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Test Pattern: Write like Jane Austen

Plus vintage-look TVs, Shroud of Cartman, AfricaCam, TV ad rates. By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Five-link Friday: Write like Jane Austen

Time for another five-link Friday, but first, one more note on names. Numerous readers have written in to respond to about Joaquin Phoenix changing his name from Leaf.

Many wrote in to say what Elaine says here: “Reader Melissa is mistaken about Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is his given name. He changed it to Leaf because he wanted a name like his siblings (River, etc.). When he returned to acting following a break after River’s death, he started using his real name, Joaquin.”

On to Friday linkage:

• As we await the I wanted to share . There’s something carelessly elegant about the letters, especially the ‘Y.’ So now even if you can't write like Jane Austen, you can at least, well, write like Jane Austen.

• Warning: Possible blasphemy ahead. You know of course about the Shroud of Turin, but do you know about the ? Sweet.

• Thinking of buying a 30-second TV commercial for your business, a new product, or to propose to someone special? (Wouldn’t it be cool if people did that?) Well if you want that ad to run during “American Idol,” get ready for a William Hung-style shocker. This shows the cost of ads on the most popular shows out there, and you could get a very nice home in most cities for the cost of one half-minute commercial.

• We’ve talked earlier in this column about things that today’s college kids don’t remember. These pick up an old style that your average college kid will either consider so retro they’re cool, or amazingly lame compared to the flatscreens of today. For some of us though, it’s nostalgia, if pricey nostalgia. (Via .)

• Because I’ve shared and on previous Fridays, I wanted to share an oldie but a goodie: . Watch wildebeests and warthogs gather at an African watering hole. (And try saying that sentence 10 times fast.)

Keep sending in your Friday links!

Some love their unusual names, but others ...

The mail just keeps coming in about the pros and cons of growing up with an uncommon name. I'm also hearing from those with incredibly common names, who say it's not so easy being the 45th "Mary Miller" on the block, either.

Here's some more of your feedback:

“Well, I am going to defend old Nic’s choice—It’s his kid and he can name it anything he wants. When it’s 18, it can change it’s name. Like I tell my daughter Aerin—until you are 18 that’s your name whether you like it or not. Fortunately, she loves her unique name and who wouldn’t want to be named after Truth, Justice and the American Way.”  --Margaret

RUN, FORREST, RUN“You all think THAT’s bad? Try having the first name Forrest... in high school... when Forrest Gump was in theaters! I hated Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis for YEARS!”    --Ed

WHAT’S COOKING?“You guys think you got it parents named me Channang meaning ‘lucky Monday’ because I was born on a Monday...a lot of my people pronounce it ‘Chan-nang,’ and in my language, it can also mean pots and make matters worse, my last name is Keo and when pronounced in Cambodian, it means yeah, try growing up with, ‘hey, why did your parents name you pots and pots and glass...did your parents have you in the kitchen?’ “

YOU LITTLE STINKER“I used to type in birth announcements for our local paper. My two favorites were Stinker—yes, that is the legal first name these parents (who were bikers) named their son, and Elvis Edwin Eugene III (last name omitted to protect this family’s privacy and save me from getting killed or sued) -- not bad enough that it happened once, but they decided to do it TWO more times! My sons also have a friend named Courvoisier—I’m guessing he’ll grow up and date a girl named Brandy.”    --Cynthia

LUCK OF THE IRISH“I am a 48 year old Megan. Growing up in a Catholic school with lots of Irish, you’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal. But in the early 60’s it was an unheard name. What added to the misery is that my mom mispronounced it by calling me Mee’ - gan (long e, short a, instead of the ever popular Meg’—as is common now. The most common question was ‘how do you spell that?’ and ‘is that your first name or your last name?’ as if a child would introduce herself with her last name. Maybe this is where my impatience with stupidity comes from.”    --Megan

CART, DART, EE-ART, NOPE, NOTHIN' RHYMES WITH BART“Kudos to anyone who steps beyond the norm while naming their child. The names my wife Kelly and I have chosen are Trysta Kadence and Logan Davin (or Draven.. haven’t quite nailed that one down yet). As for will any kid get picked on because of his name.... sure, I was Doug the bug (in) the waterjug for a number of my early years. Big deal. I have a friend named Bree. Why? because it rhymed with free and tree is all. Which brings me to the Simpson’s... remeber the retrospective where so he wouldn’t be picked on in school? Didn’t really work now did it? I doubt any attempt by any of us to outwit our elementary school kids will ever work.”   --Doug

