Dave Barry

New gift idea: vintage worms

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published April 20, 2003.)

Before I get to today's topic (''Worms Making News''), I want to apologize to those readers, both human and elf, who were unhappy with my column on ``The Lord of the Rings.''

It turns out that my readership includes some VERY serious fans of the movie and the classic book by the late J.R. ''Scooter'' Tolkien. Many of these fans took time out from their busy schedules to write lengthy letters detailing the errors in my column, and observing that I am a stupid idiot. Here are some of the specific points they made (I am not making these points up):

--``For your information, Dick Cheney is NOT in `The Lord of the Rings.' ''

--``It is not right to refer to Aragorn as `Lord Aragorn' until he claims the throne of Gondor. He's just a Ranger right now who happens to be really good in battle.''

--``I don't think that you fully understand that if they don't destroy the ring, the world will fall into definite evil.''

--``The Ents cannot do kung fu, as that did not exist in Middle Earth.''

These are all strong points, and so I want to say to you Tolkien fans, by way of sincere apology: Are you, by any chance, Hoosiers?

No, seriously, I'm sorry if my column offended you, or in any way has caused the world to fall into definite evil.

While I'm at it, I also want to apologize to the accordion community for a recent column in which I encouraged people to throw accordions into ponds. That statement earned me a stern rebuke from James P. O'Brien, Ph.D., a professor of music at the University of Arizona. Dr. O'Brien informed me that making fun of the accordion is ``inappropriate,'' and concluded his letter with this menacing statement: ``Gary Larson did this years ago, and quality accordionists still boycott his `Far Side' calendars as a result.''

As a humorist, I am all too aware of the devastating effects of being targeted for a boycott by quality accordionists. I don't want to wind up like poor Gary Larson, who today is penniless, dressed in rags, holding a cardboard sign that says he will draw talking cows for food. So I hereby apologize to Dr. O'Brien, who, according to the Internet, has two CDs for sale: ``Accordion Accord'' and ``Reason for Squeezin'.''

This brings us to our popular attraction ``Worms Making News,'' which today features two exciting items:

DATELINE, MINNESOTA -- According to a story in the Duluth News Tribune and brought to my attention by alert reader Brian Rohland, a Duluth man has succeeded in doing something that, for most of humanity, remains only a dream: making wine from tent caterpillars.

The man, Ray Reigstad, got the idea from the fact that Minnesota is regularly infested with tent caterpillars, which are also called ``army worms,'' because during certain times of year they wear tiny knapsacks. According to the story, Reigstad and his girlfriend collected a large quantity of these worms last June, ``when they were big'' (meaning the worms were big). Reigstad then poured boiling water on them ``to kill them instantly'' -- no worm suffered needlessly in the making of this wine -- then mashed them, then added sugar and yeast, then let it ferment until it was a ``green liquid,'' which he then flushed down the toilet.

No, wait, that's what I would have done. Reigstad actually put it in wine bottles and gave it to people for Christmas. The story does not say how the recipients felt about this, but I wouldn't be surprised if next Christmas, Reigstad gets at least one fruitcake containing numerous cockroach heads.

Speaking of food:

DATELINE, CAMBRIDGE -- According to an Associated Press story sent in by alert reader Donald O'Brien, biologists at Harvard University have ``manipulated hundreds of genes to create roundworms that are sleek and trim.'' This is wonderful news for the literally millions of roundworms who suffer from obesity to the point where they do virtually nothing all day except sit around and vote for contestants on ``American Idol.''

But it's also great news for overweight humans, also known, technically, as ``Americans.'' Because if scientists can deactivate the genes that cause roundworms to gain weight, it stands to reason that, in time, they will be able to deactivate the gene that causes human beings to play the accordion.

No! Just kidding! Please don't boycott me, quality accordionists! I am truly sorry! Here, have some wine.

(c) 2009, Dave Barry

This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.