sox and I was cruising past the American League All-Star team. Not only that, but I noticed that I was throwing a perfect game which was at the top of my accomplishments (so sad).

Twenty-six up and twenty-six down, all I had to do was face the AL pitcher Brett Saberhagen (an easy out if there ever was one) and I'd be the master of RBI Baseball (in my own mind). Roger Clemens was mowing people down and I hummed a fastball to former Royals pitcher Brett Saberhagen which he promptly deposited in the right field seats. In all of my games of RBI Baseball, I have never seen a pitcher leave the infield, much less go yard, but there it was: good bye perfect game, good bye no-hitter, good by shut out.

I got the next batter out rather easily, but the game was never the same. An 8-bit video game handed me my first true, punch-in-the-gut, are-you-freaking-kidding-me, monumental disappointment. As pathetic as that sounds, I was really obsessed about this game like nothing before or since.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, would you rather know about your impending doom or would you rather just have it smack you upside the face without any warning? Because I can pretty much guarantee that the dinosaurs weren't completely freaking out when that nine-mile wide asteroid hit. They weren't in some prehistoric church or trying to tweet on their iPhones (stupid lack of thumbs). Most dinosaurs woke up that fateful day, chomped on some leaves or ripped a smaller dinosaur apart, walked around and only paused to look up when the rock was about to hit their rock.

Then it was over.

That's probably the way that I'd like it too. Like I've blogged before, for me, the waiting is the hardest part. I would probably go insane wondering when our time was up and the anticipation would be horrible. I'd probably die a thousand deaths, each more excruciating than the final one--which would probably happen so quickly that we wouldn't even feel it.

I suppose that sometimes ignorance IS bliss.

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