LIFE IN LIBBYLAND“Like Katy, my name is just Libby. I learned to endure the refrain of “Libby, Libby, Libby on the label, label, label. You will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table.” Do you remember Libbyland frozen dinners, with the cartoon character Billy-the-Kid? (“That’s Libby the Kid spelled sideways.”) I’m sure I won’t ever forget!”    --Libby

TURNING LEAF“Well, even celebrities get tired of their weird names! Joaquin Phoenix was originally named ‘Leaf’ and changed it. Joaquin is still an unusual name for someone who is supposedly not of Latin descent, but at least it’s better than Leaf.”    --Melissa

NOT-SO-COMMON COMMON NAMES“My parents decided to name me and my sister names that couldn’t be made into nicknames. So they named her Mary and me Ann—very common right? Not so much, all anyone ever said to me was “Oh, thats my middle name” or “Oh thats my grandmother’s name”, I never met another first name Ann my age (34) until I was out of college. I always wondered, what were my parents thinking? Why did they saddle me with THIS the most boring of all names, a name that can be spelled with 2 letters if needed? I have come to appreciate it as a classic good name that is still somewhat original, at least in my age group. Though spelling is still an issue, when asked how to spell my name I say “Ann, No “E”,” as if its all one word. I never thought I would say this but when it comes time to name my own children, I will probably follow my parent’s naming guidelines.”   --Ann

THAT’S OH-ZEE-WEE-PAY!“Doesn’t Nic Cage remember the ? His wife would come up with a normal name, only to hear him make up taunting nicknames in mere seconds. The skit ends with a delivery for Cage’s character—named ‘Asswipe,’ but pronounced ‘Ahzweepay.’ You’d think Mr. Cage would know better.”   --Ben

Brianne, Shinnar and Valinda commiserate with Kal-el

There are many of us, the oddly named, and a bunch of you wrote in to say you, too, . I forgot to mention that I've come around to actually liking my weird name these days. And there's an extra bonus: Unlike the plot on "Seinfeld" where Elaine's date shared his first and last name with a murderer, those of us with unusual names are likely to always get our names all to ourselves, for good or for bad. We're also easy to Google -- again, whether that's good or bad is up for debate.

Here are some of your thoughts on the name game:

“As a girl named Brianne (but pronounced like the boy’s name Brian), they can either spell it or say it, but rarely both. I think being constantly asked ‘Did your parents want a boy?’ is just as bad as ‘I or Y?’ ”    --Brianne

“Yeah well my parents named me Shinnar, no one has this name and not a whole lot of people can even say it.”    --Shinnar

“Since I read about the new Cage addition, I have been thinking exactly what you wrote. I’ve spent a lifetime spelling my name to help folks understand the difference between a B, M and V. Hindsight it seems I learned patience and tolerance sooner than expected. Yet having a unique name adds to your personality and certainly attracts attention that may or may not be warranted. At any rate, I sure wish Kal-El the best in the life-long struggle that has been laid upon him”    --Valinda

“Oh, how true ring your words. Throughout my childhood I yearned for something personalized that was purchased commercially. All my friends had lunch bags, pencil cases and license plates on their doors proudly validating that they, unlike me, had an approved name. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, ‘is that Russian,’ or ‘were you named after the opera.’ My mother has no idea where she got the name. However, as I have grown I have realized I don’t need to leave my last name on a message or ever fear confusion with another Toska. My favorite moment came when I met a retired circus performer and she told me of a famous bare-back rider who was know as Madame Toska. Apparently, this lady was world-renowned. That was a great moment. It’s funny, when as a child I thought of running away to join the circus, I wanted to be a bare-back rider.”    --Toska

“I’ve actually only met 2 other Normas in my life. While my name is an ‘old’ name, I still had to put up with the so called jokes growing up. Being called Ab-Normal, Sub-Normal, or just plain Normal, to which I used to respond, ‘I’m not normal’ which everyone would get a big laugh over. Of course in the late 50’s when the song ‘Norman’ was out, that was just a horrible time. Then of course because my middle name is Jeanne, I get the never ending question, ‘Were you named after Marilyn Monroe?’ Hardly, we spell our ‘Jeanne’s’ differently. And Mom and Dad were not big fans of her anyway. They just liked the name. So while I too found it difficult, though not impossible, to find personalized leather bracelets and such, I did have a small taste of what it’s like to have an uncommon name. That’s why my kids are Adam and Elizabeth!”    --Norma

