Saturday, January 26, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013: January

My Off The Shelf dedicated bookshelf - the rest are on my kindle

Well, we're approaching the end of January so I figured it was time to do an Off the Shelf update. I'll try to do one every month so I have a record of how I did in the challenge.

If you're reading this post on my actual blog site, you can see my Goodreads widget over on the right there that shows my total book count. So far I've completed 5 books in 2013. While I've only set a goal of 45 books (which is marginally less than a book a week) I'm still trying to keep my running total to about 1 book a week - that way I have a bit of wiggle room. So I'm still 1 book ahead of my working goal right now, hooray!

I've finished my preliminary reading and read one book of my Off the Shelf list. In summary, so far in January I've completed the following books:

  1. Dark Matter by Juli Zeh
  2. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files 4)
  3. A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French
  4. Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber by Stephen Yafa
  5. Badass by Ben Thompson

It's a long weekend here in Australia (Australia Day) so I expect I will finish at least one more book this weekend. I'm about to start Death Masks by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files 5).

I'm pretty happy with how I'm going. I'm enjoying reading again, even if nothing I've read so far has been blow-my-mind amazing. If you want to see my review of each book, check out my Goodreads page.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Man/Woman of Now - The Kia Ads

There's a fairly big sporting event happening in Australia right now - the Australian Open. If you're not Australian and/or not in to tennis, you might not be aware of it. I don't tend to watch tennis - I know essentially how it works, and I can recognise the names of the main players, and follow along in conversations with people who are really in to it, but it's not really my thing. Tonight, though, I turned it on in the background while I was reading and was listening with half an ear.

This post isn't about tennis, though - it's about a matched pair of ads for Kia Australia that are running right now. I don't watch a lot of TV, and especially not free-to-air TV, so I don't really see many ads. I tend to forget how heteronormative mainstream media is because I just don't consume it that much. It's really, really hard to ignore ads though - they're designed to catch your attention. So when a Berlei ad came on talking about bouncing breasts (yes, really) it distracted me and I looked up - a friend had mentioned this ad recently and so I was watching it to see what she was talking about. That ad is a whole other story, though, so I won't go further in to the bouncing breasts ad here. The next ad in this break was the Kia "Man of Now" ad. I thought it was an interesting gimmick, but didn't think that much more of it...Until in the next break, the matching "Woman of Now" ad played. And now I was interested. The comparison between the two was particularly telling.

Man of Now

Vocal transcript: I'm a new-age man, I'm ageless - but not ageist. I'm free-range, free-spirited, free-willed - but on a leash. I push the envelope, push the buttons, push a pram [as he walks past a woman pushing a pram], push it real good. I wear the pants, I wear aftershave, I wear the blame and I wear it well. I'm going strong, and in one direction - but not on my iPod [he pulls a face like he smells something bad]. I'm tweeting, posting, sharing, linking, liking - my wall is never dry, I'm a social networking butterfly [as he walks past a woman walking with a little girl wearing fairy wings]. I'm house-proud, a house hunter, I like a house party, now I'm in the dog house [he pulls a little-boy-repentant face, then bumps in to the woman from the other ad]. I'm a barbequeing, meat-eating, sausage-sizzling, prawn-peeling salad lover. I'm international, interconnected, intercontinental - I'm into everything. [He gets into his car - a sporty sedan].

Woman of Now

Vocal transcript: I'm a woman of my time - on time, behind time. I climb the corporate ladder...I've got a ladder in my stockings! I can't wait, I don't have time to wait. I put on weight, I lose weight [as two female joggers in pink outfits jog past]. I wear a skirt, I wear the pants, I wear heels, and I wear them out. I'm texting, typing, LOLing, OMGing, I'm digitally in touch - but not retouched [as she walks past a billboard advertising an unidentified beauty product]. I'm a story-telling, canteen-helping, fundraising, muffin-making, party-going, yoga lover [she bumps in to the man from the other ad]. I'm in all compartments, head of all departments. I'm into womanhood, and watch the neighbourhood - it's all good! I'm putting fires out, putting my feelers out, letting my feelings out. I don't internalise - I vocalise. [She gets into her car, an SUV].

The man's description is nearly all about him taking charge and taking action. He is doing things, positive actions that let him take charge of others. When he's subservient it's to a woman in a clichéd way - "on a leash", "in the doghouse". His appearance and attire isn't referred to, except for the cliché "wear the pants" (which occurs in the woman's ad also) and his aftershave. His social media activity is him doing things. He's dominant, in control, active. He drives a sporty car.

The woman is a very different story.  The woman's appearance and attire is mentioned six times - including "wearing the pants". Her value is based on her appearance - she's horrified to find a ladder in her stockings, she's proud she doesn't need to be retouched. Most of her actions are passive, supporting things - making muffins, helping in the canteen (presumably at school), telling stories (presumably to her children). Her weight is mentioned (of course). Her social media actions are reactions to others - LOLing, OMGing. She's passive and reactive. She drives a practical car.

The ads are subtle and use an interesting gimmick which is fairly popular right now (of following a moving narrator who is speaking directly to the camera) and I'm sure they're effective - they use current language and refer to current pop culture trends, and they're appealing to their target audience of married working couples with young families. They're perfect examples of the "perfect" man and woman of now, and so because of that, they hit the mark.

