May 2, 2003
Various advertising executives have suggested a plan to put advertising in books. A couple of years ago Fay Weldon wrote an entire novel with product placements paid for by a jewelry company, but what’s being suggested now is much less subtle: direct advertisements stuck in books themselves. The argument goes that putting glossy ads and perfume samples in popular novels will lower the price of books. Actually what will happen is that the price of books will remain the same and the average 300-page novel will be 1000-pages.
And why limit it to novels? The poems of Dylan Thomas could be filled out with ads for whiskey, the complete works of Sigmund Freud could contain alternating subscription cards for Cigar Smoker Magazine and donation pleas from various cancer societies. Even better you could…Excuse me, I had to go kill a wasp. I hate wasps. "Evil" is not a word I use lightly, especially when describing the natural world, because even the ugliest, slimiest, most unappealing organism has its place. Except the wasp. Skinheads were wasps in a past life. The guy who didn’t hold the elevator for me this morning was a wasp in a past life. John Wesley Hardin, the gunslinger who once shot a man for snoring too loudly, is now a wasp. Whoever it was that invented automatic flush toilets was or will in a future life be a wasp. Wasps are the only living thing that contribute absolutely nothing of value. And they eat spiders. Maybe you think this is a good thing, but spiders are very useful because they eat insects. If, like me, you were profoundly influenced by the book "Charlotte’s Web" as a child, you know that if it weren’t for spiders insects would overrun the planet. How many insects do spiders eat? According to a statistic I just made up a single spider eats in one year enough insects to equal the weight of customers who go to McDonald’s in one day. We’re talking metric tons. And Charlotte the Spider was the epitome of coolness. She was the kind of woman you wouldn’t want to be in an intimate relationship with because if she got mad at you she could liquefy your internal organs with one bite, but she was the kind of person you’d want to hang out with.
An interesting little-known fact about that book is that E.B. White wrote and then discarded a chapter in which a wasp named McCarthy comes buzzing around the barnyard looking for spiders. He also criticizes Wilbur the Pig and Templeton the Rat for a food-sharing program which he considers a form of socialism, but that’s really another part of the story. Even White, who had this profound pantheistic vision, thought wasps were evil. And wasps don’t just eat spiders. They torture them in hideous ways. In South America there’s a species of wasp that lays one egg on a single spider. The wasp larva then burrows into the brain of the spider and makes the spider build a wasp nest, all while slowly eating it from the inside. Imagine: one creature completely takes over the brain of another and forces it to participate in its own destruction. If E.B. White were alive today he’d probably write a whole book about wasps, and they’d all work as advertising executives.
Enjoy this week’s offerings.
HOW TO BATHE A CAT
1. Thoroughly clean toilet.
2. Lift both lids and add shampoo.
3. Find and soothe cat as you carry him to bathroom.
4. In one swift move, place cat in toilet, close both lids and stand on top, so cat cannot escape.
5. The cat will self agitate and produce ample suds. (Ignore ruckus from inside toilet, cat is enjoying this)
6. Flush toilet 3 or 4 times. This provides power rinse, which is quite effective.
7. Have someone open outside door, stand as far from toilet as possible and quickly lift both lids.
8. Clean cat will rocket out of the toilet and outdoors, where he will air dry.