Only in the movies? 

One often imagines one's life as a movie, maybe a romantic comedy in which the main character (you) ends up with the money and the guy or girl in a preapproved, audience-tested happy ending. Maybe you want to thrill to James Bond-level escapades or for your unrelentingly real world to be charmed by a dose of Harry Potterish magic. Everyone hopes their life will imitate art, even if it's just a few scenes from "Girls Gone Wild."

One seldom hopes, however, that life will resemble some goofy, retro sci-fi film in which giant house pests attack ("Empire of the Ants," 1977), or one in which a resurrected prehistoric sea serpent shoots fire ("Reptilicus," 1962). A good rule of thumb seems to be not wishing your life/movie to have any mutated alien beasts in the title. This should hold fast no matter how often you have one of those days when you wish Godzilla would come to life and conveniently take out a small part of town (your ex's house, your ex's lawyer's house, your court-appointed therapist's house).

You seldom hope for that kind of thing, so leave it to Florida to give you what you never hoped you'd get. Our state, which should offer its residents a life no less alluring than its travel videos, has instead given us nothing short of "The Blob," the 1958 classic in which Steve McQueen is menaced by a garbage bag.

Creature feature

The Florida Blob is a black mass lurking off our southwestern coast, one which, according to the California Academy of Sciences (, has been visible since November. The Washington Post recently reported that the Blob reached its densest mass in February and has been dissipating ever since. Still, no one seems to have been able to figure out exactly what made the water turn black. It was thought to be algae, and though fish seem to be keeping their distance from it, the Blob doesn't appear to be killing them off in any alarming numbers.

We live in a world where scientists are able to analyze the colors of the universe like a group of Mary Kay representatives; by assigning numbers to those colors and then averaging them, Johns Hopkins' researchers concluded that outer space is beige, explaining why the universe can be such an intolerable bore. Still, scientists are stymied by the creeping, unidentified mass lurking around our very own coast.

Mad science

This, of course, leaves it to us to try to figure it out. Here, then, are a few theories as to what the Blob might be, using only the instrument that all great scientific theories begin with -- want of anything better to do:

  • An impressive but puzzling installation by Christo.
  • Death has finally figured out where all the old people are.
  • The shadow of an impressively large bather who was not a Slim Fast success story.
  • The Gulf is going Goth.
  • A colony of alien life, proving that those who have been "watching the skies" for UFOswere idiots, but weren't totally wrong, either.
  • The foreshadowing of a disastrous oil spill that might happen if they start drilling off the Florida coast.
  • Giant ink stain from giant, incontinent squid.
  • Alternate ink theory: ink leeching off Democratic 2000 presidential election ballots that were thrown into the ocean.
  • Evil, bored with its "axis," decides to go to spring break in Panama City to meet chicks.
  • Drunk from all the toilets being emptied from cruise ships, ocean gets a tattoo.
  • Massive eyeliner spill by makeup tanker; ship not spotted due to crafty use of concealer.
  • Gulf's relatives from the Black Sea came for the weekend; stayed for six months
  • Creatures from the Black Lagoon upgrade to new digs.
  • Hell overflowing; souls of the damned to be housed temporarily near Tampa.
  • Embarrassed by the fact that people keep saying it covers most of the Earth, water opts for black as a more slimming color, especially with bathing-suit season on the way.

Sure, when fish start turning up with 16 eyes, arms growing out of their backs and a command of Esperanto, we'll discover the Blob was a cloud of toxic chemicals like the one that reduced Scott Carey to the size of a kitten in "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957). But for now, with so much of life being tediously factual, it's kind of fun to be at the center of something that's even better than a good old-fashioned whodunit -- a good old-fashioned whatisit.

There's only one downside: Who wants to be stuck with a theme song like "Beware of the Blob?"

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