Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's in a name? Or...in a pseudonym? 

If no one has guessed, Lydia Gastrell is not my real name. Having false names for public use is incredibly common and shouldn't imply that I am embarrassed or ashamed of anything or trying to "hide." Okay, maybe I am trying to "hide" from my parents, but that's pretty much it, =P.  It's a protective measure more than anything else. But, someone asked me yesterday how I came up with my pen name, so I thought I would give you the story. 

I wanted something as unique as possible, and what's the current definition of "unique". Well, it has a lot to do with how many Google hits you get. I wanted a unique name that would be mine, one that would not lead to anyone else or anything else but what I DID. Pretty tall order, I know. There are 7 billion people, after all. That's a lot of name combinations and a lot of repeats. 

I started by researching extinct or endangered surnames. There are actually a lot of these, especially in the UK (the trend of dying or extinct surnames is probably going to become a thing of the past in the West, since marriage and the traditional transfer of surnames from husband to wife, father to child, is becoming less popular). I discovered the last name Gastrell was reported to have only "27 surviving persons with this name". Wow. That's pretty small. I already knew I wanted the first name Lydia, since I have always thought it was beautiful name and rolls off the tongue easily. So...Lydia Gastrell? Was there one? Damn! Yes, there was!
But, the last known recording of that name (at least according to the almighty Google Machine) was a church register from 1791, indicating that a widow, one Lydia Gastrell, married and became Lydia Gastrell Thomas. Yes! A name that had no recorded use since the 18th century? Oh, I could do that =D 
**the picture shows a house in Bath, UK, where the original Lydia Gastrell lived after remarrying in 1791. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lapham's Quarterly 

A cheat book for art/culture rubes like me...

So I really like Lapham's Quarterly, and if you aren't familiar with it, it's basically a big quarterly magazine that compiles a bunch of literature/art/essays/etc. on a particularly chosen topic. The topics are always something singular and yet very broad. For example, this quarter the subject is "Youth". 

Back in "the day" (God, I hate that phrase), you would see big quote books that would organize various quotes by subject. "Gee, I need a quote here about unrequited love so I can sound super smart and well read. I know! My Big Book O' Quotes!" Yeah, pretty much like that ;). Well, Lapham's does that for more than just quotes. A cheat book? Sure, it can be, but I love the focus because you can instantly get a few DOZEN perspectives on one particular topic in one volume. Nice. And if some may view it as one of those intimidating snob publications of the elite art world, well....that's fine. I'm sure the people who make it view themselves that way too. After all, I hear the founder used to work for the New Yorker (stick your nose up in the air now, LOL)
I saw this in this quarter's issue and liked it a lot. It's mixed media, entitled Boy by Ron Mueck, 1999. Since all I'm seeing is a picture, and I have not yet bothered to look up the actual work, I find that I'm not sure which is real. Is the room real, and the artist made a gigantic squatting boy...or is the boy real and the artist made a miniature sized room? I can't really tell from the photo. 
PS: If you are the type who loves to butcher magazines for art materials, especially collages, you can't get much better than this magazine. Of course, you'll be butchering a $16 book. Mmm.... =/ 

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Comfort Zone....

I can't overestimate the thrill, shock, wonder, fear, and all the other things I have felt since I started venturing into areas outside of my "comfort zone". It's hasn't been a long journey. Only the last year or so, I'll say. Talking to people with views and life styles completely outside my realm of personal experience, getting to know strange things that, quite frankly, make me feel like a ridiculous newbie at times...and a bigot at others. I ask questions--lots of questions--sometimes more than I should, because it's hard for me to remember that people with alternative lifestyles still have private lives, still have things they don't want to just share with a stranger. I have even met people who get angry and offended at the term "alternative lifestyle."

Damn. I feel like I can't even speak English any more. What's the right thing to say? Was that offensive? Sheesh! Sorry, guys. Truly. No offence intended. I'm just so damn curious, I can't help myself. You know who you are, ;) .

But I've learned that comfort zones can be good things, though. They really can. After all, if you aren't a little reticent about things, if you aren't just a little uncomfortable...doesn't that make you jaded? I sometimes wonder if people who have no restraints at all aren't bored. I think I would be.