The occasional observations of Carolyn Kephart, author

Sunday, October 09, 2011

To Boldly Glow

Will you wear orange, my dear oh dear,
And will you wear orange, Jenny Jenkins?
No, orange I won't wear, and it rhymes, so there!

Jenny wasn't alone in her antipathy. According to a study, orange is one of the least popular of hues. Observe the pie:


White, grey, and brown are disliked even more than orange, which isn't surprising; they seem to be most preferred by monks and winter. Still, I can't understand the animus toward orange, because to me it embodies optimism. It paints the hope of sunrise and the promise of sunset. It's the standout color of this my favorite month, figuring in pumpkins (away with those trendy pasty ones!), gourds, squash, and blazing leaves. It's wonderful to have such a gorgeous glut of the hue, braving the barren onset of November.

Some of my leaves from yesteryear.


Red and yellow, which combine to form my beloved color, 
can be a bit trying on their own.

 Then again, they can be stunningly splendid. 
(For more examples of uchikake, see my blog post Imperial Opulence.)
I'm always wary of "What your favorite color says about you" articles because they tend to over-accentuate the positive, and sweetly assure you that you're introspective and outspoken rather than narcissistic and obnoxious. However, one analysis that I came across the other day seemed eerily spot on:

"Orange: This color of luxury and pleasure appeals to the flamboyant and fun-loving person who likes a lively social round. Orange people may be inclined to dramatize a bit, and people notice them, but they are generally good-natured and popular. They can be a little fickle and vacillating, but on the whole they try hard to be agreeable. Orange is the color of youth, strength, fearlessness, curiosity and restlessness."

A decade ago I'd have agreed entirely with that assessment, but I've become reclusive since then for reasons that I hope will prove temporary, and my patience is mightily strained at times. Still, in my heart and in my writing, the traits described are still very much alive, although the passage of time has made me prefer the darker shades like cinnabar, persimmon, and (most apropos) bittersweet.

Another color I've become fond of is the deep purple I associate with wine, but which is more often called maroon. It's a popular color in India for bridal saris, perhaps because it's both regal and restrained.


I didn't quite know what motivated my affection, but the article previously cited had some answers:

"Harsh experience has probably matured the Maroon person into someone likable and generous. It is often a favorite color of someone who has been battered by life but has come through. It indicates a well-disciplined Red personality—one who has had difficult experiences and has not come through unmarked but who has grown and matured in the process."

The hesitant prophecy of the first sentence is, I hope, true in my case; the other conditions certainly seem to fit. When I look back on my writing--I recently unearthed a trove of stuff written in my teens that I'd entirely forgotten about, with mostly good reason--I'd have to agree that what I'm now working on is rich in the fruits of experience. It's not purple prose, but definitely autumnal. Most of my short fiction is set in the fall, a time of reflection, meditation, and harvest. Ripeness really is all.

Namaste,

CK

Visit my website for free short fiction, first chapters of my novels, and bookstore links.









Friday, September 23, 2011

At The Core Of The Happy Apple: A Mystery Solved

Let me begin by stating that I'm careful with things. Like an Entwife, I prefer order, and plenty, and peace. Wanton destruction is something I can't remember indulging in even once in my entire life, and I make the following confession with a contrite heart. Caution: this post contains possibly disenchanting revelations. If you have fond recollections of the Happy Apple and prefer to let its inner workings remain an enigma, please don't read on.

Some background first. The Fisher Price Happy Apple was a wobble toy from the early 1970s, and countless babies loved it for its cheery face and soothing chimes reminiscent of a gamelan. They also enjoyed its invitingly chewable and easily detached stem and leaves, features typical of playthings in that less-regulated era. Fisher Price shortened the stem later to discourage teething, and here are the two versions:

Chipper, aren't they?
Fisher Price retired the Happy Apple after 1974, which is odd considering the toy's popularity, and sad because quiet lovely sounds are always good for people no matter what their age. Although it was made to be patted, batted, and swatted by tiny flailing hands, the Apple is best savored when held close to the ear and just barely shaken. If Fisher Price could make a minimalist version for the present day, unencumbered by perilous foliage and minus the rather overly-insistent grin, they'd sell jillions. I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

And now for the regrettable part of my tale. Always keep in mind while reading further that my Happy Apple was nowhere close to mint condition when I acquired it at the local Goodwill some months ago. Shorn of its stem and greenery and covered with a heavy patina of scratches, it looked all of its nearly forty years, but from its secret depths emerged the most lovely celestial harmony. Many people are that way, with a world-worn exterior masking inner resonance. The poignancy of the notion moved me, and the 99-cent price tag seemed a killer steal.

