01 March 2011

The naming of a child

Newsflash to nobody, but naming a child feels really important. It feels like you have his fate in your hands and whatever name you come up with with launch him to success or doom him to failure. I suspect this isn't actually true at all. The book "Freakonomics," suggests it's complete balderdash and theorizes instead that certain names are chosen by portions of society with less money while those with more money choose different names, making us all feel as though names make all the difference when it actually is probably what kind of situation we come from; Education, nutrition, parental involvement and finances matter more.

Anyway, this doesn't feel true at all when it comes time to name a child. At that moment, the fights he will get in, the dates he will or will not go on, the teasing he will or will not endure, the scholarships he will earn and his position on the athletic field all rest in the power of his parents to give him a "good" name.

Almost nine years ago we named a child Dresden. My gentle mother-in-law said out loud that she hated the name and thought we must be kidding. My own mother wasn't too pleased either but both love the boy and the name. He is great in social situations, is happy at school and is well liked by adults. With most of his first decade logged, the name has been a success; Likewise his brother Logan.

An unexpected new baby has come into our family and unlike the day Shannon suggested Dresden, no mutually agreed on moniker landed on us. We searched with no success for a geographical name that also had some tie to a fictional heroic character. For those not familiar, Dresden DeVon has the initials DD, which is short for comic-book hero Daredevil. Logan is named as much after mutant Wolverine as he is the city where Shannon went to college and where we courted.

Each of our children have four names, always including "DeVon" as a family name (Dee - Vaughn) after my father and after me.

But no third choice was ever conjured out of any baby book or atlas or heroic fiction. All those sources yielded plenty of options but none were satisfactory to both of us.


Those names made Shannon's list and I especially liked Zurich and Winston but the latter was neither a city nor a heroic figure unless Winston Churchill was counted but he wasn't fictional. ("Never, never, never, never give up.")

One day, speaking to a much respected acquaintance, he mentioned that his friend had just named his baby "Strider," and it struck me like a thunderbolt that the name was perfect for my future child. Later that day at home I excitedly told Shannon and she was completely unimpressed. Apparently she has "Lord of the Rings" fatigue but I didn't associate the name with the book or the films, but just as a great name.

Dresden and Logan however were very impressed and next to "Frodo Baggins" they thought it was the greatest name ever. And they used it pretty much from then on when talking to Shannon's tummy or talking down her throat to the baby. I thought maybe she would be won over.

A month or so later, I saw some other friends having a disagreement over a baby name and one half of the couple insisted that the name was decided and the other partner had no choice and that felt so wrong to me; I immediately ended the "Strider" campaign and told my already born children to do the same. The problem is, they already thought of the baby as "Strider" and didn't stop calling him that. The used the name as a name, as a given, as a title, as an already determined fact. Even at the hospital last week I wasn't pushing for the name and after his birth I wasn't using it but the two older boys were, just calling him by the name they knew him as. And, it turns out, they were extremely fond of him immediately.

They were as excited and loving and sweet and doting to the little pink and purple screamer as anybody could hope boys to be. And they used the name around grandparents and visitors and friends and aunts and cousins.

Strider Strider Strider Strider Strider Strider.

Still I told Shannon that we could name him anything she liked but she confessed that when he was born and was put on her chest seconds later, she thought indeed, she could name this nine pound eight ounce contender "Strider."

It was already who he was.

Logan would tell me when we were away from the hospital, "I miss Strider," and Dresden would coo at him, "Hi Strider," or "It will be okay Strider," when the baby was upset. His identity was settled before he was ever born and not by his parents.

Still I was ready to go with "Winston Strider" and gave her that option but she thought it sounded better the other way.

And so it is, we have "Strider Winston DeVon Curtis".

There is another factor about the name that I love. Spencer W. Kimball had a lot of influence on me as a youth with his exhortations to get things done, work harder and be better. One way he phrased this advice was to "lengthen our stride" and to me, that has always been excellent advice. This name of Strider is actually an action word or describes an action person. It means to stride or walk or in the broader sense, to put forth more effort. So, along with the LOTR link to the noble, selfless king, it also is somebody who (at least in my mind) follows the advice to lengthen our stride. I like that — a lot.

For now, I am quite content to let Shannon instruct him how to eat better but the time will come for teaching and the pointing out of ideals and examples. A humble but able fictional king and President Kimball work pretty well.

12 May 2010

Two remarkable conversations

This poor neglected blog is collecting dust and anybody who checks it regularly, which seems unlikely, gets a sincere apology from me. There is some level of expectation of somewhat regular updates and in this bargain I have failed. I am typing words to the wind I suspect so it probably doesn't matter.

I have roused myself to write about two remarkable conversations.

Service to TheOneRing.net has opened a lot of conversational doors to me and in the last few weeks it has done so again. My first conversation was with a plucky, talented, fun woman named Kim Graham who comes from the western region of the U.S.

