Consider the Cockroach

The Complete Cockroach, by David George Gordon, 1996, Ten Speed Press, $11.95.Here is my prediction: the cockroach will be the butterfly of the 21st Century.Cockroaches are already super hip. William S. Burroughs has been verbally fondling cockroaches for decades, psycho-mingling his grubby greedy human characters with their grubby greedy buggy counterparts.In the 1970s, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Art Hoppe predicted the primacy of the cockroach in the aftermath of the neutron bomb, which, as you know, kills humans and animals but leaves buildings and vehicles and cockroaches unscathed. When the aliens land and find all these great cities occupied only by cockroaches, they will marvel at the abilities of these tiny pests.Now, in 1996, a new computer game has emerged among the techno-nerds in which you, the hero, are a cockroach, scrambling through a shabby apartment and dodging hazards like boiling water and exposed wiring.In my view, this is only the beginning of a revolution in the stature of a creature once viewed as the lowliest. We humans increasingly identify with this quick, filthy little thief. We increasingly share its expedient disregard for moral and idealistic nonsense and its pragmatic excellence at the most essential post-modern calling of all-survival. It's modern life: eating, mating, and dashing across the sleeping faces of big bastards who believe themselves better than we.Henceforth cometh The Complete Cockroach, 178 pages of cucarachiana by David George Gordon, a former zoo biologist and the author of nine wildlife and wild places guides including the touted Field Guide to the Slug.Expect to marvel. Here are just a few morsels of information in The Complete Cockroach:* Cockroaches have existed on earth for 340 million years, according to fossils of roach wings. That's about 300 million years longer than the earliest primates from which humans would evolve and 150 million years earlier than the first dinosaurs.* Cockroach experts believe there are at least 10 cockroaches per human. New York City serves an estimated 57 million roaches. But Los Angelenos spend the most battling them -- $15 million a year on roach insecticides.* The largest known cockroach is the four-inch Megaloblatta blaberoides of Central and South America, which has a seven-inch wingspan. The heaviest is Australia's Macropanesthia rhinoceros, which weigh 1.25 ounces, about as much as an AA battery.* The smallest known roach is the Attaphila fungicola at 3/32 of an inch, which lives in the underground nests of ants, providing janitorial services in return for ant-cultivated fungi.* "Over its 150-day life span, one adult female German cockroach can drop as many as eight egg capsules, each filled with as many as 40 eggs. That's 3,200 young ones in less than five months."Gordon's book not only has everything you want to know about cockroaches, it has much more than you want to know. It will give you a delightfully tingly feeling of filth. And in these dark times, the knowledge will serve you well.

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