After I got Happy home and gave it a scrub, I kept it on the table next to the sofa where I like to write, and at intervals when I required inspiration I'd rock it and swirl it, letting its soft tolling like distant temple bells imbue me with serenity. What a wonderful toy this must have been, imparting to a child the lesson that the more gently something is handled, the more its beauty will appear! The Happy Apple could have fallen from Buddha's bodhi tree.

But the serpent had entered the garden. Peace fosters the spirit of inquiry, and eventually Happy's deep delicate tones caused me to muse "what's inside this battered tchotke creating such an exquisite, angelic sound?"

Not wishing to expend effort that would destroy the object, I looked all over the Internet for an answer but found none, which astonished me. People are always tearing stuff apart, so I expected to find at least a few YouTubes or gleeful accounts of someone taking a sledgehammer to a Happy Apple, but no. The toy had existed long before the Internet, and had achieved a venerable prestige. The few YouTube videos that chanced to feature a Happy Apple tended to show closely-watched infants interacting with what was clearly considered a cherished family heirloom.

Still, Happy Apples aren't all that rare since they were produced in the many thousands during their brief time of flourishing, and I was relieved to find that they can still be readily acquired online, stem and leaves intact, for a nominal price. Reassured by their availability and unable to control my curiosity any longer, yesterday I took a compass saw and went to work, severing the fruit along the weld line in the middle.

Happy turned out to be a toughie despite its disarming smile. It's hefty, about the size of a small cantaloupe, so it wasn't easy to hold steady on its side. To add to the difficulty its plastic was as thick as harness leather, which meant I had to saw around the complete circumference before the halves finally came apart. As I worked, I frequently stopped and gave the Apple a shake to make sure I wasn't wrecking the mechanism within, and it always chimed reassuringly. As I got closer and closer to my goal, however, I began having trepidations. What if I accidentally cracked open a hidden chamber of mercury, spilling it everywhere? What if it for no reason at all the thing caught on fire? What if what lurked inside was really a malevolent alien being who'd been waiting nearly forty years for liberation? The chances were remote, but you never know. Worse than any of those possibilities, what if  I ended up destroying whatever caused the beautiful sound? I began to feel a bit like Eve must have when she handled her apple.

But none of those dire mischances occurred, and here's what I found. Click the image for a larger view.

The Happy Apple's core exposed.
 I'd never have guessed that the mechanism was so simple. I'd envisioned spheres within spheres, delicately balanced and calibrated, only too capable of falling apart beyond any recovery once the Apple's secret was unlocked. Instead, I found a little circle of eight metal rods in different lengths in the lower part, struck by a swinging metal disk suspended from the top section, very much like a fixed set of wind chimes. The components of this ingenious gong were of springy steel tough enough to withstand the wear of decades.

And there you have it, another of life's mysteries solved. While I regret sacrificing a vintage treasure, I take heart in knowing that my discovery may save countless other Apples in far better states of preservation from a similar fate.

Since my Apple's aesthetic appearance, if it can really be said to have had one, is now impaired, I plan to remove the mechanism and house it in something made of natural material like wood or bamboo or gourd. That way I'll be able to enjoy its lovely harmonies in a form rather more dignified and decorative than a plastic fruit with a goofy grin. Still, I'll always remember Happy.

CK

Postscript added April 28, 2015: This is one of my most popular blog posts, and I'm delighted it's attracted so much notice. Since I'm best known for my fiction writing, I hope you'll visit my website for free short stories and chapters of my novels. Thanks and happy reading!

News -- December 4, 2015: "At The Core Of The Happy Apple" is now available as an e-book at Smashwords, which distributes to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and many other retailers (including Apple!).


