the name of the game: names

There are several conversations that are almost unavoidable when two individuals meet one another for the first time. The name conversation is one of these.

Dear parents, think about the name conversation when picking out that lifelong title for your tot.

Now sometimes, both people have pretty normal names. In this case, the name conversation may not happen, or only to a mild degree, unless one person is for some reason unusually interested in etymology or, to be more exact, the origin of name meanings.

But other times, one person has a less common name and the other person notices and makes the same comments that every person makes about the less common name, but regardless, the person with the less common name decides to humor the common-name holder and pretend like that’s the first time anyone has said that. For example . . .

Howard: Hey, my name is Howard.

Virginia: It’s nice to meet you. I’m Virginia.

Howard: Virginia, that’s a pretty name. Isn’t that the name of a state?

(I’m sure she’s never heard that one before.)

Virginia: Yea, it’s the name of a state.

(She says, pretending she’s just learned something new about her name.)

Howard: I didn’t do that well in school. Where is it exactly?

(Why don’t Americans know geography? I’m guilty, too.)

Virginia: East of West Virginia.

Howard: Oh. That makes sense. (With sort of a chuckle.) So there are really two states named after you?

(“Oh, you’re clever,” Virginia thinks.)

Virginia: Well, I’m pretty sure they were named before me.

the challenge

Start a blog about names. Each day, post about names you’ve heard for the first time recently, your findings on the origins of the name, details, how you think the names describe the people you’ve met, etc. Or blog about your name. Document the things you learn about it. This could even turn into an ancestry project. Maybe you even hope to live up to your name? Blog about that and your efforts.

possible blog names

  • TheNameoftheGame
  • WhatsInAName
  • LivingUpToMyName
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original interactive artwork

Someone should start a blog showcasing their original interactive artwork, artwork “with purpose.” I don’t mean that art doesn’t have purpose of its own volition (The scholarly debate on this subject is too extensive to go into.), but what I mean is if the art also had user-interactive purpose. A blog of this kind could provide optical illusion artwork, or artwork with hidden items (like the I Spy and Where’s Waldo? series we loved as children). Or mazes!

Mazes are these manipulated confines for getting lost in, just so you can know the joy of being found, or unlost. Isn’t it interesting how much we hate the feeling of being lost in a crowd or in an unfamiliar place, but when we go through life-size mazes, we get lost on purpose. We can’t see beyond the walls, or in some cases, rows of corn. We know where we are trying to get to, and yet we’ve never reached that end.

On-paper (or in this case, on-screen mazes) are a little less intimidating. In fact, some individuals throughout the long ages of maze existence (but I’m certain not you, dear readers) have cheated and started at the end, working their way to the start. But when you think of it, that doesn’t make the adventure any easier, because you still know one point and not how to get to the other point until trial-and-error does its magic.

The example blog I am sharing was actually the inspiration for this post, so I give a friendly blogger shoutout to mazeingpuzzles and encourage you to drop by the site to see more original, artsy mazes like the one above.

just-for-fun art and illustrations

Wasn’t there some mystery about going to art class back in elementary school? It wasn’t as predictable as math, as mundane as history, as strict as spelling, or as embarassing as gym class. (Plus, you didn’t have to put on an awkward P.E. uniform complete with knee-length granny shorts. Sometimes you could ever wear a cool art vest thing and get messy on purpose!)

But the days of glory came to an end for all of us. (Well, I guess except for art majors. Lucky.) For me, the last art class I got to take was in my freshman year of high school. After that, it was over. Bring on Chorus and Home Ec, but no more Art.

So it’s been about seven years since I had any “formal” art training. I don’t pretend to be an artist or an illustrator. The closest I can claim is to being a photographer. But art still fascinates me, and I’ve tried my hand at it on and off.

It would be so cool to see a blog of just-for-fun art and illustrations The blog would inevitably document a development of the artist, showcase their experimentations, and hopefully even relate to things going on in their lives.

I have a few artifacts of my own from early to more recent attempts at art. I’ll share them just for fun.

I submitted this when I was thirteen to an illustration contest sponsored by my mom’s company. The theme was safety around the house, and all the top contestants were featured in their company calendar for the following year. Mine was selected as the September illustration, and I was so proud of it. It’s nothing fantastic, but it shows my lettering side a bit. When I was young, I would practice different ways of writing letters in all kinds of notes. Class notes. Notes to my friends. Notes to cute little boys in my third grade class. (It happened. What can I say?)

I must say the hair is very realistic.

The next two are more recent, and both relate to The Mountain Laurel, our school’s art and literary magazine. This one I drew for one side of a brochure we produced to hype up our edition initially focused on the theme of the fairy tale. I drew this with marker and then just played with the color on photobucket. I like the color scheme.

I like the blue horse in this one. The joy of art is saying, "I wonder ..." and then trying it.

