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What's in a name?

When my brother got married, there was Great Discussion about who would take whose name, and whether that decision was based on patriarchy or tradition or what have you.

My brother and his wife did not want their children to suffer from hyphenated-name syndrome, or to suffer from last-name-different-from-his/her-parent syndrome; nor did my sister-in-law want to abdicate her own Self by taking my brother's name in lieu of her own. All these things are understandable.

Instead, they have decided both to take a completely different name, a name which features (eventually) on both their family trees, but is neither their own, nor anybody else's in the immediate families of either.

It is their decision, and I hope it turns out well. But I think it is a mistake, and a grave one. Maybe I'm just old enough, at 36, to be old-fashioned.

The only thing we children-of-immigrants have is our names. Our names link us back through history to our Ould Countries, to our Mother- and Father-lands, even if those links are 160 years old. My and my brother's great-great-grandfather came to America in 1848, the Year of the Revolution, to seek his fortune with his brother. They married two sisters, the Z's, who were both from a village not far from their own, back in Germany. The two families set similar courses at first, and then, in grand American tradition, dispersed. I have cousins Kluckhohn all over the place.

For my brother to deny this heritage, this wealth of knowledge of days gone by, seems to me to be a betrayal. He is, essentially, giving up everything it means to be a K. in America. He's giving up our dad. He's giving up our Grand-dad, he's giving up our great-grandfather, and his brother, and our great-great-Grandfather, who started out a mail-room-boy and ended up president of the company. My brother is giving it all up, he is denying its virtue, he Doesn't Care. I do.

But then again, why should he? He and I are on a Cusp—I was born at the end of Generation X, and he was born to be the start of Generation Y. Gen X looks backwards, we see what has come before and know that we are neither worthy of it, nor can we escape it, nor can we accept it. All of the ideologies of the Baby Boom are implanted in our DNA, and we have seen the outcomes, and we don't care.

Generation X knows that the world around us is an illusion. Everything we are told is untrue, and we resent that. Growing up, our Baby Boomer Parents taught us taught that individual action could make things better; but our own experience taught us that individual action does nothing except make fools of those who try.

So why shouldn't my brother and his wife change both their names to something that has meaning for them? There's absolutely no good reason why they shouldn't. We live in an age where names have lost their meaning, or where the meaning of names have lost their importance. Who cares whether the child of M.M. and B.K. is named Smith or Kumar or MacMillan or Makanth? There is nothing important in a name except history. And it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that History has nothing to do with our future. We are learning to ignore it. Progress is the key to the human future; progress, and humanity, and nothing else. As far as my brother is concerned, apparently progress is all that matters.

To hell with history, we don't need it. Apparently. Says Generation Y.

And if we didn't have history, says me from my late-Gen-X-philosophical-bubble, What would your rebellion against the Names of Things mean?

The Death of Osama bin Laden

While Pamela Gerloff has expressed pretty much exactly what I'm feeling in her article The Psychology of Revenge: Why We Should Stop Celebrating Osama Bin Laden's Death, there are still a couple of things I'd like to say, and they're going to sound facetious but I mean them sincerely.

We killed the Bogeyman. Great. When has the Bogeyman ever stayed dead? When has the enemy been defeated where another, scarier, enemy hasn't appeared to take his place?

Never.

Watch any horror film. Watch Doctor Who. Read a Stephen King novel (though except for Salem's Lot and Misery, you can usually skip the last 60 pages). There's always, always, someone worse out there. Horror films and kids' shows with monsters and scary books play on our deepest fears, and they are our deepest fears for a reason.

Even better, look at history. In World War I, the Germans in their quest for Empire were the Bogeymen, bayonetting Belgian babies in the yellow press and mustard-gassing Our Boys at every opportunity. The Allies defeated them. Who filled the void that defeat left in Germany? Adolf Hitler, also leading Germany on a quest for Empire, but this time with the additional bonus of the attempt at wiping out an entire religion, an entire race. He was defeated as well. And what came next? The H-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the sudden proliferation of weapons that could, quite simply, kill everything.

You might argue that we've come to our senses about nuclear weaponry, and perhaps that's true...but it doesn't disarm the hundreds of nuclear warheads still sitting in their silos in the US and former Soviet Union; it doesn't disarm the new warheads being built by China, North Korea, Iran, France, India, Pakistan, and who knows how many other places. It's still a Bogeyman.

After that, we have a string of quasi-fascist, murdering-their-own-people-under-a-sense-of-misguided nationality, often-Communist, evil dictators: Mao Tse-Tsung, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-Sung, Sukarno, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat (but only sometimes), Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il. Each of them a Bogeyman, and the only one crazy enough to be scary on a international level is Kim Jong-Il (see comments on nukes above).

