Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Possibly Annual Shark Admiration Post

The boyfriend is pretty miffed that it's Shark Week. I'd like to think it's because I'm going to be giving more attention to the boob tube than to him, but I know it's just that he'd rather watch non-shark programming on Discovery. That doesn't, however, mean that I understand his aversion.

Sharks are so amazing. Look at the size of those animals. Look at their enormous mouths, the rows and rows of teeth. The electromagnetic sensors in their snouts. These animals are truly top predators.

So I'm not saying that I want to hang out with sharks. Not without at least some chain mail armor and definitely a dive-cage. As cool as a shark-bite scar would be, with my luck any shark-related injury would lead to shark-related death. I'd be another fun statistic.

But ultimately, sharks are misunderstood. They're pretty smart creatures, and, while not dolphins, I still can't fathom eating them. Endangered sharks are illegally fished in parts of the world for shark fin soup (which I'm pretty sure I wouldn't eat even if I didn't think sharks were too cool to be food), and you know we wouldn't let this go as easily if sharks were cute and furry like a tiger.

In conclusion, here are some things you already know if you've ever watched Shark Week:

- Sharks don't think people taste good and only try to eat us when they think we're something else.
- Bull sharks can go in fresh water and salt water, making them pretty awesome.
- Playing dead is a better defense than thrashing around like an injured animal in case of shark attack.
- It is thought that the sharks that massacred the shipwreck victims of the Indianapolis were Oceanic White Tip.
- The short-finned mako is the world's fastest shark, but it's pretty impossible to see how fast since they're pretty tricky, and pretty strong.
- Sharks can be effectively hypnotized by flipping them upside down. (This is not to say, of course, we should all go out and flip sharks. That wouldn't be very nice...or smart.)

PS, here's a picture of me with shark teeth, courtesy of I think I could have done better with PhotoShop. But, you know, obsession and all...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

American Satire & Obama Drama

Since I've been getting emails and IMs about this, I figured I may as well lay it out here in Ye Olde Blog. I think there's nothing wrong with The New Yorker's recent cover. You know, the one causing all the ruckus, since it's got the Obamas all dressed up like terrorists. Since I'm not terribly politically-minded, I can only assume all y'all are harassing me 'cause I used to work at that fine magazine. That's ok. Just let me share my piece.

I really think the biggest problem with the cover has nothing to do with the magazine or the artist (Barry Blitt) at all. I think the biggest problem is that American's don't get satire. And that's fine, except, there are a lot of smart media outlets like TNY that are really great with satire, and the Obama cover is a perfect example. It addresses all the propaganda that the right-wing pundits are throwing at the Obama campaign. You know, that bullshit about him being a terrorist, a Muslim (and who cares if he were, really, but that's another blog for another day), etc. It highlights that "terrorist fist jab," has a flag burning in the fire place, and a portrait of Bin Laden on the wall. I mean, really, folks, what's not to get about this? It's so absurd, it has to be a joke.

And, okay, okay I get that it's a controversial cover. But seriously, the folks at The New Yorker are smart people, and you shouldn't think for a minute that they weren't expecting some sort of lashback from Obama supporters and the liberal media. And they know exactly what Fox News and all those conservative pundits are going to do with that - but, let's face it, those guys are preaching to the converted. You could put Obama in a crown of thorns, a frilly pink dress, or a Hitler-esque mustache on a magazine cover and these folks are still going to refer to him as "B. Hussein Obama" when they call in to raise a stink on talk radio.

But let's face it folks, controversy sells. This cover is going to move units, and that should make Obama supporters happy. If you actually open the magazine, you'll find not one but two articles on the senator. Now, given that a) I don't work at TNY anymore and b) as a result of a) I'm broke (and busy), I haven't had the time or money to sit down and read the articles (you may have noticed I'm up to my ears in teen and middle grade books), but, given the way the magazine tends to lean, you can be pretty sure that they have something good to say about Obama. At the very least, you know that they are going to be smart, no-bullshit pieces. And, you know what? That's exactly what the skeptical and the undecided need to read.

Yes, I support Obama. As I previously stated, I'm not very smart about politics. I'm one of those horrible people that gets pissed off when the President gives a speech or there's an important debate and it interrupts my TV programs. I don't read a lot of political magazines (or any, these days - like I said, too many kids' books), and I don't do a lot of research on the candidates. That said, I have seen Obama speak, I've heard what he has to say, and it seems to me he has a lot of good ideas for the American people, and the drive, ambition, and will-power to see these ideas through to fruition. Barack Obama loves America. For Chrissakes, anyone who is going to let a magazine cover dissuade them of that fact was never willing to consider Obama's character in the first place.

In conclusion: what's the big deal?

In another conclusion: I think you guys just need something to complain about. As if there wasn't enough already. Seriously.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This is just to say

That I'm really
going to miss
reading recipes
and anecdotes
from Miss A.

I hope she gets
healthy and
maybe blogs
again. (So sweet
and delicious).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Die-Cut Covers Are the Enemy

Dear Publishers,

I am writing you as a lover of books, no, an ambassador of books. As an inventory manager at a large independent book store, I assure you, I care for books like very few Americans do. I spend a lot of time every day thinking about books, shelving them in my head the way you fit Tetris blocks mentally after having played for hours before bed. Things like humidity pain me not because of the state of my hair, but the state of paperback covers curling when they are face-out on the shelves. But at least these covers revert to their prior state of flatness when shelved spine-out and pressed between their literary brethren.

Not so is the case for a damaged die-cut jacket.

Publishers, I come to you hoping that you will understand that books with die-cut details in the jacket or cover, however cute or funny or exciting to look at, stand no chance on a shelf not maintained and guarded by an ex-member of the FBI's bomb squad, treating each with the delicacy and precision he would treat a live wire. Inevitably, these seemingly simple jackets will be shelved too close and too hastily next to another book by a customer - or even a distracted, busy member of the staff - and the material that creates the cute little hole(s) will start to tear backward. The tome has begun its descent into book purgatory.

One tiny tear is never where it ends. Even books with just one simple cut in the cover wind up with their covers tattered beyond recognition, and remain lonely on the shelves where they cannot, will not sell until marked down and banished to the clearance aisle. And nobody wants a damaged book. Much like Rudolph's Island of Misfit Toys, the damaged books in this aisle can stay there for years before anyone even gives them a sidelong glance.

So here's the thing, Publishers. If you want your books to look beautiful and pristine on the shelves of my book store, stop making books with die-cut covers. Especially books for kids and teens, as these are folks who often times haven't figured out the proper care and keeping of a perfect-bound masterpiece. And even the young ones who do love their books as much as I do have no control over the four year old who comes into the store behind them just thinks it's fun to pull book after book from the shelves, throwing them to the floor, just to see how much damage they can accomplish before Momma notices. Kids will be kids, after all.

I understand that you want your books to be the most intriguing, cutting-edge items customers can see. But if you want your books to be seen at all, for the love of all things literary, make that cutting edge a little less literal.

With All Due Respect,

Ambassador of the Books

EDIT: Below is a picture of Sarah Dessen's latest book. I haven't read it, and have no opinion on the book itself. But I thought maybe this post needed an example photo. Here you have it: