Short takes for a short month:
A couple of weeks ago, Time magazine—galled and galvanized by Comcast's name change to Xfinity—published its 10 Worst Corporate Name Changes. (Also on the list: Syfy and Xe.) Before you dash of a congratulatory letter to the editor, read "The New Laws of Naming," Alan Brew's response to the list. Brew, a veteran brand strategist at RiechesBaird in Southern California, reminds us, first and foremost, that "all name changes are going to be controversial." No. 2 on Brew's list: "There will always be people who don't like a name change for whatever reason, and newspapers will always find them for a quote." Amen, brother.
Two beautifully written pieces on the movie critic Roger Ebert: a profile by Chris Jones in Esquire, and journalist/blogger Nancy Nall's terrific tribute. They aren't eulogies; Ebert is very much alive. But he lost his jaw to thyroid cancer and has been unable to eat, speak, or drink since 2006. Cancer can't touch his love of movies or his writing ability, though. He tweets all day, every day, and writes a blog about movies (mostly) for the Chicago Sun-Times. Read Ebert's response to the Chris Jones piece. (The photo may shock you, but, as Ebert says, "That's how I look, after all.")
More journalism to make you stop, think, and support your local paper: This column by SF Gate's Mark Morford on the disappointingness of it all. Morford writes: "Hell, what with the economy and job situation, the housing market and the overall feel and texture of the nation right now, it's no wonder Americans are, by and large, a goddamn miserable bunch. We don't like anything right now. No politician, no decision, no situation, no inhale, no exhale. We are sick to death of all of it, including ourselves." Read the rest.
The Wall Street Journal (you read that right) asks: Are all the good band names taken? My response: Not as long as there's a Band Name Generator to create names like Order of the Happy Cat and Fistful of Thumbs. Hat tips to Mike Lipsey (@StoicMike) for the former and to Chris Smith (@CSWriter) for the latter.
Finally, here's one for everyone in the 510, with a special shout-out to those of the geekish persuasion: a Facebook petition to make "hella" the SI Prefix for 10^27. (Via Benjamin Tseng.) For those of you outside the Bay Area: a definition of "hella."
Thanks for the mention, Nancy. Please note, I would never claim to be the coiner of a portmanteau like "snow-how" -- even when you think it up yourself (as I did), odds are good that someone else has done so too, as I said in my Feb. 14 Globe column.
About that WSJ piece on band names being "used up": It seemed like a (mathematically) ludicrous claim for a usually numerate publication to make. I'm hoping linguist and ex-rock 'n' roller Geoff Pullum will heap some eloquent scorn on it, but it may be too easy a target for him.
Posted by: Jan Freeman | February 19, 2010 at 08:27 AM
In 1967 I went to a concert in something resembling an airplane hanger. It was somewhere near San Jose. The bands included several of the big names on the San Francisco scene at the time, although the only one I can remember is Quicksilver Messenger Services, because they gave my friend and me a ride (we were hitchhiking...and obviously young and insane). In any case, one of the bands advertised on a big sign outside was the Black Shit Puppy Farm. I never saw the band, but the name has stayed with me all these years.
Posted by: Michele Hush | February 19, 2010 at 08:29 AM