Monday, August 08, 2011

Italian Hours


 Ciao, amici! It's been a travel-rich summer with no time to blog, since I spent most of June in the Rockies and explored Italy for the month of July. Eventually I'll post about the West, but this one's all about bella Italia. I'd visited there many years ago and it was a pleasure to return, especially since nothing went seriously wrong, the places we stayed were uniformly comfortable, and everyone we met kindly tolerated my rusty struggles with their native tongue.

Hub had a week-long conference at Pisa, after which we explored Tuscany and Umbria by train before ending up in Venice. We visited as many towns as our schedule and stamina would permit, with a preference for new territory. Since we never got enough of Venice, we gave ourselves three days there to crown our travels. Unlike my past visits, this time I had a camera with me, and I nearly wore it out. Click on the images twice to enlarge them to full size.

 During our week at Pisa we stayed at this former monastery. Although the monks had long departed, their church was still in active use, and its early Mass bells were our wake-up call.

An evening view of what Pisa is famous for, peeking out behind its companions. They all look a bit off-kilter to me.

Assisi with its immense church dedicated to St. Francis, viewed from our hotel window. The local bus spared us what would have been a stiffish climb.

A monk enjoys the cool of the Assisi evening. Compared to the throngs of pilgrims and tourists I remember from my first visit back in the 80s, Assisi seemed very quiet this time.

The tranquil Tuscan landscape viewed from 
the heights of ancient, austere Todi.

One of mighty-walled Perugia's massive Etruscan/Roman gates; the traffic sign gives an idea of its size. The Umbrian Jazz Festival was in full swing while we were visiting, and we wandered the town enjoying free music from stage acts and street musicians.

 
A street in Spello, one of the loveliest places in Tuscany.

 Another view of Spello. I loved its unspoiled, unstudied charm, and hope its citizens someday decide to lessen (or better yet, eliminate) car traffic through the narrow streets, a regrettable feature of Italy's medieval towns.

Gloria! An ecstatic upward-yearning angel on a 
chapel fresco in gracious, art-filled Modena.

 
What Chaucer would call a 'a verray, parfit, gentil knyght,' found gracing a wall of Modena's archaeological museum. The sculpture's low relief and other aspects of its style remind me of Egyptian art, making me wonder if this unknown paladin was a Crusader.

 A stately pleasure-dome indeed: the fantastic pavilion at the luxurious Tettuccio Spa in Montecatini Terme, a resort once frequented by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable and Sofia Loren. Taking the waters is a declining pastime now, and as a result the pavilion is only open for special events. By lucky chance a charity gala was going on, and the door guard let us in to look around. 

 Towers and church spires of the hilltop old quarter of Arezzo spike the horizon in this view from our hotel's roof terrace. Touristed mostly by Italians who come for its classic ambiance, annual jousting tournament and association with the film La vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful), Arezzo is a gem of a town, full of beauty, vitality and warmth. So few Americans visit Arezzo that Hub and I, who are both blondish, were routinely mistaken for Germans.

No, I don't own a time machine, and these soldiers aren't discussing their upcoming campaign against the Picts. They're Roman re-enactors at the amphitheater ruins in Arezzo, looking perfectly at home in legionary gear.

Bologna, which I'd loved at first sight years ago, had changed very much. Still, I was intrigued by a sculpture show in one of the courtyards, full of stylized slaughter and rapine. Viewers could get as close to as they liked and the place was packed, but somehow I managed to take a few snaps that weren't crowded with people, like the picture above.

Padua's university district, dating from the Middle Ages. Graduation was going on, and we watched students celebrating with friends and family in hilarious ceremonies steeped in ancient tradition--costumes, speeches, jokes and songs, accompanied by lots of wine. Despite all the fun, I could tell it was a very proud moment for everyone concerned. In Modena I saw honorees crowned with actual laurel wreaths. 

The Roman acqueduct at Spoleto, flanked by a monastery and a fortress, the latter built to guard the water supply. Spoleto's famous music festival had just ended, but there was much else to enjoy, from the giant Calder sculpture in front of the train station to the winding maze of medieval streets and the wonderful architecture from every century.

