Pets and sex, that’s what brings the comments and e-mails out, that’s for sure!
All right then, more sex! I’ve been reading Thomas Eisner’s For Love of Insects. What a world! And, as we approach Thursday’s 200 anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (and the 150th of The Origin of Species), there is so much still to discover. The complexity of it all! Did you know there was a caterpillar that eats turtle shells? They are related to the clothes moths that munch wool; both wool and turtle shells are made of keratin. Several insects – for instance, bombardier beetles, the soldier caste of certain termite species -- are highly efficient sprayers of defensive substances; they’re ambulatory spray guns. The female of one species of firefly lures the males of another species, eats them, and incorporates the males’ toxic defensive chemicals into their own defenses. Hmm, sounds like a really bad date. There’s a beetle whose larva spins a straw-looking shelter out of its own waste to hide under while it eats palmetto leaves; the adult beetle itself can clamp onto the palmettos with tremendous strength when something tries to pluck them off. You probably know about aphids, great plant suckers and often a plague to gardeners. Ants “farm” aphids for their honeydew, which is made of excess carbohydrates excreted by the aphids. The ants also protect the aphids from predators. But the larva of lacewings are predators of wooly aphids; to avoid the ant police, the larva disguise themselves by grabbing bits of the wooly material that coats the aphids and setting it all over their body. The ants then think the predaceous larva are aphids. It goes on and on and on.
At the Film Forum, I’ve seen Man’s Castle, with Spencer Tracy as a bindlestiff and Loretta Young as his “gal,” overall a little too ripe with the era’s misogyny to enjoy. Young, who started in the movies in 1917 when she was four, survived into the era of early television, making her one of the hardest working woman in show biz. Tracy meanwhile, was always more enjoyable when he was an old coot. American Madness, which gives us a bank run for our money with its cigar-smoking fat cats, honest bank President (it’s a Hollywood fantasy after all), and the little people who come to the rescue, as distinct from the other little people, who panic and rush the bank. In the end, even the fat cats come over the side of a happy ending. As ever, Capra-populism is best not looked into too deeply lest the glare of incipient fascism blind us. Skyscraper Souls and Employees Entrance, both of which starred the largely forgotten Warren William, in the first a ruthlessly amoral department store manager who manages to bed Ms. Young twice, before and after she’s married (gotta love them pre-Code movies), in the second as the owner of a 100 story building. In Skyscraper, a model and -- well the suggestion isn’t subtle -- hooker, gets a Bromo-Selzter at the luncheonette counter, then she tells the sourpuss next to her to “go drink a Citrate of Magnesia.” Now, if you know Dead Horse Bay like I know DHB, you’ll be aware that Citrate of Magnesia is a laxative.
Is anything more enjoyable than the New York Post huffing and puffing about Alex Rodriguez? “A-Hole” they were calling him yesterday. Please. This is so Captain Renault saying “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on here” in Casablanca just before he pockets his winnings.