“I too had to constantly spell my name (Katy) while growing up. Most people assumed it was spelled -ie or that my real name was Kathy or Kathryn. Nope, it states clearly on my birth certificate ‘Katy’. In all my years I only ever met one other girl who spelt her name the same way.”    --Katy

“Honestly, I half expected Kal-el to be Jerry Seinfeld’s kid. The name is probably going make the kid receive one or two taunts on the playground, but I would say having an A-list movie star as a father might take some of the edge off of, assuming the kids parents let them watch “Lord of War” at age 7.”    --Anonymous

“I personally think that celebrities think that just become they are famous that they can name their kids whatever they want. But what about that poor child when they grow up and have to endure so much pain, torture, and teasing because their parents were on an acid trip. Apple Martin has my sympathy. So does this child.”    --Felicia

“I think little Kal-el is doomed to deal with perpetually confused folks who thinks his full name is Calvin with a middle initial “L”. But then, if I’d ever had a son, I’d have named him Hobbes (which is why I was never allowed to have kids).”    --Wendell

“You mean Fashingbauer wasn’t made up?”  --David[Editor’s Note: Heh. Only by the Germans. Don't get me started on my years spelling THAT one.]

Letter to Kal-el from Ga-el

Dear :Oh kid, I feel your pain. Those of us with first names that aren't found in any baby-name book have to stick together. You and I even share three of our first-name letters, so I feel we have a special bond. Your name has its own punctuation, which mine doesn't, so you're ahead of me there, though.

You see, my parents named me a version of "Gael" that's rarely seen in the U.S., but is often seen in Irish words. I even get my own language, Gaelic, though I have yet to meet anyone who speaks much of it. Most people can pronounce my name, but no one can spell it right. Even if I live another 100 years, I suspect that when I die, the sentence I will have heard the most in my life will be "Is that spelled with an 'I' or a 'Y'?"

You get Kal-el, the birth name of Superman — your dad, Nicolas Cage, is reportedly a big Superman fan. No word on why he couldn't just name you Clark Kent, but there seems to be something in the air of celebrity birthing rooms that inspires unusual baby names of late. Maybe you'll someday be teeter-tottering on a Beverly Hills playground with Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter, , and Punky Brewster's daughter, .

Maybe the celebrities are staging their own backlash, like how the growing popularity of Hummers inspired some people to buy Mini Coopers. For a while there, new parents were dusting off grandma and grandpa's names. Think of how many babies out there are named Henry, or Emma, or Jack, or Hannah. Good, solid, old-fashioned names, found in many a family Bible from 1900, and now resurfacing on birth certificates of the 2000s.

Other parents have been reaching out into surnames and place names for some time now. I have a friend who calls her child's grade-school group "the airport class" because of the number of Madisons, Logans, and Austins enrolled.

You wouldn't know this, Kal-el, being newborn and all, but back in the 1970s and 1980s, there were really only 10 first names legally allowed, and we all had to share 'em. OK, not really, but it seems a good explanation for why I know approximately 8 million people in their 30s named Jennifer, Scott, Lisa, and Dan.

And you're hardly the first who was named for someone famous, even a fictional someone. I know more than one "Dr. Zhivago"-inspired Lara, and at least one "Gone With the Wind"-inspired Tara. In a few years, there might be classrooms full of little Britneys and Omarosas. You don't want to get in the middle of a playground fight between those two, is all I'm saying.

Say this for your name, little Kal-el, you'll never have to write "Kal-el C." on your grade-school papers or your summer-camp bathing trunks. You'll never hear "Kal-el!" in a crowd and spin around, only to find out that it was some other mom looking for some other little boy.

From my experience, I can tell you right now that you'll probably never find anything personalized with your name. As a kid, I desperately wanted a leather bracelet with my name on it (cut me some slack, it was the 1970s), but instead I had to buy one marked "GAIL" and use a ballpoint pen to make the "I" into an "E." Your parents can probably buy you your own leather-bracelet factory, if you so desire. (If you get a chance when you're older, watch the episode of  "The Simpsons" where Bart can only find "Bort" mini-license plates in a theme-park gift shop. Oh, so funny.)