 
The striking, typically Tuscan banded-marble cathedral in Pistoia, one of several such buildings in the city's old center. The weekly market was taking place when we visited, making for a lively, crowded scene.

Pistoia's a bit rough around the edges, and I saw a lot of faces that would fit in perfectly with this detail from the c. 1525 terra-cotta reliefs depicting the Seven Works of Mercy on the loggia of the Ospedale del Ceppo. The hospital was founded in 1277, enlarged after the Black Death in 1348, and is still used as an administration building.

On a typically broiling Venice summer day this gondolier wisely waits in the shade for customers, who should appear very soon. Despite the high prices for rides (starting at about $80 a half-hour), I saw far many more gondole in action on this visit than I did during my first trip years ago. Mainland Chinese seemed to make up a large fraction of the clientele this time.

Palazzi on the Grand Canal. Since 2011 is a Biennale year and many countries rent floors of beautiful buildings like these to serve as galleries, Hub and I had the glorious opportunity to enjoy not only the art exhibits, but the wonderful rooms once inhabited by noble families. I loved the frescoed walls and ceilings, terrazzo and inlay floors, and magnificent balcony views of the most fascinating main street in all the world.

A water view of the Piazza San Marco, taken during the ten-minute trip back to our lodgings on the Lido. We had a 3-day pass for unlimited vaporetto rides to all parts of Venice and the outlying islands, and it was always a pleasure to cruise down the Grand Canal on our way home. The Lido was a restful, small-town-feeling, welcome break from the tourist mobs.

A detail from one of the medieval 15th-century column capitals of the doge's palace at Saint Mark's square. The theme is the Seven Deadly Sins, and this panel features Gluttony. Hub insisted that the greedy lady is devouring a cone of gelato rather than a chicken drumstick, probably in allusion to my own passion for Italy's amazing ice cream. (For what it's worth, you can see the bird's claws just below Gluttony's clutching hand.)

I took hundreds more pictures, but these few give an idea of how much I enjoyed my return trip to a country that has given me countless things of beauty from the most distant past to the present moment, all of them joys forever. 

Now that I'm home and settled in for a while, I'll be putting all my efforts into getting Queen of Time published. As soon as it's live, I'll be posting the news here.

Arrivederci,

CK




Monday, May 02, 2011

Just Up!

My Norse-themed tale The Kind Gods was published today in the current issue of Bewildering Stories, a speculative fiction e-zine with a venerable reputation and a multiplicity of offerings in the form of short fiction, novellas, novel excerpts, nonfiction contributions, and reviews.

You're invited to read the story and check out my BwS bio, and if you're inclined to engage in a discussion of The Kind Gods, feel free to at the bottom of the page of Challenge 429.

The story has been getting thousands of downloads on Smashwords, and many readers consider it a classic. Enjoy!

CK

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A-Maying

La la! It's May, the lusty month of May!
That darling month when ev'ryone throws self-control away! ~Camelot, the musical
"So it befell in the month of May, Queen Guenever called unto her knights of the Table Round; and she gave them warning that early upon the morrow she would ride a-Maying into woods and fields beside Westminster." ~ Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur
I like to think that Guinevere, a lady I admire despite her often taxing behavior (I'd have let my knights sleep in), was singing  Kalenda Maya during her diversions. A medieval ballad in honor of May Day, it was a smash hit in its time; an authentic-sounding (to me at least) version of it can be found here, and the lyrics with English translation are here (along with an automatic midi file that plays when the site loads, so be warned).

Which leads me to some gently cautionary verse from a more complicated century:

"How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays ;
And their uncessant labors see
Crowned from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid ;
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose." ~from The Garden, by Andrew Marvell (c. 1650)

Marvell, whose last name wonderfully describes his poetry, was using botanical shorthand to indicate the honors men strive for, or once did: palm for saintly endeavors, oak for great deeds civic or martial, bays for artistic achievement. I've vainly amazed myself in pursuit of the latter all my writing life, and will continue in the quest no matter how quixotic--always remembering that I owe that adjective to Cervantes, who also wryly noted "I know well what the temptations of the devil are, and that one of the greatest is putting it into a man's head that he can write and print a book by which he will get as much fame as money, and as much money as fame" (Don Quixote, Book II).