And then we have Osama bin Laden, another charismatic leader (like Hitler and Stalin and Truman and Reagan--NOT that I'm comparing them one-to-one, please) who undoubtedly caused great harm in what seemed at the time like a completely unexpected direction. OF COURSE he became the Bogeyman, he was the face of Islamic Extreme Westerner-Killing Fundamentalism. And it had to have a face, or we couldn't go to war with it. Sure, the face of that fundamentalism shifted slightly depending on who was prosecuting the war (Bushes = Hussein, Clinton/Obama = Al Qaeda and the Taliban), but it always had to have a face, and as soon as Hussein was captured, it went back to being bin Laden. He was all the more scary because we couldn't find him—another classic Bogeyman move. You don't know where he is, but you can hear him breathing in the back of your closet.

So, great. We figured out which closet he was in, we went in and flushed him out, and we killed him. Given our history—given what we know about defeating our greatest fears, that there's always something more terrifying out there—what have we got to celebrate? Am I satisfied that bin Laden is dead? Oh, yes. Most definitely. I am very, very satisfied to know that he is no longer living. I walked 4 miles home from work on 9/11 because I was scared to take the subway. I spent the day watching TV, I saw people jumping from the Towers to escape the flames. I am satisfied. But I am not celebrating. Because I know that once you've killed the Bogeyman, something worse is going to take his place.

A message to "Birthers"

Right. So today, President Obama released the "long form" birth certificate that has been so-long demanded by the quasi-racist "birther" movement. It's been suggested by the BBC that the President's natural citizenship is still in question:

Another leading birther, Orly Taitz, reacted by repeating outlandish claims that Mr Obama is not a "natural born citizen" because his father is Kenyan.


The Beeb goes on to say that "Several other US presidents have had parents who were not US-born." In the interest of fact I'm offering 2 lists, which are admittedly based on data from Wikipedia and Ask.com, so feel free to consider them suspect and respond in comments with any trufax.

List 1: Presidents who were not "natural-born" U.S. citizens on date of birth:
(Year of birth is noted in parentheses. The end of the War for Independence, at which time the United States was acknowledged as a sovereign nation [more or less—never mind 1812], was in 1783. Parents of these presidents born outside of the United States have been noted in brackets.)
1. George Washington (1732)
2. John Adams (1735)
3. Thomas Jefferson (1743) [mother, England]
4. James Madison (1751)
5. James Monroe (1758)
6. Andrew Jackson (1767) [mother and father, Ireland]
7. John Quincy Adams (1767)
8. William Henry Harrison (1773)
So, in other words, the first 8 U.S. presidents were born as British subjects, and all of them were born prior even to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, never mind the fact that some of their parents weren't even colony-born. And, Birther-person, if you want to tell me that Thomas Jefferson is not a legitimate president because his mom was English, then you're basically ditching the entire Constitution, which makes you an anti-American who should be sent to the chair like the Rosenbergs, you fucking Red bastard.

List 2: "Natural-born" citizen presidents of whom one or more parents were born outside the U.S.:
1. James Buchanan (father, Ireland)
1. Chester A. Arthur (father, Ireland)
2. Woodrow Wilson (mother, England)
3. Herbert Hoover (mother, Canada)

To sum up:
George Washington wasn't born in the United States of America, he was born in the Colonies of the United Kingdom, which at the time included the future sovereign nations of India, Canada, the United States of America, chunks of South America, chunks of China, and chunks of just about everywhere else. Our forefathers modeled our democracy on a parliamentary system based on empire, and look where we've ended up. If you want to be angry about something, be angry about that. Quit whining about President Obama's Kenyan dad, unless you're prepared to be equally pissed about Tom Jefferson's mom and declare the entire foundation of our government invalid. You dickheads.

Colleagues

I work for a multi-national business. It's not-quite-a-corporation, but does very well nonetheless. I have numerous colleagues all over the world, primarily in Ohio, New Jersey, Utah, and Chennai, India. And can I just say, that apart from a couple of personal friends among the folks in Utah, that my Indian colleagues are actually the best and friendliest and most hard-working people I have ever met.

I know, I know. Yes, once upon a time, my company outsourced a lot of its work to Malaysia, and India, and China. That is, until we merged with and realized we had been outright sold to an Indian company. This Is What It Is. I have a job. My colleagues here in the US have jobs (some of them). Now we "outsource" to India—or, to put it more accurately—they "insource" to us. (Serious to God, I haven't heard this phrase before, I hope I invented it, then I will become a footnote in business history!!!!)

