Thursday, July 25, 2013

KOALA CAM

Somehow or another I fell through a link-clicking black hole yesterday and managed to wind up on the San Diego Zoo's website wherein I discovered that in addition to their famous Panda Cam, they now have a Koala Cam.

It also just so happens that I now have a second monitor on my computer that I don't use all the time. So when it is not in use, I have the Koala Cam up. It actually works great, because koalas sleep about 16+ hours a day so most of the time there is just a fuzzy bundle of gray sitting in a tree, who occasionally wakes up and looks around and just sits there all cute-like, and then falls back asleep again. It's great. I can still get my work done but have tiny little breaks now and then to glance over and see its little koala face looking at me. Or munching on leaves. Or climbing around to find a new spot to sit in.

Here are some screenshots from a particularly adorable little koala that I've been hanging out with today.












It is one of my life list items to hold a koala, but I think in order for that to happen, I'm actually going to have to go to one of the Australia zoos. A TRIP TO AUSTRALIA, TWIST MY ARM. So that will probably be a bit in the future, given that (1) I've been really slacking about renewing my passport and (2) trips to the other side of the world are expensive and it's not something I can afford right now.

In the meantime, I shall have to content myself with the koala cam and my Pinterest board.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Of Males and Females and Writership Thereof

A while back, YA author Maureen Johnson* made some waves with a thought experiment about gendered book covers and the difference in visuals between a book authored by a man and one authored by a woman, and how women's book covers were usually designed in such a way that they generally weren't taken as seriously. She invited her readers to participate in a "cover flip" project in which people envisioned what a cover would look like if the book had been authored by someone of the opposite gender than it had been originally published. (See the results here - some of them seem absurd, and at the same time, completely plausible.) 

*who (whom?) I adore, even though I've only read about half of one of her books so far - it's really eerie and creepy (on purpose) and I can only read it in small chunks, because I usually read at night before bed. But her online presence makes me want to be her BFF.

Read all the links. It's interesting and very telling. I'll wait.

They say you shouldn't judge a book by a cover, which is impossible to do, and yet still very wise. Because frequently, sometimes the covers have nothing to do with what's inside - which is the point Maureen Johnson was trying to make. We all think we know how to interpret a cover - all subconscious undertones of femininity or masculinity aside - and whether we'd like it. It's because it's what we're used to seeing. We've been conditioned.

Trust me, I used to be in charge of the book section at Target. I spent a lot of time looking at book covers, side by side.You can tell at a glance what is aimed at women, what is aimed at men, and what is aimed at youth. They are marketed in such a way that it generally does a great disservice to the book. A lot of people are going to pick up books that they are going to hate, because it's not going to be what they thought it would be. And there are books that a lot of people would have loved, that they will never read. They will pass right over them on a bookshelf, and that's a damn shame.

I suppose that is the one positive to electronic readers (which I refuse to own, no matter how cluttered my apartment gets with books) - nobody can see the cover of the book you're reading. So dudes can read "girl" books and grownups can read "teenage" books and they won't get judgy stares from people on the subway, because clearly it is other people's business what you like to read. (Sarcasm alert.)

Perhaps not so ironically, this particular phenomenon is one of the reasons JK Rowling published her Harry Potter series under the name "JK" and not "Joanne" - her publisher thought that identifying her as a female might hurt sales, especially with boys. Scoff if you want, but there's probably some truth to it. There's still that bias.

Which brings me to this post today. JK Rowling was recently "outed" as having published a mystery novel under a pen name - a man's name, no less - in order to give her some freedom from the name JK ROWLING, to see how a novel would do without they hype and publicity of her literary ubiquity. Anonymously. In other words: standing on its own merits. The book received favorable reviews and was doing all right for itself, until a news outlet did some probing and she and her publisher admitted to it when questioned.

(Interestingly, a reviewer on Amazon pointed out that negative reviews had only started to appear once the "real" author was revealed. I guess fame can backfire on you - sure, there was a flux of people who snatched it up because it was written by Her Rowlingness, but there are people that are going to go out of their way to avoid it like the plague - also because it was written by her. This is why I chased down my psych minor. People are fascinating, man.)

The notable part (at least as it pertains to this particular post) is that, once again, she did not publish under a female name. She created a persona - an ex-military man with two sons - under which to write her gritty detective novel. JK Rowling is a smart lady; she knew that this particular murder mystery would sell better - be more convincing - if it had come from a male author. It is what it is.