But if I had leisure to construct a garland of repose, it'd be made of irises and peonies just now, since they're growing in lush Spring profusion all around the house. Huge ruffly showy blooms they are, and would make a glorious Pre-Raphaelitish sort of crown, or fetching noggin-toppers like those sported by the brazen nymphs in the divinely preposterous Chevalier Aux Fleurs (1894).


May the Muses guide and cherish their elect,

CK

Visit my website for free short fiction and first chapters of my novels.








Thursday, March 17, 2011

Double Happiness Chocolate Cake

 Life can always use a rich bit of sweetness. Today I made my never-fail Italian chocolate cake, and feel as if I really must share it with the world. It's easy, simple, and never goes wrong, highly desirable qualities under any circumstance but absolutely heavenly in this instance.

Note: This recipe doesn't require a mixer. A wooden spoon works fine, although I use a whisk to stir the batter once it's assembled.

  Double Happiness Cake

The Yang of dark rich chocolate cake
Meets with the Yin of smooth delicate chocolate cream,
And both meld in a glazed caramel Nirvana.

This recipe makes a European-style single layer cake frosted with ganache and drizzled with caramel. Measurements are American, with the assumption that your butter is 4 sticks to a pound. The sequence of steps begins with the

Cake:

1 stick butter, room temperature                                       

1 ½ cups white flour
1 ¼ cup white sugar            

1 tsp. baking soda 
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs                    

½ tsp. salt
½ cup Hershey’s cocoa powder        

1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add eggs one by one and beat to golden smoothness. 


Stir the cocoa into the hot coffee until blended, and pour into the butter mixture. Add dry ingredients. 

Whisk well and pour into a well-greased and floured 9-inch round baking pan lined at the bottom with waxed paper. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. The critical part is not letting it bake too dry, so watch the last few minutes closely. This cake never fails. Promise.
 

Ganache Frosting: Heat 2 cups heavy whipping cream in a saucepan along with an 8 to 12-ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips depending on how strong you like the flavor. Refrigerate until it’s thickened, then whip it to a fluff and frost the cake with it. Once you’ve done that, move on to the finishing touch—

Caramel Drizzle:

1 stick butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Melt the butter in a small saucepan (use a nonstick one if you have it). Add the brown sugar, and bring the mixture slowly to a boil. Add the milk in a stream, whisking all the while, and bring the mixture to a boil again. Remove the pan from the heat, let the mixture cool to warm, then stir in the vanilla and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar sifted through a sieve, beating to a smooth consistency. Drizzle this in Jackson Pollock style over the cake. 


Variation if you have the time: Split the cake and fill it with the ganache, then top with French chocolate glaze, then apply the caramel drizzle. This is what I do if I'm feeling very fancy.

French Chocolate Glaze: Put a half cup of cocoa powder into a glass bowl with about ½ cup of sugar, a lump of butter, and a dash of water. Microwave about 15 seconds. Take it out and stir to get everything mixed smooth. Microwave again for about 30 seconds and stir again; add a dash of vanilla. You’ll know when it looks right. It’ll thicken a bit as it cools.

Serve each slice with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with cocoa. Accept the inevitable homage with grace and serenity.

CK



Sunday, March 13, 2011

Remembered Beauty

“From the withered tree, a flower.” ~Zen proverb

I've loved Japan since childhood, and the beauty of its culture has continued to enrich my life in countless ways. Its language is able to define the ineffable: wabi-sabi, shibui, mono no aware, mottainai. Visiting Tokyo and Kyoto in 2008 was the fulfillment of a dream for me, and now as I try to comprehend the horrifying news images from the earthquake, what I most remember is how kind everyone was, and how gracious and patient. Those memories give me hope.

Out of my wrung heart, the wish to live mindfully, spending each instant in the best possible way; to do all I can to help as much as I can. Out of the withered branch, a flower.

The following photographs were taken by me during my Japan visit, and reflect the spiritual strength I found everywhere. Click twice on them for the biggest view.

A granite prayer wheel. Heavy as it looks,
the slightest touch moves it -- a lesson in stone.



