The Point of This Quick Post is that Land Crabs are Super Creepy

We here at Olivia Waite like to think we've learned a lot from romance novels over the years. And one of our recent favorites, Carla Kelly's Beau Crusoe, turned out to be more accurate than we knew at the time. Behold: land crabs!

A picture of a small land crab, perched on the threshold of his burrow.

This particular land crab lives in the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor in the British Virgin Islands. (That's the West Indies, to you historical types.) That hole he's sitting in is actually his home. Normally I love crabs and find them fascinating -- not to mention delicious -- but there is something about watching a crab the size of your face scurry sideways into a hole in the ground that is just creepy as all hell. There is the unmistakeable impression that the crab is only waiting until your back is turned and then -- attack!

In sum: we should all read (and write!) more good romance novels with critters that are both real and terrifying.

Last Night On Project Boobway

We here at Olivia Waite enjoy Project Runway. It's fun to watch someone else struggle with the killer combination of creativity and deadlines, and it's equally fun whether a designer soars to the heights of fashion glory or crashes and burns in the Valley of Michael Kors' Caustic Semi-Wit. It's also fun to watch the normally hidden process of clothes being designed—at least, until it inevitably bumps up against the reality of women and the fashion industry's general attitude toward them.

Saying last night's episode bumped up against female body issues is like saying the Titanic bumped up against the iceberg.

Photoshopped image of Kate Winslet from GQ, where her belly and thighs have been erased significantly, but where the photoshopper forgot to do the same with the reflection in the background.

Linda Holmes from NPR's Monkey See blog has written a brilliant piece about designer Olivier's glaringly antagonistic attitude toward female body size; I could say the article is written from a feminist perspective,  but really it's written from a realist perspective:

This is partly just a guy who says dumb things on television without thinking, but it's also partly about a very real part of the fashion industry, which is how much it has to do with anything women would actually wear — and how much it's supposed to. Perhaps it's just art, and you might as well demand that all your models be seven feet tall, because when you make art, you can make it however you like.

This particular show, though, specializes in the idea that clothes are for wearing, not just for looking at. And in this strange little moment, Olivier suggested that they aren't for wearing or for looking at, at least if the person looking is a woman. They're for his expression only, and if you don't shut up and wear them quietly, he just doesn't know what to do with you.

Olivier's special target for rage is: his model's supposedly giant boobs. But once she showed up, her boobs looked pretty average-sized to me. But suddenly everything was about boobs. The A.V. Club noticed this as well:

The only significant change with the arrival of the wives is that now, EVERYONE is talking about boobs. No matter what the question is, “boobs” is the answer, like one of those Match Game ’74 episodes where everybody on the panel is all liquored up.

When I was growing up, I knew that bigger boobs were supposedly better from a cultural standpoint. I also read a lot of young-adult books and romance novels where the main characters were fairly flat-chested and learned to love their smaller size. We've all read historicals where the heroine's rival is a voluptuous Other Woman with prodigious cleavage and a way less virginal attitude.

It started to reach a point where being small of boob started to seem, well—classier. More educated. More refined. Audrey Hepburn helped, not to mention the ever-skinnier supermodel. Men like women with huge boobs, the story goes, but women like women with small ones. Big boobs are so—big, you know? They're too obviously sexy. Slutty, even.

Certainly the question of men liking larger boobs was not helped by one of our husbands on Project Runway, who must have spent fully five minutes acting like an overgrown frat boy and talking loudly about how much he enjoyed his wife's massive rack. And then motorboating one of the dress mannequins.

As though his wife's cup size were something he personally had the right to boast of. (Achievement unlocked!) On national television. And then to talk about how his wife's boobs were why he fell in love with her.

I found this appalling.

I've been on both sides of the Boob Divide: I was a B-cup for many years and am now, um, significantly more well-endowed. And it's true that now that my boobs are bigger, I feel less intelligent. Because growing larger boobs obviously means that my body spends less time building and repairing the cells and synapses of my brain. They'll probably be rescinding my masters degree any day now ...

Oh wait that's not even the slightest bit true.

And the one constant, on the spectrum between heroines are small and slender and real women have curves and this NYT trend piece on small cup sizes is this: your boobs define who you are.

And I for one say nuts to that. I've had different cup sizes in my lifetime, and so do my heroines. Some women are curvy and some are surfboards but all of us—all of us!—are real.

Snakes In The Stacks

  The information desk at the indie bookstore where I used to work is a concrete fortress. Black, pitted surfaces and a waist-high counter made me feel A) totally safe, and B) oracular, like the Pythia at Delphi. For an hour a day, I could survey the vastness of my domain and solve book-related questions for the print-loving suppliants who came to ask for help.

A giant question mark sign labeled INFORMATION hangs over a wide space full of shalves and books.But, like gunslingers in the old West, such power invites challengers.

One day, a thin young man in his late teens or early twenties approached the information desk. I remember thinking that he looked, well, intense. "Can I help you?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm looking for a book on snakes."

"Snakes in the wild or snakes as pets?"

"Snakes like this."

And he held up the tiny snake wrapped around his right hand.

At this point time seemed to slow down. I was able to look very carefully and very quickly at a host of important details: the snake was flicking its tongue in and out and bobbing its snakey little head, so it was definitely alive. Not a fake snake. A real live snake, six inches from my nose.

The young man stood there waiting patiently for me to scream, or faint, or generally lose my bookstore cool.

Unfortunately for this young man, I had recently gone to the zoo. And I remembered one of the things I learned from the reptile house. "Ah," I said, voice steady and calm. "I see that's a baby king snake, with one of the peculiar color variations from being bred in captivity."

The young man blinked. "Um," he said. "Yeah."

"We've got the books you're looking for right over here."

I walked him over to the nature section and the shelf of snake books and then returned to my concrete fortress. Less than a minute later, the young man and his snake were on their way out the door—the snake looked calm and complacent, but the young man looked distinctly unhappy.

I saved all my pity for the snake.

The cover of The Encyclopedia of Snakes by Chris Mattison.


Warning: Do Not Get Yourself Impaled

There is a scene, in World's Awesomest Movie™ The Core, where our heroes are in a spaceship drilling through the Earth's crust (don't ask) and they burst into the center of a gigantic geode (really, don't ask). There are huge purple amethyst spears everywhere, and when I saw this in theaters, I laughed so hard I nearly choked to death on the grapefuit-juice-and-vodka I was sipping from my smuggled-in flask. Turns out this scene was not as implausible as I thought. Science is amazing!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The Crystal Cave of Giants from Naica, Mexico:

These are gypsum crystals in a silver mine. For hundreds of thousands of years, conditions in this hidden chamber were so protected and stable that normal crystallization processes resulted in enormity. Mining processes removed the fluid, though the chamber remains superheated by surrounding magma (hence the suits, which are filled with ice).

The explorer's own description: "Actually going inside, wearing the suits and exploring the cave was a dream come true. I've never seen such a spectacular place. It was like setting foot on a new planet. Many of the crystals were so large that I couldn't even wrap my arms around them and the terrain was so difficult to walk on that we had to be extremely cautious not to slip and fall. Doing so would could get you impaled on a sharp crystal and would require a dangerous and difficult rescue."

Cue the action scene!