Non Sequitur: Sea Monkeys

If you’re a mammal whose large, four-chambered heart has been pumping blood for more than twenty years, odds are you remember Sea Monkeys. In the 1970’s, Sea Monkeys were hawked on the back cover of 72% of all comic books sold in the United States. 1Pretty shocking, if you believe made up statistics. As a child I was bombarded with images of the shockingly humanoid creatures, naked from webbed foot to crowned head. Mother and father Sea Monkey cavorted beneath the surface with their two little Sea Monkey children. How could I not want a family of these amazing creatures for my very own?

Eventually, I purchased my very own Sea Monkeys (from Pamida, a store that has long-since closed), but I may as well have fed the money to the seagulls that congregated in the McDonald’s parking lot. In my eagerness to create instant life, I misread the instructions and failed to wait the required twenty-four hours between purifying the water and adding the eggs. 2According to the Wikipedia entry on Sea Monkeys, the two-step process involves a bit of mis-direction, as the eggs are actually in the packet that claims to purify the water. Convinced that I’d killed off the entire colony of aquatic simians—and still harboring unrealistic expectations as to what the creatures would look like—I dumped the entire thing down the drain the following day.

It was not until I was well into adulthood that I encountered actual Sea Monkeys, at work of all places. In the late 1990’s, there was a little more latitude about what could and could not be kept in one’s cubicle; plants (which are still allowed) and small fishbowls were not an uncommon sight, and one nostalgia-loving co-working proudly displayed her Sea Monkeys. She had not trained them in any way, so the Sea Monkey circus I often imagined in my childhood remained only a dream. Nonetheless, there they were: brine shrimp, flitting about in the plastic aquarium.

As an adult, I am often tempted to relive moments from my childhood. When I see that The SciFi Channel is showing an episode of The Incredible Hulk, or CMT is rerunning The Dukes of Hazzard, I occasionally tune in, hoping to recapture some of that childhood wonder. Almost invariably, this is the equivalent of kicking my inner child square in the crotch. Through the cynical lens of maturity, the layer of awesome surrounding so much of what I loved as a child is revealed to be nothing more than glitter glue.

This was especially true with Sea Monkeys, as the curtain of illusion was never drawn all the way back when I was a child and I never truly realized the truth; when I first saw those Sea Monkeys on my co-worker’s desk, my inner child expected that cavorting family of crown-headed, web-footed humanoids and instead saw Artemia salina. Doubling over in pain, eyes watering and face red, my inner child collapsed to the floor of my psyche, where he writhed and mewled until I could get to a comic shop and pick up the latest issue of Captain America.

You can still buy Sea Monkeys. The franchise has expanded to include, among other things, action figures, ensuring that another generation of fresh-faced children is crushed by a reality that doesn’t—in any way, shape or form—resemble the fantasy.

1 Pretty shocking, if you believe made up statistics.
2 According to the Wikipedia entry on Sea Monkeys, the two-step process involves a bit of mis-direction, as the eggs are actually in the packet that claims to purify the water.

Local Man Helps Scientists Prove Existence of Ego

Every once in a while, I write up a fake news article designed to mimic the style of The Onion. I wrote this one a couple of years ago, before existed. I’m pretty sure we’ve all encountered our own Derek Thibideaux at some point. Enjoy.

“The ego as we formerly understood it was a psychological construct. Today, we know differently. Today, we have evidence to suggest a physical manifestation of the ego.”

So said Dr. Raymond Smithfield at a press conference yesterday. Doctor Smithfield is a theoretical physicist at the esteemed Mauser-Hopkins Institute of Physical Sciences in Ellsworth, New Hampshire. The new evidence Dr. Smithfield refers to comes in the form of Derek Thibideaux, a sales clerk at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Mentor, Ohio. Thibideaux is regarded by his co-workers to be the single most self-involved person on the face of the planet.

