what’s in a name?…someone’s life, is all

Persephone Cnidus BM C483

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Visited the blog of a buddy from the UK, nuvofelt, earlier today. She had an interesting post about names given children by their parents. As I indicated in a comment to her, I’d not heard of any of the 10 she mentioned. And I wondered if weird names are dependent upon the countries in which we live. Cited in her post, http://chittlechattle.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/10-names-im-glad-i-didnt-give-to-my-children/ were names like Xenopad (too close to “xenophobia – an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of anything foreign” according to Webster’s), Zasparilla (sounding like sarsaparilla – a favorite soda pop in vintage America), Euginity (oops!…much too close to virginity…imagine the teasing), Endeavour (the last space shuttle launched by the U.S….either very intelligent-sounding…or a put-down waiting to happen), Manville (very British, I’m sure…although nowadays with man caves being one of real estate’s “must haves”…hmmm), Wimbush (wimpy, wimpy, wimpy…once part of a TV commercial), Timber (school kids yelling “Timber!!!… all the time…yikes!) Badlington (sounds like the bad guy in a Winnie the Pooh story) Scoop (again, school kids saying “Gimme a scoop of ice cream!” “Hey! What’s the latest scoop?”…kids can be murderous, especially when new kids try to trespass…and even when they don’t), Persephone (according to Greek mythology, she was the “bringer of destruction”…not a bad name…kind of a warning to one and all “Keep out of my way, or else!”…real security…would name another daughter that…in my next life…or maybe my daughter will consider it…hmmm…)

Nuvofelt’s post got me thinking about my own name, not the one I go by but the one my father left me as his only legacy. You see, he died when I was one. What was he thinking??? Saddling me with the name Mildred was like setting me up as the stereotypical librarian with thick, horn-rimmed glasses and a bun at the back of my head. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! To this day I cringe at the thought…or sight…or both. Perhaps in my revolt, I’ve taken to revolting against type all my life.

Poster for the film Thoroughly Modern Millie

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When I was a sophmore in high school, Julie Andrews‘s movie Thoroughly Modern Millie hit the theatres. Forever after seeing that film, I embodied all that I took away from it. I became the dancing fool, doing the “mashed potato” walking to and from classes, to and from the cafeteria, even standing in one place. Since I didn’t see myself as the cool and beautiful Mary Tyler Moore character, I became the funny, slap-happy, goof-ball that was Andrews’ character. Thanks to the role, I’ve been a standup comic ever since…in real life, not on some theatre stage. Although lately I’ve been toying with the idea…hmmm… 

My brother Ben told his son and daughter-in-law, after they’d met me a couple of years ago, that my zany behavior was owing to the fact that I’m an eccentric. Let’s see, Webster says that means I’m ” adj. 1. unconventional, as in behavior; odd. 2. not having the same center. 3. not situated in the center. 4. having the axis away from the center. 5. deviating from a circular form. -n. 6. an eccentric person. 7. a disk with an off-center axis of revolution that converts rotary motion to reciprocating motion.

Time Person of the Year: You.

I think I like the 7th definition about my so-called eccentricity. I don’t proceed as is expected in life, as others think I should. I generally prefer asymmetry to symmetry in the way I decorate, the way I dress, the way I view others, and life in general. I haven’t walked a treadmill in how my life has unfolded; I’ve taken detours, reassessing my choices depending upon previous outcomes. I often expect the unexpected, and try to manage my life accordingly. I guess my life has been a reciprocation of what’s been handed to me, and what I’ve dished back in response.

Mildred conjures up an image of staid behavior. I’m neither sedate nor solemn. Even in my solemnity I can be a whirling dervish, with whom you wouldn’t want to mess. Webster also defines “staid” as decorous. The only decorum I observe is in church…but even then my eyes and mind wander…everywhere. Even when I appear quiet and serene on the outside, my innards are bouncing about with a joy for life. There’s still so much to experience…and so little time to accomplish it all.

As to my name? Why would I want to be staid and stuffy Mildred, when I can be…

eccentric………standup comic……thoroughly modern millie?………hugmamma. 

welcome news…from across the “pond”

The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph), at the ...

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Sometime in the 80’s my husband and I toured Paris. It amazes me to think back to how I called long distance, 2 or 3 times, and spoke with the hotel clerk, reserving a room for a couple of nights. There was no Expedia or Travelocity to compare rates and accomodation details, or even Trip Advisor to guide me through the myriad of pros and cons about an establishment. Chock it up to youth. I didn’t know better, so I plunged ahead, uncaring if the woman at the other end of the phone was rolling her eyes at my obvious lack of sophistication or inability to speak French.

Thank goodness the next time we venture back to the City of Light, the internet will pave the way. This time there’ll be 3 adults whose needs will have to be met, including one 25-year-old who’ll want to do as Cyndi Lauper wails in her song,”Girls just want to have fu-un!”

I’ll have to enlist my French blogging buddy, My English Thoughts, for some help there. Maybe she’ll drag my daughter along to some of Paris’ hot spots, after her elderly parents totter off to bed long before midnight.

I’m hoping when our family does make it back to France’s capital of haute couture and irrepressible charm, the Parisians will be as amenable to us as they were to the author of the following article. I’ve come to love Joe Queenan‘s irreverent sense of humor, which always seems to be “on point.” He publicly admits to things about which most of us probably “bite our tongues.” I guess he’s allowed to get away with it since he writes a column for the formidable Wall Street Journal.

