Aug 11 2010

Molting garden spider of the week

Argiope aurantia

Phil, my secretary, has declined to ghost-write my essay today. He called in claiming writer’s block. What a load. He just wanted to lie around on the couch eating sour cream ‘n’ onion potato chips. I could hear Hair Battle Spectacular in the background when he called.

What’s Hair Battle Spectacular? A TV hair-do competition reality show. Stylists with fake nicknames affix scaffolding, found objects, and neon hair extensions onto models’ heads, whereupon they back-comb mile-high “fantasy” hair-dos that nobody could ever actually wear because if you lifted your chin even a couple of degrees to swig a marg, the earth’s gravitational pull on the hair-mass would snap your neck in half. The show is mesmerizingly asinine. I’m begging you not to watch it without hootin’ a doob first.

On a patriarchy-blaming note, the hair models are all beautiful women, presumably because, owing to the gender-binary component of the Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women, similarly attractive men wouldn’t be caught dead looking that ridiculous. In our photo, stylist “Malibu” pours an actual cocktail into her model’s coiffure to demonstrate its ability to hold its liquor. It’s about time somebody invented a watertight beehive.

Anyway, with Phil on the lam and me without a minute to spare, you’re stuck with heartwarming nature crap again in lieu of a post. Luckily, it’s a molting Argiope aurantia, everybody’s second-favorite orbweaver.

Hair Battle Spectacular photo swiped from the Oxygen website. Oxygen, Oprah’s purportedly woman-centric cable channel, is also responsible for Bad Girls Club, a stultifyingly dull reality show consisting mostly of catfights between hot babes, Tori & Dean, a stultifyingly dull reality show featuring a privileged white celebrity heterosexual married couple living their uninteresting lives, and Snapped, the it’s-horrible-yet-I-can’t-look-away documentary series about ‘normal’ women who turn without warning into homicidal maniacs.


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  1. sargassosea

    Lovely photo. Spiders are better than city-destroying zuccas any day.

  2. SelinaK

    The Oxygen Network is at least a step up from the Lifetime Channel, which isn’t saying much. I did kind of like that show Girls Behaving Badly. It gave the lovely and obnoxious Chelsea Handler her start.

  3. Pinko Punko

    I think I sent you a pic of one of those from my backyard. “Gigantor” is what we call her. I think I read the females are larger in this species, and I wouldn’t want to imagine our giant one as smaller than something even bigger.

    Supposedly is Argiope aurantia.

  4. Saphire

    I think it’s noteworthy how certain TV channels are significantly more sexist than others. As for the show about ‘normal’ women suddenly losing it and chopping people into pieces:

    I wonder why that’s so fascinating? Is it because men wait for us to snap, then get a boner because it signifies something real, they’re oppression – how women do have a backbone but they’ve been able to oppress us into morphed robots until that point.

    This youtube vid about a motorway- suicide incident is bizzarre to watch. Not because of the women committing suicide, but because of the male reactions:


    The man at 5.14 has a boner, after the one twin tries to commit suicide, is finally held down by 12 aroused men. Men are revolting in my opinion, sub- human.

  5. Comrade PhysioProf

    Now that fucken araneidae shitte is coolio! Much better than the fucken cucurbit shitte.

  6. sonia

    That spider is a trip.

    What’s the deal with Phil? Is he down with the IBTP philosophy? Judging from that picture of him at the taco stand a few years back he is probably too laid back to sass about it? Just wondering.

  7. janna

    What’s our favorite orb-weaving spider?

  8. Jodie

    Yes, I want to know what our favorite orb weaving spider is, too!

  9. Comrade PhysioProf

    Comrade PhysioProf’s favorite spiders are theraphosidae and hexathelidae. These are not orb weavers.

  10. Jill

    August 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    What’s our favorite orb-weaving spider?

    August 11, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Yes, I want to know what our favorite orb weaving spider is, too!

    Gasteracantha cancriformis. Gaudy and photogenic.

  11. La Chica Lucy

    That heartwarming nature crap photo is stunning.