“He’s got an opinion about everything,” said one co-worker, who preferred to remain anonymous. “No one can stand to even talk to him, because if you say one wrong thing he’ll rant for a good hour about why you’re wrong, how stupid you are, and why his point-of-view should be adopted by everyone. God, his ego is huge.”

“‘Huge’ is something of an understatement,” said Dr. Smithfield. “The size of Mr. Thibideaux’s ego defies explanation. What we can say is that it has a direct physical effect on the world as we know it. This an unprecedented discovery.”

Specifically, Derek Thibideaux’s ego exerts gravitation pull on everything around him. “Mr. Thibideaux weighs less than three hundred pounds, but our instruments have detected a gravitational field around his body.” The mass required to generate such a field, says Dr. Smithfield, “would be incomprehensible to the layperson. We literally have no point of reference for such a thing. It’s far less than that of Earth’s moon, but far greater than that of any man-made object or structure on our planet.”

The field is strong enough that Dr. Smithfield and his team were able to detect it without instruments. “The effect this gravitational force has on the human body is rather unusual,” he said, “typically manifesting in a mild nausea.”

“Derek’s presence is generally enough to make me ill,” said co-worker Melissa Hadley. “He’s so self-centered, I can hardly stand to be around him.”

“This is really quite a common complaint about severely egotistical individuals,” confirms Dr. Smithfield. “Until now, it’s always been assumed that this sensation of illness was merely figurative or – at the very worst – psychosomatic. Our findings reveal that it is very real, and that there is a physiological explanation for it.”

The team anticipated some skepticism. “It really is an unprecedented notion,” Dr. Smithfield admits, “but we’re confident that all our bases have been covered.”

Dr. Edmund Whittier headed the project. “We have been extremely careful and systematic throughout the discovery and quantification processes,” he said. “We certainly didn’t want to go public with this without due diligence. All other factors have been taken into account. The only possible source of this gravitational anomaly is Derek’s hyper-inflated ego.”

Not surprisingly, Thibideaux’s ego has grown significantly larger since the findings were verified. “Quite honestly,” said Dr. Smithfield, “we’re a little concerned. The gravitational force created by Derek’s ego increases proportional with his self-esteem.”

Dr. Whittier echoed his colleague’s concerns. “As self-centered as Derek is at present, this new attention simply exacerbates the problem. We’ve already found that gravitational field is growing. While this field causes mild nausea in humans, it can kill smaller animals, such as lab rats, and it’s only going to get stronger.”

Strong enough, Smithfield and Whittier theorize, to eventually bring about the destruction of the planet Earth, and perhaps even reshape the solar system as we now know it. “At the present rate of growth, we could see widespread loss of life in a few months. By the end of the year, Derek’s ego will be strong enough to alter the orbit of man-made satellites.”

There’s no telling how powerful this force could eventually become. “Derek knows that people are interested in him, that he is special, and this awareness serves only to feed his already astounding ego,” says Dr. Smithfield. “Whether the attention is positive or negative, Derek’s sense of self-importance is increasing exponentially. That could cause Earth’s moon to plummet into the planet, pull Venus and Mars into Earth orbit, or even send us careening into the sun.”

Efforts to reverse or even slow the growth of Thibideaux’s ego have proven unsuccessful. “Derek’s ego is, as best as we can tell, feeding on itself. We have experimented with sexual rejection, social ridicule and a number of other tried-and-true ego-deflating mechanisms with absolutely no effect,” said Dr. Smithfield. “We have been unable to find a way to negatively impact his self-esteem.”

“Great,” said Melissa Hayward. “As if he wasn’t overbearing before. It’s going to be practically impossible to work with him now.” Hayward is one of several female co-workers whose sexual rejection failed to damage Thibideaux’s ego.

“However you look at it, this is one of the most significant scientific findings in our lifetime,” said Dr. Whittier, “but we don’t know whether to call it a breakthrough in physics or psychology.”

[Editor’s Note: Though Derek Thibideaux repeatedly made himself available for interviews, none of our reporters could stand to talk to him for more than a few seconds. He really is an arrogant, self-absorbed, condescending prick.]