This last one I drew not too long ago because even though I was on the staff of The Mountain Laurel for a year and a half, I didn’t know what the actual flower mountain laurel looks like. So I looked it up, and drew a single flower on a mountain. I like the symbolism of this one (although it’s lacking leaves and real mountain laurels grow in clusters, thus rendering it unrealistic) because our school is on a mountain, too. The symbolism is along the lines of “a light on a hill,” or this single statue of beauty standing out from its surroundings. Yet it’s still intentionally simplistic and imperfect.

Art is always imperfect, always a "working title." That's why I liked this little image to represent our art magazine.

 
Recommended blog: The Creative Panic

not everyone gardens and wears dresses (part 2)

As you may be able to tell from the title of this post, this is a continuation from an earlier post. As promised, I am embarking on the task to write advice on how to know when you’re ready to start a blog/how to know what you ought to blog about/how to name your blog/etc. Although the first post was only published yesterday, I must admit that I have in some small ways put off writing part 2 (in other words, I came up with 100 ideas for posts that would enable me to avoid writing the rest of this entry) because this is such a daunting task, no? But make sure you’ve read part 1, and here we go . . .

4. Narrow it down. Step 3 was to analyze the kind of blogs you enjoy reading and the kind of test posts you write (for the blog that doesn’t exist quite yet). Now, step 4 is the big dog. You have to take what you’ve learned about yourself and narrow it down to a concept for a blog, which I believe consists of two things: subject matter and style, or personality. I can’t overemphasize the connection between subject matter and style/personality at this point.

Subject matter is the meat of the message. What’s the actual topic of the blog going to be? Sports? Teaching? Learning a language? Your collection of fanfiction pieces? Your daily experiences working at an aquarium?

Style, or what I like to call personality, is the way you approach your subject matter. One way to find out what kind of personality you’d like to have for your blog is to ask, “What’s the purpose of my blog?” and “What do I hope my readers feel about my subject?” Are you hoping they’ll laugh about your daily attempts to feed a tank full of sword fish? Or would you rather they were wiping tears from their eyes after reading your alternate ending to The Notebook? It’s more than okay if your blog elicits different reactions at different times, but it will still be very helpful for you to kinda choose a niche so that readers know what to expect. (This also helps with choosing a blog name.)

So this is the moment of truth! This is when you just gotta do it! You gotta narrow down your subject matter and style. You have to make a choice of what your blog is gonna be like! You can do it.

(As a brief intermission of inspirational quoting, I’d like to remind you of something you’ve probably heard at some point in your life in the context of choosing a career or a spouse: choose the one you can’t live without. Do the work you can’t not do. Marry the person you can’t not be with for the rest of your life. I know those are kinda major life decisions, so how can I even draw a comparison? But I truly believe that a good blog does become part of your life, helps you make sense of things, follows your life. Of course, divorcing a blog is not as big of a deal, so don’t take this analogy in the opposite direction and convince yourself that you can never make a blogging commitment. The point is, blog about what you can’t NOT blog about.)

5. Pick a name. Take a deep breath. All the hard work is behind you. The good news is that your blog name depends very much on your subject and style, so the decisions you’ve already made will make this smooth sailing.

Simplicity is key. Try to keep the blog name easy to remember and related to what the blog is actually about. You can get fun and creative or go with something straightforward. The possibilities are endless.

Just one of many great examples is Themiddlestsister.com. This blog is a web-comic written and illustrated by the blogger and based on her memories of growing up with sisters. She’s one of five siblings, thus, the “middlest.”

Dear readers, I hate to prolong this entry once again, but I know you must be tired of reading. All that’s left is to choose a blogging community and to start blogging, so come back soon and we’ll wrap up this whole starting a blog thing, k?

blogging: when you hit month two, you sometimes wish you could start over

Two months, my dear readers. Two whole months have I been writing on this one blog! It’s certainly a record. (Well, I suppose it’s safe to say that since my first month was a record, then every month thereafter will be another record. But remember, it’s the small victories, right?) Think of how far I’ve come since my compulsive-blog-creator days! That isn’t to say that (honestly) every time I come up with a post idea, I don’t wish with all my heart that I could start a blog about it . . .

It’s true. Over these last two months, I’ve had so many ideas. I’ve come to see what I’m passionate about and tend to write about. When you hit month two, you sometimes wish you could start over. Maybe I would have created a photography blog instead? Or a blog about Canadian dancing (which I know nothing about, but it would have been one of those learn-as-you-go-bildungsroman type blogs, yea?). But then I remember that through you, my dear readers, I can start these blogs and more!

The world's an open field. You may rove it, run through it, or roll in it. But please, write about it.