A quiet shrine on a rainy day.

The Buddha of Old Fans,
its altar-table piled with offerings.

A favorite temple, serene and restful.

A Buddhist monk chanting in the street.

A shrine fountain with the inscription
"I live for the joy."




CK

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smashwords Read An E-Book Week Sale

I'm late about getting around to this announcement, but...

As part of the ongoing Read An E-Book Week celebration, all of my novels are on sale for half price at Smashwords with the coupon code RAE50, including The Ryel Saga: A Tale of Love and Magic. My short fiction, which is getting thousands of downloads, is still free (all five stories are collected in a single volume, PenTangle: Five Pointed Fables, also half price).

Mark Coker*, you rock!

CK

*Founder of Smashwords and all-around great guy

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Springing Forward

I'm delighted to announce that Luna Station Quarterly has published my wryly nostalgic fairy tale Everafter Acres as its Spring issue Story of the Week. The encouraging reception of my first humorous work of fiction just at the start of my favorite season is inspiring the light-hearted side of me, and I can promise that more droll tales are in the offing. 

:-)

CK

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So Much Now

The worst of the year is officially over. Yesterday I found daffodils blooming in the back yard, fragile but dauntless, pushing their gentle way through the litter of dead leaves. The contrast of fresh green and yellow against the withered browns and grays is a reassuring triumph. Winter can't last. Sorrow has a limit. We take strength, and move into the light. I look forward to warm breezes and bared limbs, and hopefully some baby foxes scampering around the brush pile in May, as they did, enchantingly, a couple of years ago; I saw what looked very like the mother fox today, who seemed to be considering re-tenancy.

The other day I completed She of the Silver Feet, a short story unlike anything I've ever written before, very light and frothy on the surface but roiling with implication, and am sending it to magazines. I'm delighted that another of my short pieces, a fairy-tale pastiche called Everafter Acres, will be published March 1 in Luna Station Quarterly.

Namaste,

CK

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just For The Lovely

By wonderful chance I found The Kaleidoscope Painter last night. It's free, charming, and gorgeous--the perfect antidote to cold gray winter. Here's a pattern I constructed in a few seconds:

  
I love to just put the designer on Auto and enjoy it as my mandala mantra while I meditate. There's a Valentine Kaleidoscope maker, too.


And for another small escape, Fly Guy is a classic. Just load the game at the site, click the arrows, soar, and explore.



Have fun!


CK

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Imperial Opulence

The new Sovran of Almancar had swept in like another sunset, arrayed magnificently in trailing raiment of deep rose satin brocaded in emerald-blue. A light mantle fell in a rustling torrent of gold-silk mosaic, its collar framing his head, its folds rippling about his shoulders to the ground...


The fabled city of Almancar is one of my favorite places in The Ryel Saga, because it is synonymous with the most refined luxury. It was a deep pleasure to create, and in doing so I drew from many times and places. Medieval Japan was a great influence. When I visited Tokyo and Kyoto in 2008, I was surprised at how much of the ancient glory not only survived, but thrived. In particular, the elegant garments that inspired the golden robes of my novel's nobility are still being made. The uchikake, at one time daily wear for Japanese aristocratic ladies, is now strictly wedding finery, to be worn by the bride during the ceremony and never afterward. Such magnificent garments take a year to create, and no two are alike; they are made of the finest silk, splendidly woven, dyed, and embroidered, and as is only fitting, they cost a fortune. A uchikake is worn beltless, as a coat atop the kimono; its padded hem trails several feet, and its hanging sleeves just clear the floor. With its elegance, opulence and otherworldliness, it is truly the garb of fantasy.


For the sultry climate of Almancar I made the uchikake much more light and airy, but changed nothing of its grandeur. Both men and women wear them in my novel, but exorbitant cost and stringent sumptuary laws limit their use to the wealthy and the nobility. The sole exceptions are the courtesans of the Diamond Heaven, Almancar's famed and magnificent pleasure quarter, and that district's clientele, who come from all over the world to taste the ruinous delights of the place.


Here are some glorious examples. Click the images for larger views, and imagine the rustle, the gleam, the grace.





 


CK