Anyway, my point is, that half of my FB friends are from India, and they are people I know better than anyone I went to high school with. They are more gregarious, and more respectful, and more pleasant than a large portion of my other FB friends, no matter how long I've known them.

I know that outsourcing sucks. I also know that in my own industry it appears to be necessary. Publishing profit margins are notoriously low. If publishers can make a buck by outsourcing to vendors, more power to them. But the fact that they pay us so little necessitates going offshore to have the work done. It's a perfect example of why jobs go overseas: the manufacturers want a bigger profit, so they hire companies like mine to ensure they get it. I could refuse to do this job, but then I'd be unemployed. See the dirty logic?

Until the whole situation sorts itself out, I just want to say that as long as I'm working in an industry that exploits all of us who are willing to work in it, I'm really glad to be working with people who understand the industry as well as my Indian colleagues do, and who work harder than just about every American I've ever known. Bless.

Freaks of nature

Okay, so I was in Kendall Square today to hit the Garment District for vintage duds to wear to an upcoming 80s party. In general, Kendall is pretty much useless, except for the Garment District and the movie theater, which can be counted on to show whatever latest indie flick is buzzing about. The bars are lame and spread too far apart for a crawl, there are too many hotels (for visiting Tech [k]Nnobs), and there's nothing within half-an-hour's walk worth looking at, unless you go to MIT. (To those who do, i sincerely apologize, and please don't blast me with your home-made cold-fusion death-generators.)

On this particular day, as I strolled down Broadway between Davis St and One Broadway, I spied an all-black squirrel in a park opposite to the Draper Laboratory. Now then. All-black squirrels are fairly rare, yet common enough to be noted as "melanistic."; i.,e., having extra pigmentation (as opposed to the lack of pigmentation, which is commonly known as albinism). Basically, the squirrel Isaw was the opposite of an albino.

Normally, this would not freak me out. Genetic freaks are inherent in any population large enough to sustain them, and god knows there are enough squirrels about in a town like Cambridge, However, the fact that this particular freak emerged from a snowbank just across the street from one of the creepiest labs in Cambridge (Draper) gives me paws. Er, pause.

Diet Coke Break

I have never been so reminded of the fact that I work in a hen-house (i.e., publishing) as I have this week. For god's sake, we have 80+ people in our office, and 95% of them are women. We had a handyman in this week to rearrange some of the offices. And he is truly, ungodly hawt--ripped, tatooes, good with his hands--what's not to love? But seriously, we have turned into a pack of ravening wolves as far as he's concerned, and I suddenly realized that I work with A LOT of Women.

If any woman had come into a nearly-all-male-workplace, she could not have been subjected to more objectifying scrutiny. This handyman has spent enormous amounts of time half-disappeared into the ceiling on a ladder, leaving his—truly delectable—arse in view, and we have all enjoyed it, and commented on it nearly unceasingly. He has started an unending flow of dirty innuendoes: "He's carrying a really big Piece of Wood," "Wow, he's really good with that nailgun, I wish he'd nail me," etc.

Truth: As a 90's-era feminist, I'm a little uncomfortable objectifying anyone. And at the same time, as a Daughter of 70's Feminism, I am LOVING getting my own back by objectifying a totally hAWT manboy.

What I can say for certain as a feminist is this: That even though the glass ceiling is still there, even though we still don't make as much as our male counterparts, one thing has truly equalized. And it will continue to equalize, as more and more industries are infiltrated, as more and more industries become woman-dominated.

Ladies, we are now, without danger to our reputations, in a position To Whistle at Hotties.

Amen.

Blarg I Think I'm getting old

So I got up early today, knowing that I'd have to dig out. And I did, I woke up at 6:45 am, got into my diggin' clothse (jeans, fleece socks, boots, long-sleeve-T, sweatshirt, fleece-lined parka, hat, gloves, etc.),,,. dug out my car, went to work, got some stuff done... YAY me. We went out to lunch for t hit the Fried Clams, and not only did I eat all of them, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to fall asleep. It was like I was 80 years old, sittingi n my cube, trying to convince myself that it wasn't naptiem.

I succeeded but only because a colleague was in dire straits. Otherwiase I would have happily spent the remainder of the afternoon checking my home email and buying books online :)
Hmm, okay, so now that I've been posting (for the last week) to the comm for which I joined LJ (ihasatardis, you know who you are), I might as well say something fabulous and pithy and eccentric here. Unfortunately, my fabulous-pithy-eccentric idea is buried in the foot of snow brought on by the latest nor'easter, so I'm afraid I'll have to settle for this epigram:

I'd love my job if I didn't hate it.