She invented a rather cool pair of leg extensions, the coolness of which is difficult to easily explain. They are reverse leg stilts that mimic the walking patterns of dogs or goats or mythical creatures like lizards or gorgons or satyrs. She made them on her own for her costuming enthusiast friends around Seattle.

She is also a remarkable sculptor and that talent and her strong portfolio landed her a job sculpting for "The Hobbit" films in New Zealand. By coincidence she developed these stilts that could be worn easily by virtually anybody. Previously such items for Hollywood stunt work had to be personalized to each person at great expense.

She made them usable and available to everybody, giving low-budget films and serious costumers a way to do the previously inconceivable. Her enthusiasm and spirit nearly sold a pair to me although I have no use for them. However, it even made me want to consider costuming because they really are just that cool. Weta sells them on its website and you can watch a video about them while you visit the site that sells them.

But what makes Kim so cool isn't making these extensions and it isn't that she is working on "The Hobbit," (okay well, it is actually but there is more) but that she has this incredible "can do" attitude and a self-belief and willingness to work that empowers her to follow her own dreams. It is admirable and inspiring. I will write about her for TheOneRing but it isn't likely I will be that transparent about my own personal feelings from our interview.

The photo of her is with a Norwegian troll created in her living room very much in the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien's Ent. Most people will think this is pretty cool but she thinks it and then builds it with the help of friends. Anyway, she is a remarkable woman and while we talked for 30 minutes about her work and her Weta Legs and her good fortune to be in New Zealand, I was elevated.

My second conversation was with a man I had met one time previously on a press junket for King Kong in New York City. He was a joy to listen to at a small press gathering of a dozen reporters and when he learned I was from KongIsKing.net he expressed a desire to speak further but we couldn't put our busy schedules together in that short weekend.

He also did the DVD work for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy extended editions which are really the gold standard for such things in Hollywood and for far more than those who are devotees of those movies. He has his own production studio and specializes in the business of telling the stories of movies.

Our entire conversation was not an interview for print or new media but for him sharing with and educating me so that at some future date I might be more intelligent should such an interview ever take place. It was shocking, delightful and informative. It also left me dumbfounded at times and shocked in both good and bad ways. I feel fortunate to have such opportunities and hope for many more.

16 April 2010

Worst company in the galaxy?

There is currently a bracket (and I seem to love brackets) to determine the worst company in America. It isn't clear if this means the United State of America or North America or North and South America so I am just extending (in my own mind) the award to cover the worst company in the Milky Way Galaxy.

I don't know how much the candy bar paid scientists to name the galaxy after their product, and there may be worse companies on some planet in orbit around the 100 - 400 billion stars in our home in space but until they object, I am going with the bigger title.

Ticketmaster is one of the Elite 8 that are left but Apple and PayPal are surprising finalists as well. The airlines all went down but their luggage policies make it hard to choose between paying to bring my own deodorant on a trip or paying some company $15 in fees to give me a ticket to see a band. Both seem greedy and evil.

Anyway, don't miss your chance to see and vote in the Elite 8. You can see the whole bracket here.

I think eventually, Ticketmaster gets my vote for adding absolutely no value with its rip-off scheme.

05 April 2010

Duke rhymes with Puke

Congrats to Mike Black for not doing anything at all and winning a bunch of money because Duke won the NCAA championship. Mike, for some reason, always seems to win money when I am around.

30 March 2010

The NCAA tournament is one of the nation's great, perhaps greatest sports events. The Superbowl draws more attention in a shorter time but "March Madness" takes place over three weeks is all around the country and draws a lot of office pool betting.

I think the whole thing is great fun and I was fortunate enough to attend games in Salt Lake City this year between teams playing to go to the Final Four. Watching Butler win on Saturday was grand sport indeed. Press access is overlooked by those who do it for a job but since I am mostly in an office, it was a welcome respite.

Anyway, here is how the no-picks pool has gone:

Jody - Kansas, BYU, Sam Houston State, Northern Iowa

Larry - Pitt, Marquette, Siena, Georgia Tech

Amy - Purdue, Oklahoma State, Morgan State, Florida

Jared - Baylor, Xavier, Vermont, Old Dominion

Layton - Maryland, Tennessee, Murray State, San Diego State

Mike - Duke, Michigan State, Houston, Saint Mary's

Randy - New Mexico, Clemson, UC Santa Barbara, Louisville

Dan - Vanderbilt, UNLV, Oakland, UTEP

Mark - Villanova, Notre Dame, Lehigh, Minnesota

Sarah - West Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Missouri

Cottle - Georgetown, Richmond, Robert Morris, Utah State

Dirk - Kentucky, Temple, Arkansas-PB, Washington

HiHo - Ohio State, Gonzaga, East Tennessee, New Mexico State

Heidi B. - Kansas State, Butler, Wofford, Cornell

Kent - Syracuse, California, North Texas, Wake Forrest

Emmie - Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Montana, Florida State