    That brian-numbing television crap just… makes me shake my head. I was a little kid in the early ’70s and while I sure as heck didn’t know what the word patriarchy meant, I knew girls got the short end of the stick and I truly thought that was going to change in my lifetime! Like WAY more than it has. I believed this, sincerely, as a child! I would have cast a jaundiced eye on this show as an eight year old.

    And then I got older, and wiser, and well, y’all know the sad rest of it. My 8YO self would NOT have believed that there would exist a show like this in 2010. Then again, that whole year 2000 thing when I was a kid did make the near future sound REALLY far off…

    Sorry for rambling, I’ve taken Jill’s advice about preparing myself to watch this show, despite my lack of actual plans to watch it. In conclusion: my neck hurts just looking at that poor woman (and shaking my head). IBTP.

  12. Bushfire

    Once again, I am extremely impressed with your photography skills.

    Although I don’t have cable, every once in a while someone tells me what’s on it, and it reminds me why I don’t have it.

  13. redpeachmoon

    Thank you for the zucchini and spider shots, I am just home from the highly touted ‘Picasso looks at Degas’ exhibit at the Clark in Williamstown Ma. and feeling mighty sick with the portrayals of porn, considered high art. “The private world of women”, a room full of ‘real life depictions of women bathing, and arranging their hair, mostly in brothels’ which were of particular interest to the creepy pervy Degas, and angry pervy Picasso. If ONLY, SOMEONE from the Spinster Institute could have made the recordings for the audio devices! And that I were brave enough to scrawl ‘PORN!’ over the caption..

  14. Vibrating_Liz

    The male spider has to be so much smaller than the female because if he was big enough to make the web vibrate as he approached her she would eat him before he ever had a chance to mate with her. His life depends on staying off her radar.

    I’ve watched these spiders mate, and the female seems to be totally oblivious to, or at any rate totally uninterested in, the whole process. She just goes about her business without paying any attention whatsoever to the tiny speck of a male who has struggled for 20 minutes to climb onto her formidable body. He might as well be a gnat as far as she’s concerned. It takes about 3 seconds for him to do his thing, then he quickly flees the web before she has a chance to make a merry widow of herself.

  15. Vibrating_Liz

    Ok, here’s a photo I took a few years ago of everybody’s first favorite orbweaver. You can see the tiny male approaching the much larger female, and in the next shot in the series he has climbed onto her abdomen.


  16. wiggles

    Vibrating_Liz if I was that little dinky male spider, I’d be celibate for life.

  17. allhellsloose

    @Vibrating_Liz. Tis the egg and sperm analogy. Big egg, teeny, tiny sperm. Love spiders and loving these photos. Yes! I do like spiders, even wolf spiders, and it’s hard to see them as anything else but female.

    Re the show. Actually mabe not. And so for a humble request. What is ‘hooting a doob’?

  18. speedbudget

    allhellsloose: Smokin’ the weedage, mang.

    If you watch Snapped and really pay attention to the subtext and read between the lines, usually the women snap cause they have had quite enough of everyone’s shit, thank you very much.

    I have a visceral fear of spiders in my vicinity, but I can appreciate these spiders’ webs. They are works of art.

  19. tinfoil hattie

    … usually the women snap cause they have had quite enough of everyone’s shit, thank you very much.

    TV shows don’t feature “real, live!” men beating, raping, assaulting, and murdering women because it’s just so ho-hum. That’s news? That’s interesting? C’mon! It’s all in a day’s work, really. Busman’s holiday.

  20. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    You can tell summer’s on the wane around here by the size of the spiders putting up webs by the thermometer on my garage. There was a red and brown one roughly the size of the palm of my hand (including legs) this morning.

    It’s awe-inspiring, but also depressing. Summer hath all too brief a lease.

  21. rubysecret

    When I noticed the ads for that show, all I could think of was DUDE – That’s so 1975 Beach Blanket Babylon! At least in SF, the giant hair is in its campy comedy context. I can’t imagine the point of a giant cocktail beehive on anyone other than a 6’5″ drag queen.

  22. rubysecret

    Well, and even then the point is that it’s pointless.

  23. Nora

    Awesome freakin photo, even here on the tiny screen.

