7 things @ 9 o’clock (10.11)

1. Mark Evanier remembers character actor Jay Robinson, who died last week at age 83. Who? I didn’t recognize the name, but it’s a fascinating story — with cameos from the Bay City Rollers and from Chuck Colson (who was, by then, “Born Again,” but still very much a hatchet man).

2. Defeating the Dragons: “ordeal of the bitter waters, part two.”

Best of luck to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS! (Click photo for link to explanation.)

3. I’m a big fan of Ezra Klein and the team of Very Smart People he’s assembled at the WonkBlog. That’s what I turn to them for, wonkery — very smart people clearly explaining complicated things. See, for example, Mike Konczal’s guest-post on “non-essential” government functions, or Brad Plumer’s explanation of why “prioritization” can’t prevent a defaultapocalypse, or Plumer’s “Nine ways the shutdown will get more painful as it drags on,” or Ezra’s insightful breakdown of “The 13 reasons Washington is failing,” or pretty much any of the WonkBlog posts with a title that starts “Everything you need to know about …”

But sometimes they overdo it. Here’s their ernest headline for a post earlier this week: “Seventeen academic papers of Janet Yellen’s that you need to read.” Um, OK, see the job of wonks, again, is to understand complicated stuff and then explain it to the rest of us. It’s not to tell us what we need to do in order to become wonks ourselves. (Matthews’ post is actually really interesting, once you get past the inadvertent self-parody of the title.)

4. I think that Muffie Potter Aston speaks for all of New York’s uber-rich socialites when she says, “I fear for New York City if Mr. de Blasio gets elected.” Two things: 1) Can we, from now on, call all rich people whining about taxes “Muffie Potter Aston”? and 2) Here, again, is Jamelle Bouie asking, “Are Black Names ‘Weird,’ or Are You Just Racist?

5. Pat Robertson tries to resurrect a long debunked lie about AIDS, said demonic objects in your house may give you headaches, and compared transgender people to his castrated horse. Bryan Fischer, meanwhile, praised Vladimir Putin as “a lion of Christianity.” None of this will stop Republican members of Congress for eagerly jumping at the chance to appear on Pat Robertson’s TV show and Bryan Fischer’s radio show.

6. Richard Beck reflects on “The Gospel According to Karaoke.” Coaxed out to karaoke night by Mark Van Steenwyk, Beck comes to agree with his theological take on this communal ritual: “Church, according to Mark, should look more like a Karaoke night at a bar.” I agree, too.

For the record, Dr. Beck apparently sang “Sweet Child of Mine,” so here’s a video I hope he’ll enjoy:

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7. Oh, and Beck has also started a new series on Christ and “the powers” — which is the apostle Paul’s term for The Powers That Be, or The Man. Beck’s tour through Hendrik Berkhof’s Christ and the Powers is theologically rich, but also helpful, I think, for anyone who wants to fight back against TPTB. Part one. Part two. Part three.


  • Caddy Compson

    Absolutely! There’s the ubiquitous ‘Orangelo’ (that’s really Orange Jello) and the ‘L-a’ pronounced Ledasha stories, too. And there’s a whole section on Snopes about how black mothers have allegedly named their children after diseases they’ve overheard nurses talking about. It’s straight up racism, no way around it.

  • Kirala

    Actually, I think you’re working against your point (which I will agree is an excellent point, even if it’s in opposition to the one I prefer). “Increase” and other Bible-based names never made it past sounding weird. They never developed an actual tradition (despite being old). If the Puritans had stuck with “John” or “Mary” instead of trying to convert non-names to names, they’d be less of an easy target.

    As PJ Evans pointed out, “Cotton” is a family name. It’s still traditional as a last name, but never sparked a tradition as a first name because it’s weird as a first name. The naming convention itself is the traditional aspect.

    As a side note, I’m always simultaneously fascinated and weirded out by seeing the names which DO transition from family names to given names – usually family name to boy’s name to unisex name to girl’s name. I think it has a lot more to do with gender politics than naming conventions (given names being the best way a woman can pass on her family name in patriarchal society, as with Cotton; repeat practice with certain names growing to habit and tradition; seeking less feminized names for girls to either claim, deny, or deliberately ignore male privilege, and then dropped for boys in favor of less “girly” names… looking at you, Leslie, Ashley, and Madison.)

    More on topic – a number of naming conventions involving territory-staking claims bother me immensely for reasons having nothing to do with weirdness. My sister’s hypothetical future sons will all “have” to bear her husband’s middle name, because it’s a Tradition Which Cannot Be Broken in his family, and she will feel uncomfortable asking her husband to break that tradition, and short of her asking it wouldn’t cross his mind to do so. My aunt’s son bears his father’s full name (apart from III instead of II) despite my aunt wanting to honor her deceased father – and compensate for the lack of family-name-bearing descendants – with at least a middle name. I think that she made a foolish choice to compensate after the divorce by calling my cousin only “Thomas” after the Tank Engine or “Finn” after the Cars II character (names which were BRIEFLY, but no longer, his preferred nomenclature).

    Names are too important, too steeped with meaning, to be given carelessly or meaninglessly. Maybe I just feel that way because I’m a word nerd, but such it is.

    (Maybe I also feel a bit of anger at myself for cleverly creating constructed language sloppily for my stories. It could have been worse for “Kirala”, but when my Kirala-character’s great-grandson had the totally-made-up name “Atari”, I created a problem with associations I didn’t notice till later. And let’s not forget the bad poetry which conveniently rhymed because I only made up the words as I came to them.)

  • guest

    That’s an awful lot of emotional weight to put on a mouse click.

  • guest

    In Malawi I ran across people named for nasty things (diseases etc.) as a way of diverting the attention of spirits or people that might curse them out of envy. Don’t know if that might be the backstory for anyone with a name like that in the US.

  • guest

    Apparently there’s some kind of Name Police in Austria as well–an American friend of mine married an Austrian man, and when they had their daughter I remember my friend telling me that some of their name choices would be unacceptable to the authorities–they would refuse to put them on the birth certificate. Poor kid got stuck with Anne.

  • L E

    I had a somewhat distant cousin who (among her way too many names) was named Wendela. Since she was born in the 1870s in Sweden I’m fairly sure she was not named for any of Barrie’s characters. She was also named Concordia and went by the nickname Connie, so I’m fairly sure that if they’d settled on Wendela they would have shortened it to Wendy. Basically I think I’m saying that while Barrie may have popularized the nickname, I doubt he invented it.

  • L E

    I find puritan/quaker names sort of fascinating. I have several women in my family tree named Experience which to my modern ear strikes me as not only weird but slightly scandalous. There’s also a couple named Exercise, but I guess that’s supposed to be some sort of virtue?

  • aunursa

    Well, technically, it’s not a single mouse click. It’s a mouse click for every comment of mine since mid-summer. So we’re talking about more than 100 mouse clicks, which collectively offer no information about the nature of the disagreement.

  • Caddy Compson

    As a given name, I meant. I’m sure there were people whose names were nicknamed as Wendy, but he made it popular as a given name.

  • Caddy Compson

    Probably not here (unless the people are from a tradition that does the same), but that is fascinating!

  • Kirala

    That’s a fascinating idea. I’ve often heard of giving infancy names or childhood names to divert ill fortune; so there are people who have adult names with the same purpose? Interesting.