Anything a spider can?

April 26, 2002

I hesitate to do this because it’s going to sound as though I’m doing advertising for an upcoming movie, and there’s nothing I find more morally repugnant than advertising–especially when I’m not being paid for it. So if you see the movie, don’t go see it because of anything I said, and if you don’t see the movie, say you’re boycotting it because they’re not paying me. With that said…

When I was a kid I was really big into comic books and comic book heroes, and I have to confess my favorite was Spider-Man. I wanted to be Spider-Man, despite the fact that even then I was afraid of heights. Most of my friends preferred either Superman or Batman, but both of them seemed to me to have too many problems.

Superman was invincible, could fly, shoot laser beams from his eyes, and yet always seemed to have time to rescue cats from trees. I figured with all the crimes in the world Superman must carry around a lot of guilt, especially since it’s statistically probable that while he was rescuing a cat someone was blowing up a building somewhere. Not only would this make him guilty, but it would make people mad too, especially the Animal Control people who make a living rescuing cats from trees.

Batman’s problems were distinctly different. He had a lot of psychological baggage, and dressing up in a costume and fighting crime was a sort of therapy. I wonder why more psychiatrists don’t recommend that. But this barely controlled psychosis also caused him to degenerate in the 1960’s into a deadpan pot-bellied comedian who drank milk all the time and fought weird villains like The Tinkler.

And then of course there’s Wonder Woman, but I think it goes without saying that I could never see myself in a gold lame teddy carrying around a lasso.

But Spider-Man had his problems too. For instance, according to the comic book, he got super powers when he was bitten by a radioactive spider, powers that were supposedly just enhanced forms of powers spiders already had. I read a lot of things other than comic books as a kid, and I knew a lot about spiders, so there were always some things I wondered about. For instance:

-Sticky hands and feet. Spider-Man can climb walls and walk across ceilings as one of his "spider powers". But spiders really don’t have sticky feet. They have little hooks on their feet. And even if Spider-Man had these magically sticky hands and feet, how did they work through his gloves and boots?

-"Spider sense". Now this was pretty cool. Spider-Man (in the old cartoon) would put his hands up next to his head and say, "Spider sense is tingling!" This was a warning of imminent danger. But spiders don’t have "spider sense". Although most have eight eyes, they’re practically blind. They’ve got hairy bodies, and can easily detect changes in air currents. That’s why they can tell when you’re about to bash them with a shoe.

– Web stuff. Peter Parker (Spider-Man’s alter-ego, for you uninitiated) invented his "web stuff" with his home chemistry set. Scientists have been working for years to replicate spider fiber, and haven’t had much luck. Besides, if this kid’s such a genius with chemicals, why’s he working for a newspaper instead of inventing a cure for cancer or AIDS? Now that would be something to brag about at a superhero convention.

But what really made me re-think my desire to be Spider-Man was the fact that he would never get the girl. For one thing, no girl would want to date a guy who’s bite could liquefy her internal organs. (That’s how spiders eat their food, and I doubt when the radioactive spider bit him he got a chance to go down a list of potential superpowers and say, "All right, I’ll take sticky feet, spider sense, and leave out the liquid diet part.") Of course somewhere out there is the right woman for Spider-Man. Her name is Spider-Woman, she’s forty times bigger than he is, and shortly after mating she’ll devour him. I think I’d almost rather face The Tinkler.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Things We Can Learn From A Dog

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp and play daily.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

If someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Bond with your pack.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout… run back and make friends.

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