I must once again give a big “thank you” to everyone who has peeked at, read through, commented on, spammed up, and even (what!) followed the blog. Thank you to my friends and family who encourage me and often (whether you know it or not) inspire me to write. Thank you also to the bloggers who read and share; I’m just as often inspired by you.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to do a post on “how to know what you should blog about” (although I hope to come up with a more creative title for the post by the time it’s written). I’ve been throwing out ideas, and I know I’m not the only one who struggles with the question, “What do I really have to say to the world out there?” or the question, “What can I write about consistently enough to name a blog after?”

So that’s what’s coming up next. Stay tuned. Keep blogging.

small victories

Someone should start a blog about small victories . . .

Everyone’s afraid of something. It’s an obvious statement, but it’s sometimes a very comical thing to think about. I, for one, have some very strange fears.

I have tonsurephobia = a fear of getting my hair cut. Now, the only reason I hesitate to say that I have said phobia is that phobias are considered “irrational” fears, but I believe I have very logical reasons for having a fear of getting my hair cut.

It’s quite simple, in my mind, why I have a fear of getting my hair cut. It’s because I’ve had one too many ridiculously embarassing and distasteful hair cuts. Some, to be sure, were my own fault (I once cut my hair when I was very young, and when Mom found the hair in the trashcan, I said I’d just done a little experiment with Barbie.). But the large majority resulted from trips to the traditional place of hair cutting: the salon.

I’ve done so much in my power to prevent bad haircuts, I really have. I’ll take pictures of the exact haircut I would like to have. I bribe the hairdressers with money. I hold my head as still as possible and make no sudden movements. I pray to Aphrodite (for beauty, not love). But still!

Now, it was recently brought to my attention that I should try going somewhere a little more upscale, and maybe that will remedy the whole thing. But I’m still afraid. It’s time for a trim, and even trims get me all nervous and anxious.

In my defense, I have gotten a little better about it. The last time I went, I didn’t flip out and yell at the mirror on the way home. I didn’t panic. I remained cool, calm, and collected, repeating my mantra, “It’s just hair. It will grow back.”

It’s these small victories that let me know there’s hope. There’s hope for me to overcome my (okay, yes – sometimes irrational) fears and, in general, grow as a person. Wouldn’t it make a cool blog to celebrate the small victories?

If you have a fear of talking to people, then maybe your small victory is to say hello to the cashier at Food Lion and then quickly run from the premises. If you have a fear of fish, then maybe your small victory is to stick the very tip of your big toe into the ocean. If you have a fear of hot air balloons suddenly combusting and falling upon you as you sunbathe in your lawn, then maybe your small victory is to cross the lawn for once and retreive the day’s mail.

Take a chance. Find your small victories. Blog about them.

how to save a dying conversation

Someone should start a blog about how to save a dying conversation . . .

When I was in the ninth grade, or thereabouts, I made an unofficial pact with my extremely comedic friend Tyler Mounce (a few other good friends were involved, too) that one day I would write a book entitled How to Save a Dying Conversation. In this book, I would offer ideas for redeeming every situation when conversation is about to take a turn for the worse, or die altogether.

You know the situations. Do I really have to list examples? Sometimes, it’s unforeseeable and inexplicable. Sometimes, the signs are all around, but there’s just nothing you can do to stop it. Sometimes, it’s natural. The longest phone conversation I’ve ever heard of someone having was (if memory serves me right) about eight hours. I’d imagine that somewhere in there were some lulls in the conversation.The dinner table witnesses these moments globally. It’s seen me strike out in my fair share of conversations.

Don't strike out in conversation anymore; strike up conversation.

I can’t accept the delusion that we’re doomed. I believe there are tons of ways to save a dying conversation. For example, having some good “conversation starters” on hand is essential. I was reminded of my pact recently as I was reading The Grim Grotto, the eleventh book in the Series of Unfortunate Events. Snicket agrees that conversation starters can be a real lifesaver:

“When you are invited to dine, particularly with people you do not know very well, it always helps to have a conversational opener, a phrase which here means, “an interesting sentence to say out loud in order to get people talking” . . . . I keep a list of good and bad conversation openers in my commonplace book in order to avoid awkward pauses at the dinner table . . . . Good conversation openers are sentences such as ‘What would drive a man to commit arson?,’ ‘Why do so many stories of true love end in tragedy and despair?,’ and ‘Madame diLustro, I believe I’ve discovered your true identity!,’ all of which are likely to provoke discussions, arguments, and accusations, thus making the dinner party much more entertaining.”

But the ideas don’t end there. What about jokes? Long stories that can keep people distracted long enough for you to think up something conversation-worthy? And of course, there’s the ever-classic: pocket-sized pets. Just pull one of those guys out at the dinner table, and no one will be at a loss for words.

There’s truly enough material to start a blog about it.

*Photo by Hannah Murray. Guest starring my friends Grace and David.