Needless to say when I was in Paris decades ago, the French were as reserved as I’d heard they would be. They weren’t rude, but they weren’t falling all over themselves to be nice either. Being raised to be invisible, an Asian thing, my husband and I had no trouble blending into the background wherever we went . So we were most accommodating of the Parisians then-disdain for American tourists. Hopefully this time my old-age crankiness won’t get me, and the locals, into a battle of the wills, the ill-wills, that is. They’ll have no issues with my always-calm spouse and sweet-tempered off-spring. I’m both, unless I see an injustice about to happen. Then…get out of my way! This 5’2 senior will make you rue the day God gave you 2 ears to hear what spews forth like venom from a cobra!

Okay, well…now according to Queenan, I’ll have no need for any of that. I’ll just have a wonderful, heady touristy time in “gay Paree!”

French Twist: Meet Monsieur Nice Guy

 If you’re a seasoned inhospitality buff like me, the very worst has happened: The French have stopped being mean and surly.

I started to notice this two years ago when I spent two weeks in Paris, and an equally unexpected aura of congeniality was certainly evident when I visited southern France last fall. But now the restraining walls of condescension and nastiness have utterly collapsed and a wave of warmth and courtesy have flooded in. Sacre bleu.

Plaque rue mouffetard

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During my four-day stay in Paris last month, waiters,Paris Cafe, Paris, France concierges, museum guards and even cabdrivers all treated me with jaw-dropping affability. The ticket-taker at the Pantheon did not scream at me when I asked where Emile Zola was buried. The woman in the chocolate shop did not sneer when I asked for directions to the Rue Mouffetard (it was directly around the corner.)

The garcon in the posh restaurant did not treat me like the prototypical Ugly American when I asked what a “cocotte” was. The clerk at my two-star hotel asked if I would like to use her computer to print out my boarding pass, and went out of her way to get the broken elevator fixed so that I wouldn’t have to climb three flights of stairs on my gimpy legs.

The Eiffel tower at sunrise, taken from the Pl...

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Wherever I went–the Louvre and Orangerie, the Comedie Francaise, Honore de Balzac’s house, even the Eiffel Tower–everyone went our of their way to be charming and helpful. For a minute there I thought I was at Epcot.

What happened? What triggered this explosion of courtesy and warmth? Well, for starters, the recession, which would motivate even the most chauvinistic French to tone it down a notch when dealing with tourists. But France has had recessions before, and that never took the edge off those legendary brusque, haughty people.

No, my suspicion is that much of the coarseness and incivility toward foreigners–and particularly toward Americans–stemmed from embarrassment about having collaborated with the Nazis. Anti-americanism was practically an official state policy under Charles de Gaulle, but now the war is no longer an issue. Most of the World War II generation has died out and been replaced by young people who do not have a chip on their shoulder.

Street market in nearby Rue Mouffetard

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Friendly young people. Helpful young people. I know this will come as a shock to those who have not visited France for a while, but the French are now friendlier than the Italians, than the Irish, than the girls who greet you at Hooters. This unanticipated onslaught of goodwill totally floored me.

As a globe-trotting malingerer, I have always enjoyed returning from a jaunt abroad with fresh support for popular American stereotypes about foreigners. Yes, Belgium really is boring. Yes, the Swedes really are laconic. Yes, the Scots really do like a dram or two.

But now these stereotypes are collapsing like wisps of straw. Though most Americans still associate England with bad food–fish and chips, bangers and mash–the truth is that dining out in London is now an absolute joy, with top-flight restaurants everywhere. You can get a good meal even in the provinces, which was certainly not the case before Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair dragged the U.K. into the modern world. So there goes another beloved, hoary stereotype.

As a world-class spoilsport and curmudgeon, I now have less and less anecdotal material to fall back on when I want to blast another society. Luckily, when last I checked, the Germans were still arrogant, the Italians were still incompetent, and the Canadians were still reliably unexciting.

Still, if I go to Berlin this fall and find out that the Germans are no longer bossy and overbearing, I’m going to throw in the towel and turn into an American who doesn’t overeat, overspend or take the first five minutes of every conversation trying to figure out how much everybody else in the room paid for their house. I’m warning you frogs, you Teutons, you Russkies: Two can play this game. Columnist's name

the guy makes me laugh…even though much of what he says is not meant to be funny…hugmamma.

“give a damn,” architectural design


Architecture for Humanity - Design like you gi...

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Was puttering around when I overheard a conversation on MSNBC with a member of Architecture for Humanity.” Intrigued by the organization’s participation in helping rebuild devastated communities, I googled it. Perusing its website, I was impressed by its mission to improve the lot of those whose lives have been upended by natural disasters, including Katrina, Haiti, and now Japan. As a not-for-profit group, “Architecture for Humanity” is striving to refocus the stereotypical image of architects as being employed by only the rich and famous, to a more philanthropic one of helping those in dire need. This is a cause worthy of the donations being requested.

By showing an active interest in Architecture for Humanity, you are part of a growing grassroots humanitarian design movement helping to change the perception of the role of the designer. In most circles, architecture and design is seen as a service for the privileged. Our profession is guilty of embracing this ideal. Design should be a profession of inclusion whose talents help those who need them most. It is time for you to change the perception and design like you give a damn.


Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

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I think they’re putting a call out to those in their profession, as well as to those of us who give a damn about the world in which we live, and the less fortunate who are trying to carve out a place in which to live. Forget mortgages and foreclosures, these people probably have no ground upon which to stand, let alone a temporary roof and walls within which to find shelter.

makes you think…about the bare essentials…and those who don’t have them…hugmamma.