Your birth gives me the chance to link to one of my all-time favorite Web sites, Again, when you're older, check it out. Oh, it could have been so much worse, Kal-el, for both of us. One mom wants to name her baby "Attica," like the prison famous for a riot. One punctuates "Cameron" as "Cam'ron." They run names together, like "Allikaylor," or just plain make them up, like "Karjovon."

Yes, you and I got off easy, little Kal-el. We'll always have to spell our names, but we'll be OK. Oh, and you should probably plan on staying away from Kryptonite, but I hear it's overrated anyway.

Best Wishes,


Readers on Bond books

Turns out I’m not the only person who .  And an interesting point: More than one of you believe that Timothy Dalton, not Sean Connery, is the actor who was most similar to the Bond of the novels. I’ll have to take another look at Dalton. I think Connery being closest to WW II age, with all the propriety and world-weariness that went with that, was what had me thinking he was the most like the literary Bond, but you make good cases for Dalton. Here are some of your thoughts.

RALPH FIENNES?“So good to hear someone feels the same way about Fleming’s Bond as I do. I cause countless arguments over best Bonds with my support of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Yes, Lazenby is wooden and the action is cartoonish, but I find it so refreshing, after the daftness of all the gadgets and show of the later Connery films, to witness a return to the character of Bond and not the “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” the series has become known for. Here’s hoping a return to the original Bond story will encourage a return to the “original” Bond. P.S. I’ve always thought Ralph Fiennes had the necessary grit to play a “real” Bond. ”    --Anonymous

DEATH IN THE REARVIEW“I don’t know any other woman who likes the Ian Fleming Bond! I started reading them in college, and discovered the darker Bond was fascinating. I actually grew up with the Roger Moore bond, and after I read the books, I could never watch another Roger Moore; they are so campy! I have an appreciation for the Timothy Dalton Bond, whom people tend to forget, because I fell that next to Connery, he was the closest to the literary Bond. And George Lazenby, who was a bad actor, is somewhat redeemed by being in one of the few Bond movies that follows the book quite well. Roger Moore, of course, was never in a bond that followed the books, only used their titles. Every time I use the rearview mirror, I am reminded of a description of, I think it was Tracy, that said she used her rearview mirror and most women don’t.”    --Toni

YOUNG BOND“I’ve always preferred the books to the movies, myself, been a fan for almost 40 years now (egad!). Cooper might like to try a new novel written for teens about a young teenage James, it’s set in the right period, and Fleming’s estate chose Charles Higson to write the book, it’s called Silverfin. I have also stuck to Fleming’s books and not read the others, but this one, dealing with a 13-year-old James who hasn’t yet had the experiences that made him the man he was in the books, feels right.”    --Kat

SHOW ME A KILLER“Oh, I agree with you, rather heartily. I have most of the original Fleming books, and I do the same thing...I can’t help but point out how different a scene in a movie is from the novels. James Bond was a hard, cruel, unsentimental man. Women meant very little to him (and as much as I enjoyed seeing Brosnan’s ‘oh, I must save Jinx because I care about her’ bit in the latest film, I knew the film makers had gone as far away from the true Bond as they possibly could). I’d love to see the allegedly forthcoming ‘Casino Royale’ take us back to the me a killer!”    --Stephanie

MEDICINAL ASSIST“I too have a complete signet collection of Ian Flemings paperbacks. I especially enjoyed the short story “A Quantum of Solace”. JB was also unafraid to take amphetamines to sharpen his wits at the gambling table. Something you don’t see in the movies.”    --JB

SET SERIES IN THE 1950s“You know, it wouldn’t take much money to produce an ‘Ian Fleming’s James Bond’ television series based on the books themselves. Go ahead and set it in the 50s & 60s and stay as true to the original format as possible. DVD sales alone would guarantee a profit. Flemming was a master story teller and Bond is one of the greatest story-based characters ever created. Most people don’t even realize that Bond failed his mission in the first novel, “Casino Royale” and nearly lost his life in the process. What a contrast that would make to the invincible Bond of the movies!”    --Gary-O