Frankly, given the eye-opening cover-flip experiment, and my own time spent purchasing books... I wouldn't be entirely opposed to writing under a different name, or perhaps initials, or something. Just to level the playing field. (Who are we kidding, though, that sort of ruse would be exhausting and I would ruin it all without the help of some inquisitive newspaper doing extensive research). I guess it depends on what I write. (It also depends on if I manage to write.) It's been in the back of my mind, though.

Feminist ranting aside, though.  I feel kind of bad for her. The jig is up, and she's lost that secrecy, that freedom. The cat can't go back into the bag.

The book is now being marketed with her name and identity. It still says Robert Galbraith on the cover, but it's merely a formality. EVERYONE KNOWS and no one can un-know it. It will forever be "the book that JK Rowling wrote but published under a different name." Lots of authors do this, many of them are often found out, but I don't know if it usually happens so quickly. 

The fact that it was intended to be a series makes it worse. The lack of pressure she felt writing and publishing that first book is no longer just gone; it's probably returned tenfold. Not only do people know it's her, but now they are going to Expect Things. And they are going to pounce on her if it's not flawless, if it's just as tight and well-received as the first. They're going to say catty things if her narrative isn't as masculine as her pseudonym claims to be. They're probably going to say catty things anyway, because people are catty and jealous and like to say mean things about people they don't know.

Yeah, it's all ridiculous. All she wants to do is write books. I mean, that's all most of us want to do, right? Write things, have people read them, the end. It's a shame that not even JK Rowling can avoid all the bullshit that goes along with doing anything even remotely successfully. I mean, if she can't... what hope do the rest of us have?

At any rate, I hear it's a good book, regardless of who wrote it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Things That Didn't Happen In Vegas

In an effort to keep myself on task with posting all of the BiSC recaps in a timely manner (LOL), I did not want to interrupt the series with posts about anything else.

So, naturally, life handed me a bunch of things that I wanted to blog about.

The problem, of course, is that my recap posts are taking forever. For whatever reason. I had to get images. I misplaced my notebook with all my late-night hotel scribbles and thoughts. I was busy. My Internet was down. Where the hell did that notebook go? Photoshop, Photoshop, Photoshop. Hey, when did it get to be July?

Suddenly, it's been two months and I'm still behind and I'm getting frantic with all of the other things that are going unwritten and undocumented. And my need to catch up with myself is suddenly and overpoweringly outweighing my need for everything to be neat and orderly and together. I mean, that's what I have the complete page for anyway, right?

So I'm giving up on being perfectly planned out, and I'm just going to dive back in and get moving.

To get us jump-started again, a snapshot of Things That Have Happened Somewhat Recently.

1. I got to visit my nephew and he was all smiley for Aunt Kelly. I melted. Then resolidified and melted again.


2. My nephew turned two months old. And then he turned three months old. He's getting so big! On the bright side, he's awake a lot more and a lot more alert, which is more fun. (see: Point #1.)


3. I blew my running PR out of the water and clocked in a 50 minute run... which equated to 4.13 miles. FOUR MILES, GUYS. I still feel pretty damn accomplished when I run TWO miles. My brain can't even understand four. You can read more about it over on my running blog, wherein I get much more introspective about it. Incidentally, I'm doing a much better job keeping up with posting over there. Little victories, I guess?


4. I have run two 5Ks, actual events, not just me running around in the park until my total distance reached an equivalent distance, but those should probably get their own posts.

5. Along with the running, I've lost another 5-6 pounds. I'm not keeping super great track, though I did just buy a scale. But because I'm a complete cheapskate, I bought the kind with a dial that always wobbles back and forth so it's not ever really that accurate... but hey, I saved ten dollars.

6. Softball is over, we did okay, overall. They learned a lot and had fun, which is more important than winning All The Games, so in that sense, it was a very successful season. The end of the season is always weird for me, I get pretty attached to my teams. I think it would kill me to be a teacher and to spend a full academic year with a group of kids and then have to say goodbye to them at the end. Three months and I get overly attached. I don't know how they do it. I don't think I could. I should probably designate a full post to that, too, since I spend so much time referencing it in passing without really talking about it. I'll add it to the growing list of things that I mean to do and then never get done.

That hardly catches us up, but it's a start, I guess. How have you been?