In Which I Wonder About Slylock Fox and Count Weirdly


So Count Weirdly has created a handheld ray beam to alter the genetic code of creatures. Only it has terrible aim. That’s all right. I understand Count Weirdly’s thing is that he doesn’t really have to have a purpose to all this stuff he’s doing. He’s just in it for the kicks.

Count Weirdly's morph gun shoots a beam of genetic code that instantly alteres the anatomy of the living target. Fortunately for Slylock Fox and Max Mouse, Weirdly has lousy aim. What did Slylock see that shows what anatomical change the count had intended to inflict? (A spider's got antennas.)
Detail of Bob Weber Jr’s Slylock Fox for the 17th of April, 2016. The narrator seems sure that Count Weirdly has lousy aim, but isn’t it possible the spider thing was his plan all along? “Ha ha ha, I shall add antennas to the heads of spiders all over the world and none of you can stop me!” I guess the narrator knows his business but it seems like the deliberate spider thing is at least as plausible a plan as some of Count Weirdly’s schemes, considering how he poorly applies things like his holodeck and his timeship. Not included: the six-differences panel in which a poor raccoon has his dinner, an even poorer fish, stolen by a not-poor-at-all bird, while being watched by a mouse, a frog, and a bunny whose states can’t be determined from the action depicted.

So he’s made a gadget that gives you antennas. I don’t want to tell Slylock his business, but let’s think things out here. Of all the insect body parts, the antennas are about the only ones that aren’t creepy or horrible or possessed of a name like “mandible” that I don’t even want to know what it does. OK, an insect antenna can be long enough to be unsettling, but the ones on the spider there aren’t nearly it. So hey, free insect antennas! Why is Slylock dodging this? OK, antennas would make his hat more complicated. And I agree his hat is an important part of his style. But isn’t having to work out a modified hat policy a reasonable price to pay?

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Robert Benchley: Do Insects Think?


[ I feel like some Benchley today; do you? From Love Conquers All, Mister Benchley offers his experiences with the problem of understanding the mind of a very non-human animal. ]

In a recent book entitled, The Psychic Life of Insects, Professor Bouvier says that we must be careful not to credit the little winged fellows with intelligence when they behave in what seems like an intelligent manner. They may be only reacting. I would like to confront the Professor with an instance of reasoning power on the part of an insect which can not be explained away in any such manner.

During the summer of 1899, while I was at work on my treatise Do Larvae Laugh, we kept a female wasp at our cottage in the Adirondacks. It really was more like a child of our own than a wasp, except that it looked more like a wasp than a child of our own. That was one of the ways we told the difference.

It was still a young wasp when we got it (thirteen or fourteen years old) and for some time we could not get it to eat or drink, it was so shy. Since it was a, female, we decided to call it Miriam, but soon the children’s nickname for it—“Pudge”—became a fixture, and “Pudge” it was from that time on.

One evening I had been working late in my laboratory fooling round with some gin and other chemicals, and in leaving the room I tripped over a nine of diamonds which someone had left lying on the floor and knocked over my card catalogue containing the names and addresses of all the larvae worth knowing in North America. The cards went everywhere.

I was too tired to stop to pick them up that night, and went sobbing to bed, just as mad as I could be. As I went, however, I noticed the wasp flying about in circles over the scattered cards. “Maybe Pudge will pick them up,” I said half-laughingly to myself, never thinking for one moment that such would be the case.

When I came down the next morning Pudge was still asleep over in her box, evidently tired out. And well she might have been. For there on the floor lay the cards scattered all about just as I had left them the night before. The faithful little insect had buzzed about all night trying to come to some decision about picking them up and arranging them in the catalogue-box, and then, figuring out for herself that, as she knew practically nothing about larvae of any sort except wasp-larvae, she ould probably make more of a mess of rearranging them than as if she left them on the floor for me to fix. It was just too much for her to tackle, and, discouraged, she went over and lay down in her box, where she cried herself to sleep.

If this is not an answer to Professor Bouvier’s statement that insects have no reasoning power, I do not know what is.

A Formic Retraction


My father, while professing to be amused by yesterday’s long-form piece, said he was disappointed that I wrote about an infestation of ants in his bathroom without talking to him first. I misunderstood the situation entirely and by writing first I passed along faulty information to you all. Let me set things straight.

While there are ants in my parents’ bathroom they are there as part of a work-study program for the county’s vocational high school. They’re learning the rudiments of insect-based electrical work, working on projects my father has wanted to get done but which he finds too fiddly now that he has only four arms to work with. They come out in the morning each weekday, under the close supervision of a licensed county grasshopper, and return to their homes after tidying up their work. Some of the advanced students hope to combine their electrical expertise with some business classes and open a self-service frozen yoghurt franchise on Bennett Mills Road. That’ll be exciting, especially the chocolate sprinkles.

Obviously, I regret the error, especially since they fixed the alarm clock so the radio picks up a station other than “85 dB static interrupted with off-tune quarter-notes”.