I’m riding my bicycle to the post office and notice bits of doggy-do that appear to be moving on their own! Closer inspection revealed several scarab beetles (aka dung beetles). About an inch long, these impressive insects have beautiful green and orange iridescent backs. This particular species, Phanaeus vindex or Rainbow Scarab, is a “roller” and the most common dung beetle in the lower half of the US. This behavior apparently caught the attention of the Ancient Egyptians who associated the scarab with the rising sun. None of these photos do justice to the bright orange antennae, which give it a very acute sense of smell! Here’s another photo and video of the little bulldozer!
Philip K. Dick is less well known than other science fiction authors of his generation (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein), but today he enjoys a growing reputation as his novels are adapted to the screen. Of these, A Scanner Darkly is the most recent, the most personal, and perhaps the most important. It is a semi-autobiographical story of drug addiction, corporate greed, and universal surveillance. Several of the characters are based on real people the author knew, and the damage done by drugs is not hypothetical. The story anticipates several developments of the last twenty years: pharmaceutical companies inventing diseases to fit the drugs they produce; a surveillance society with video cameras everywhere; and human beings who are written off by the society they live in.
The 2006 movie sticks close to the original novel, deftly exploiting Dick’s dry humor and sense of the absurd. The action centers around a loose group of “friends” who all share interest in (and possibly addiction to) the ominous “substance D.” In the words of one character, “There’s no week-end warriors on the D. You’re either on it, or you haven’t tried it.”