Yes, it's a penguin.
No, it has absolutely nothing to do with the "Happy Feet" movie, showing in theaters now. In fact, we've owned him long before advertising for the movie even started. My brother and sister picked him up in Hong Kong, where he had to pass through an airport x-ray machine and ended up reducing an entire troop of security technicians to uncontrollable laughter.
I decided to put up a photo reference of some sort after visiting my LiveJournal and Multiply accounts earlier this week. While Livejournal doesn't place much of a premium on images, Multiply is a photograph-based web site at its core... and, in any case, my postings were starting to feel a little devoid of graphic aesthetics.
Adding to everything was the fact that I have a story being optioned by Philippine Genre Stories, and that they've asked me to submit a picture of myself for publication alongside the work. While they're graciously allowing me to hand in a picture of anything I want, I find that I'd rather not submit a non-Sean image this time. The new periodical plans to encourage direct feedback from its readers, and I'd feel like a literary cop-out if I didn't stand beside my own story.
The fact that few people in the blogosphere know what I look like hasn't been lost on me. I've had to resort to other means of identification when meeting people (mostly involving a large black umbrella), and I've developed a habit of joking about the perils of a secret identity. From a personal point of view, I think of myself as a "word"-based person, and this usually doesn't translate all that well to a world that places emphasis on visual imagery.
Interestingly enough, a photo of myself actually does exist online. It showed up in Jonas Diego's blog, after my trip to the 2005 Philippine Toys and Games Convention:
That's me, the weird-looking guy in the blue shirt standing beside the always-lovely Cathy delos Santos. Hopefully Jonas won't mind my leeching off his Photobucket bandwidth. (Er... right, Jonas? Hello?)
Apart from that, however, the last photos I've ever had taken for public viewing involved a corporate office advertisement (back when the dark and mysterious look was "in"), and my university's literary folio (where a photo was shown of me with my back to the camera). As you can see, I'm not much of a camera person. I don't even like having pictures taken at vacations.
With all that said, it'll still be a cold day in hell before I let a "straight" photo of myself make the rounds. I have this incredible urge to fiddle with pictures of my face, albeit not in a destructive, self-defacing way. I seem to think that I look too much like an ordinary person, and I therefore have to play with the graphics a bit. Does this count as inherent insecurity? Does this express a deep-seated need for attention? Does this imply an internal psychosis that will probably manifest later in life, through some random mixture of guns, chickens and honey-mustard sauce?
I don't know, but whatever it is, I hope that it's not contagious.
For now, however, I'm using the penguin. I'm not using it because of any particular affinity I have for penguins, mind you. I'm just using it because it happened to be the most convenient household object to photograph.
That, and I'm hoping for a number of "Cuuuute!" reactions. A few of those should soften up the audience for the appearance of my ugly mug early next year.