  24. allhellsloose

    Thank you speedbudget.

    I kind of like mabe so maybe I won’t change it.

  25. littlerobbergirl

    oh my word! i had just started ‘tidying up’ an opened tube of sour cream and onion potato snacks in my brother’s office when i came here. the moulting spider picture is awesome. thanks twisty :-)

  26. littlerobbergirl

    is house sitting a p. thing? should i be ashamed of hoovering up the contents of my nuclear-family-relative’s fridge, freezer and garden while they do the ‘holiday thing’? dont care. full, drunk, in charge of fast interweb connection. cheers m’dears.

  27. Comrade PhysioProf

    What is ‘hooting a doob’?

    It’s Texan for “sparking a fattie”.

  28. SKM

    I’m in Maypearl right now, and we have just such a glorious spider dwelling on our front porch. She hasn’t molted lately that I’ve seen, but she has two egg sacs laid by along the wall of the house. I didn’t realize they made more than one sac. Maybe I’ll biff off and take a picture of her.

  29. SKM

    OK, here she is

  30. Level Best

    tinfoil hattie, you’re right, as per usual. There’s nothing novel about men snapping and killing. They’re about 90-something percent of all murderers, not even including WAR.

    Me, I find Snapped and Deadly Women pretty inspirational. If enough women went Wuornos, people might not consider them such easy pickings crime-wise.

  31. nails

    As if men attack us because we are “easy pickings”. They do so because they can by social permission. Young black men are easy pickings for violence (especially from police) for the same reason, no one would argue that they are seen as unthreatening. The idea of inviting sexual assault by being sexual makes sense in a patriarchy, and beating the shit out of a woman for looking tough is next in line if enough of us go wournos.

    Not to mention that violence sucks.

  32. Level Best

    “beating the shit out of a woman for looking tough is next in line if enough of us go wournos”

    This isn’t exactly in the futuristic realm of “things to come.” Women who are perceived to be tough/butch have been and are beaten up by cowards with distressing frequency. Self-defense for women in worst-case scenarios isn’t something we should cower from in case men might not like it.

  33. wiggles

    If human females enjoyed the size discrepancy that spider females do, and could shoot paralyzing venom and bite off heads, I bet human males wouldn’t fuck with us.

  34. KJB

    beating the shit out of a woman for looking tough is next in line if enough of us go wournos.

    THIS. I have foolishly stopped to read comments on online newspaper articles about DV (naming and shaming the cesspit that is the Guardian’s Cif section!) and there almost always seem to be men pretty much saying: ‘Well if feminists want equality, then that means that we can beat up women.’

    Naturellement, I stopped reading the comments a long time back, since one’s will to live gets rather stretched to breaking point otherwise. It’s supposed to be a liberal paper, but the commentators are the most hateful fuckers you could ever imagine hearing of, let alone hearing FROM.

  35. Laughingrat

    Yeah, where’s this idea coming from, that being “tough” isn’t already used as an excuse to brutalize women? The more butch I look, the more vile and violent the response I get, even just walking down the street minding my business. But the thing is, being dainty and feminine and “sexy” is used as an excuse to hurt us, too. It doesn’t matter what we do. It’s a patriarchy. It’s designed to get us coming and going. Our actual actions have nothing to do with it, so if some women want to learn how to protect themselves physically, good on them. They’re certainly *not* making things any worse.

    Jill, your ongoing admiration of arachnids, insects, and other heartwarming nature crap is probably what caused me to ignore my overwhelming aversion to bugs this morning and gently move a positively gigantic praying mantis off a sidewalk and into the nice, safe shrubberies instead. She was huge, badass, and of course, very heartwarming.

  36. Bushfire

    Me, I find Snapped and Deadly Women pretty inspirational

    Me, too! That’s why the movie Thelma and Louise is one of my favourite things in life.

  37. FemmeForever

    Me, I find Snapped and Deadly Women pretty inspirational

    I’ve always thought that Texas dentist who ran over her cheating husband or ex-husband should have received as pass. She shouldn’t be in jail at all.

