Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Middle Name Game

There's something wrong with time. I've been out of work for a month, and it feels like a week. Not having a job should be buying me an extra eight hours each weekday, plus commuting time, to get stuff done and still have fund. But it doesn't happen. I haven't had the old cars hauled away, haven't packed up more stuff for Goodwill, haven't finished editing Heirs of Mâvarin.

I think the election must have something to do with the contraction of time. That and AOL.

Let me esplain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Dozens of political emails hit my email each day, and page after page of Twitter "tweets" with links to news and opinion and humor about the election, most of it worth reading; and there is substantive news about the candidates, the polls, the economy and the issues every single day. I'm not just drinking from the firehose; I'm trying to swig from it, and it's threatening to drown me.

And while all that's going on, I'm also trying to troubleshoot my import of Musings from Mâvarin from AOL into Blogger. In the early days, I uploaded many of my images into YGP (You've Got Pictures). Those didn't transfer over, so I'm tracking all those pictures down and re-adding them. Plus there was a time when AOL Journals insisted on running words together in seemingly random text. Importing seems to have just made this problem worse. In the long run I should proofread everything.

So today and tonight I cleared out about 150 emails, watched a little MSNBC, followed a political thread on Whatever and played around with something called Plurk. Plurk is kind of a timeline-based version of Twitter. I was lured in by a Presidential poll, but I find the site confusing. From my limited experience with it, it seems to lack the amount and depth of political discourse found on Twitter. Not that there's anything wring with that....

After hours of working my way thtough Twitter I'm still over 18 hours behind, probably several screens worth of tweets. It's coming up on 7 AM and I need to go to bed. But before I go, I'd like to say something about middle names.

Most people don't choose their own middle names. I did, but only because after years of suffering for my original last name, I wouldn't bear to leave it behind when I got married. So Karen Christine Funk became Karen Funk Blocher. I've never regretted this, in part because adults usually don't make fun of each others' last names.

But there's a certain portion of the electorate this year, presumably adults, that believes a derogatory riff on someone's name is a legitimate way to establish which candidates are fit for public office and which aren't. Political blogs and online news stories are full of comment threads in which people who hate "McSame" do battle with the people who hate "No Bama." Neither epithet enhances the nation's political discourse.

And then there are the names Hussein and Obama.

The names Osama and Obama have been substituted for each other numerous times in the past few years, accidentally, pseudo-accidentally, or for humorous or satirical reasons. If you believe that a given instance of this was deliberate, the reason for it quickly follows. It's equating one man with the other, implying that the Senator from Illinois shares traits in common with the man who ordered the 9-11 attacks.

And then there's the name Hussein, Obama's unfortunate middle name, the name of the hated dictator of Iraq, the one we managed to kill. People are deliberately including that name in referring to Obama, deliberately fanning xenophobic suspicions that Obama is one of Them instead of one of Us. But how much can a name Obama did not choose tell us what kind of person he is? How much does the middle name Sidney tell us about John McCain?

And how much does the name Funk say about me? Does it imply I'm a 1970s musician or a cheap encyclopedia, or something else entirely? How about the name Christine? And what does your middle name imply about you? Discuss!

Karen Christine Funk Blocher


Word in the Hand said...

I think everyone should have to pick a name for themselves - the likelihood of growing into the names you are born with are so remote. I was blessed with an entire family of holy mothers - Marie(Mary Jesus' mother), Anne (Mary's mother) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist). Feeling somewhat doomed to motherhood (a terrible thing to admit especially as I didn't have my children until I was thirty-something)I rebelled, not with my middle name but with my first which I now spell as - two i's because I have two eyes and I am not focused on just being a mother but on all the other things that I am and I could be (another terrible confession but there you go).
So I hope that counts for your name game (another name game coincidence - I belong to the parish of St Michael and All Angels and I am an artist and writer, but your name is more interesting)

Word in the Hand said...
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