But the social construct that creates these ideals is still going strong and doesn't seem to be crumbling. Both men and women have a lot to live up to, if they want to meet these ideals. Messages like these are everywhere, and are so insidious that it's easy for them to pass unnoticed and just slip in through the subconscious. It's hard to question messages we receive every day. But it's only by questioning these messages that we start to unpack and turn against these ideals. We don't need to meet these ideals to get through life, let alone buy a car, and we shouldn't feel pressured to.

(Note: according to the YouTube comments on the man's ad, these are rip-offs of a George Carlin routine. If you know which one, let me know in the comments on this post! But I don't recommend you read the YouTube comments. Seriously. Especially on the woman's ad.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Off The Shelf 2013

I'm currently suffering from Reader's Block.  I have 3 books I've started reading and stalled on, and a pending pile about a mile high.  I want to read, I'm just struggling to motivate myself to spend my precious spare time reading.  So when Miss RBit from Legally Alien told me that she's doing some reading challenges this year my ears pricked up.  I decided to join her on one: the Off The Shelf 2013 challenge from Bookish Ardour.

The goal of this challenge is to read books that have been lurking sadly, forgotten and unread, on your bookshelf for too long.  I have quite a lot of those, because I'm a book collector.  I buy books I've heard are good and then forget to read them.  I buy second-hand books by the boxful.  And there's also quite a lot of books that were bought for Dave that I eventually decide I want to read, too.

Preliminary Preparations
Before I start on my stack of unread books, I of course need to finish the books I've already started, and also a couple of books that I've borrowed from other people and need to return before they break down my door with axes and torches and an angry mob.  So, before I do anything else, I have to finish reading the following:
The Challenge
Once I feel like I have a clean slate, I can start my actual challenge list.  I decided that my Challenge Level (from the Bookish Ardour challenge post) is going to be Level 3: Making a Dint, which means I need to read 30 of my unread books this year.  Which is a lot but I think is doable.  But wait, it gets worse!  As mentioned above, I'm in the middle of Book 4 of The Dresden Files, a modern-fantasy-supernatural-detective series which currently runs to 14 books plus a short story collection.  I have decided, probably rashly, to 
group the entire unread portion of the series together as one Hulk-sized book of my 30 book list.  So, in no particular order, here is the list of Off The Shelf books I will be reading in 2013:
  1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  2. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel - a non-fiction book about, well, guys
  3. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling - Rowling's first adult fiction novel
  4. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - Book 1 & 2 of a projected in-progress trilogy of fantasy novels - The Kingkiller Chronicle (2 for the price of 1!)
  5. Badass by Ben Thompson - a humor/history non-fiction collection of stories about badasses
  6. Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney - biography of Nikola Tesla
  7. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal - non-fiction book about how gaming can save the world
  8. Scott of the Antarctic by David Crane - another biography, this one about Robert Falcon Scott
  9. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - a fantasy novel
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - a classic that I'm embarrassed to even include because I should have read it long ago
  11. Neuromancer by William Gibson - classic sci-fi
  12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - a fantasy novel that has been sitting in my "to read" pile for ages
  13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick - classic sci-fi and the basis for the movie Blade Runner
  14. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe - Nigerian fiction
  15. Fevre Dream  by George R. R. Martin - supernatural fantasy that I picked up because it's by my favorite author but never got around to reading
  16. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton - Australian fiction
  17. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan - Chinese fiction
  18. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - post-apocalyptic sci-fi
  19. Kokoda by Peter FitzSimons - historical non-fiction
  20. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - (the novel version) - classic sci-fi
  21. Papillon by Henri Charrière - French memoir
  22. Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon - the definitive HAES non-fiction book that I embarrassingly still haven't read
  23. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan - non-fiction book about the scientific method and critical thinking
  24. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk - contemporary fiction - I'm a fan of the movie and want to check out the book
  25. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Indian fantasy - recently made into a movie and I want to read the book before I see it 
  26. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez - Spanish fiction
  27. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - an allegorical classic
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - another one of those must-read books that I'm yet to read!
  29. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - another one I should have read by now...this is getting embarrassing
  30. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood - one of the very few books I've started and given up on, I'm hoping I can get through it this time
And there we go.  This list in no way reflects my usual reading tastes, by the way - I tend to stick to "safe" warm-fuzzy fantasy and keep clear of what I think of as "Oprah Book Club" books - contemporary fiction or chick-lit.  I also used to have a complete blanket ban on sci-fi that I've been gradually lifting a teeny bit at a time.  I do read quite a lot of non-fiction but not as much as represented here, and usually don't read biographies.  So I'm using the challenge to also push my boundaries a little bit more.

All in all that's 45 books in total to get through this year which is probably pushing it so I'll have to see how I go.  It's certainly doable and I used to read a lot more than that, so hopefully this will help me get into my reading groove.  I've put all the books I have in physical copy on their own shelf in my bedroom, and grouped all the ones I have on my Kindle together, so everything is set to go!  I just have to avoid starting too many at once.  I expect I'll usually have at least 2 going - a fiction and a non-fiction - but I'll try to limit myself to that.  I'll be reviewing and rating on Goodreads as I go also - I haven't used it before (surprisingly) so this is a good way to start.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves!  I still have to complete my preliminary excuse me, I'm off to bury my nose in Dark Matter.

This post is part of my Off The Shelf 2013 Reading Challenge