    She and Lorena Bobbit are kind of personal heroes of mine. Although after hearing the finer details of the Bobbit case for the first time, recently, I’d like to say to Lorena: What’s with the penis-joyride? Didn’t your house have a garbage disposal?

  38. nails

    Wait, so violence is good now?

    It isn’t inspiring, it is proof that the violent dominance=good moral of patriarchal society infects women, too. It is how conflicts are said to be resolved in our culture. When women do it is about as subversive as burlesque or BDSM “turning the tables” on male sexuality. It is emulation, the right to do what no one should have the right to do (rape, dominate, kill, beat) that is presented as “equality” by liberal dudes and fun feminists alike. Its a crock of shit.

  39. Laughingrat

    Sure, Nails, that’s *exactly* what everyone here said: violence is good.

    You know, when you fabricate arguments, project them on other people, and then argue against your own projections, you basically shut yourself out of rational discussion. There’s no point in talking to someone who does that, because they’re unreachable. What’s the point of talking to you when you get like this, really?

  40. Orange

    I didn’t know I had a favorite orb weaver myself, but I too am partial to the crab-like Gasteracantha. Took a picture of one in the lanai at my in-laws’ place in Florida. (Except my picture sucked because I couldn’t get both zoomed in and focused on the critter when I was standing on a poolside chair and the spider’s web was whooshing in the breeze.) Loved how the spots kinda looked like a smiley face.

    My kid and I had no idea spiders molted. Cool photo, Jill!

  41. Schnee

    Ah spiders.
    Normally in the Fall I do a nature program about spiders and insects and small creatures in general.
    In it, we teach children how to tell the difference between male and female spiders, which activity never fails to remind me how deeply the fucking patriarchal attitudes go. Every creature on this planet is male. Even when I say,
    ‘So, is it a female or a male?’ the parents will say,
    ‘Oh, I think he’s a she,’ or some such meaningless, sexist tosh.

  42. Jezebella

    You know, Bushfire, Thelma and Louise didn’t end up so well for our heroines. It’s more of a tragedy than an inspirational film, in my book. If neither woman had been raped or assaulted, nobody would’ve been killed. Instead, a bunch of people died. I don’t find that inspirational at all.

  43. Lidon Achava

    Every creature on this planet is male. Even when I say,
    ‘So, is it a female or a male?’ the parents will say,
    ‘Oh, I think he’s a she,’ or some such meaningless, sexist tosh.

    That drives me insane. I wish it wasn’t such a huge pet peeve of mine, considering that practically EVERYONE does that. I’ve heard a couple acquaintances say, “But I don’t wanna say ‘it’!” as if it’s somehow demeaning. But I think that’s a cop out because if they really gave a shit about the creature’s individuality then they wouldn’t be referring to all females as males to begin with. Ughh IBTP.

  44. joy

    “I’ve heard a couple acquaintances say, “But I don’t wanna say ‘it’!” as if it’s somehow demeaning.”

    Don’t you love, er, hate, er, blame it when people do this with children or infants? Or pets?

    Often, both sides of the equation are fucked. Many people get really upset and/or offended if someone is cooing over little Johnny and asks, “What’s her name?” — whether Johnny is a human infant or a dachshund. Another symptom of patriarchy-sickness: feeling as though one has failed as a parent if one has inadequately gender-coded the kids and pets.

    If one really wishes to know (say, what to say when referring to an acquaintance’s offspring or animal), one could ask the creature in question, “What’s your name?”
    If it is an animal or preverbal child, the question is clearly directed at the adult handlers anyway; if it’s a kid that can talk, it can tell you its own name.
    If the name is gender-neutral, one can eschew pronoun usage and just call it by its name. Simple solutions, yet seemingly so difficult for folks to grasp.

    People’s insatiable need to know the gender (or sex) of every living thing, so that they can know which stupid little box to shunt these things into, is disturbing.

    Oh, and when I saw the subway ads for the hair battle show, I thought they were a joke.

  45. SKM

    Every creature on this planet is male. Even when I say,
    ‘So, is it a female or a male?’ the parents will say,
    ‘Oh, I think he’s a she,’ or some such meaningless, sexist tosh.

    My father persistently does this with the orb weaver on our porch. She is huge, has an egg sac, and is obviously female. But my dad keeps going, “that guy, he’s amazing”. My dad has Alzheimer’s, so I don’t hassle him about it (I have to correct him or remind him about things a lot as it is), but it’s just indicative of the general culture.

  46. yttik

    There is a persistent myth that males are the ones who produce offspring. I always want to laugh when I hear some myth/legend like, where did cats come from? Well, obviously male lions coughed them up to help with the mice problem.

    I was recently at the fair watching some baby piglets and no less than a dozen people walked by and said, “oh look at HIS cute little babies.”

  47. Ayla

    “There is a persistent myth that males are the ones who produce offspring.”

    I’m really going off on a tangent here, but yttik’s comment above reminded me of something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for the last week or so.

    I had somehow been unaware of the particular lie of the patriarchy to which yttik alluded until just recently when I stumbled upon a near incomprehensible catholic apologetic essay.

    The idiot man (of course it was a man) who wrote it, Mark Brumley, was explaining the reason why it was inappropriate to call the catholic god “mother” or “she” or refer to it in any way that might indicate feminine/motherly powers or features.

    That reason being, of course, that MALES have the reproductive energy and that it is MALES who take the active role in reproduction. Therefore, god is a masculine, rather than a feminine force. In Mark Brumely’s own delusional words, “…a father is the “source” of his offspring in a way a mother is not.” (Methinks Mark should look up the definition to every single word used in that sentence before attempting to use them again.)

    The entire essay is completely filled with statements just like that, statements as accurate as “the sky is red,” so I thought this Mark Brumely character might actually be a few bricks shy of a load or something. I mean, this couldn’t actually be something believed by living, breathing humans who know how baby making works, could it? Surely he’s just a bit “off.”

    Now I see that Mark Brumley was just taking part in the age old sport of taking credit for things women do. In most cases, the patriarchy tries to shape reality. When biological fact interferes with that, it just denies reality. Badly and transparently.

    The link if you want to hoot a doob and laugh about how delusional and desperate men (especially catholic men, holy fuck they are some of the bottom of the barrel) are:


  48. Katy

    Hey, now I know why I’ve always hated studying philosophy! It was always presented to me as the crap in that Brumely essay. I hate the RCC and IBTP.

  49. Cranky Auntie

    I just found this blog and I love it. That is all.

  50. bbz

    What is ‘hooting a doob’?

    It’s Texan for “sparking a fattie”.

    If you read the article suggested by Ayla after “glowing the ganj” you will be stricken with a severe case of the ganoobies.

  51. Jill

    Comrade PhysioProf
    August 13, 2010 at 5:16 am

    What is ‘hooting a doob’?

    It’s Texan for “sparking a fattie”.

    Because of its internal assonance, “hooting a doob” is the superior euphemism.

  52. Jill

    August 13, 2010 at 6:56 am

    I’m in Maypearl right now, and we have just such a glorious spider dwelling on our front porch. She hasn’t molted lately that I’ve seen, but she has two egg sacs laid by along the wall of the house. I didn’t realize they made more than one sac. Maybe I’ll biff off and take a picture of her.

    Nice argiope! Yours is much rounder than the one here.

    One of the best things anyone can do is go out and photograph her buts.

  53. Jill

    And of course by “buts” I meant “bugs.”

  54. speedbudget

    You would need quite a macro lens to take pictures of spider butts.

  55. late to the party

    Hey- didn’t anyone note how the whole “pouring cocktail into african-american womans oh-so-weird-but-cray-fun-times-EXOTIC hair is racist? Or am I the only one?

    @laughing rat,KJB, wiggles, livenest, and nails, re: “butch”: I’m fairly cis-gendered, comparatively thin and attractive and only get cuffed by the gender police when I’m engaged in something butch- like carrying my own groceries and supplies in front of men who think i’m attractive. The heteronormaniacal women are the ones who get socially violent and attack, though, over “looking tough”, and it’s almost always in the workplace. what’s your experience?
    @Twisty, please forgive the anecdotal research and feel free to pass on my email address to those interested in answering instead. if you don’t throw this comment out.

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