Monday, February 18, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

I've always hated my name. My real name, that is. Ever since I was little boy, I would cook up new names for myself. At one point I wanted to change my name to Trent Archer because I thought that just sounded like the coolest name EVER. It got worse when I got to high school and suddenly I went from Tommy to Tom. I hate being called Tom. Tom is my dad and I am not him. But somewhere around college I realized I couldn't just change my name. I had lived with it for 2 whole decades. Even if I could get everyone to call me something different, it would still feel weird to not

Then one night I was watching Mallrats in my dorm room and I thought, "I really love the main character's name (T.S.) and I wish I could change my name to that." It took a few seconds before I realized that my first and middle initial were T.S. And then I got REALLY excited. If I could get people to call me T.S. then I could change my name without really changing it. That would be GREAT!

Easier said than done. My closest college friend was STUBBORN! And we were practically attached at the hip. We were TomandShara or SharaandTom. So when she decided she wasn't calling me T.S., the rest of my friends didn't have much motivation. I stopped trying and eventually ended up in New York for grad school. And then one night while I was home for Christmas break, I watched Mallrats again and I realized...I'm in a new city, with new friends, practically a new life. I could be T.S. And thus started the transition. It wasn't easy, since I had already known these new friends for four months already as Tom. But as the second semester started, we made new friends who only knew me as T.S. And teachers called on me in class as T.S. And it just became the only name they heard in reference to me. Thus they were easy slates to clean. It took a little more effort with my older friends. Some of my closest friends have known me for over a decade and it wasn't so easy for them. But with a little tough love and stern repetitions of "that's not my name" they eventually got used to it. Though it was funny to see how visual memory came into play. They would call me T.S. fluently over the phone, but the minute they saw my face they instinctually reverted back to Tom. It took them a LONG time to transition. In fact, Jess still slips up maybe once a year. And Shara...well, she still refuses. But she's always been a stubborn one.
Anyway, all of that backstory (and I am the king of blathering backstory) is leading up to a point. The point is, I've worked so hard to establish this new name that I never foresaw that it would come with it's own can of worms. They're definitely worth dealing with, but I just think it is amusing that I wanted a more original name, a more memorable name, and it jumbles people up.

The first problem I ran into actually came about via celebrity. A friend from grad school had started an official fan club for Kristen Chenoweth (broadway star, Olive on Pushing Daisies) and I was able to go backstage and present her with a Valentine's Day card to let her know we had raised a ton of money in her name for the BC/EFA charity. She shakes my hand, leans in (and up, since I'm so tall) and says "T.S. how do you spell that?"

My jaw almost HIT THE FLOOR! I didn't know what to say. How did I answer this without making Kristen Chenoweth feel foolish, or without sounding snotty or impertinent. I looked at my friends and got blank stares, so I turned back to her and said, "Um...T period S period?" She laughed! "I thought it was something exotic, like T-i-a-s." She looked to my friends for approval and they just smiled and nodded. It was a good laugh for a while, and we chocked it up to a Cheno blonde moment. But it wasn't just her. A LOT of people have asked me if T.S. is a foreign name, or something exotic. Or they'll say, "wait, say that again" like they don't exactly get it. They're not alone.

I've found a good way of responding to this one after a few years of fumbling. I just say "like T.S. Eliot." If they still don't get it after that, I know I tried my best.

The other thing I get a lot are people calling me by different initials---which I'll say right now, I DO NOT understand. What part of me strikes ANYONE as a T.J.? Especially when T.S. is so distinct and random and (not that I planned it this way, but) literary. The other one I've gotten, which I REALLY don't get, is T.C. How people go to T.C. from T.S. I'll never understand, but it's happened more than once with different people.

And third, I get A LOT of people, especially through work and most especially via email, who seem to think I am being vague and just giving initials to be elusive, or who aren't sure if that is what they should call me (because in all likelihood, I could just be lazy and not want to write out my whole name). Those are the moments I feel most awkward and a little guilty, but I have to remind myself that not only am I signing T.S. to my emails, but my auto-signature says "T.S. Ferguson" in it, and my work email, which is first name.last name uses TS as well.

These are just little bumps in the road, little karmic bird poops for venturing away from my birth name. But they're all totally worth it, because now I love my name. I just think some of these things are amusing, given that I was plain old Tom for most of my life. I could've taken the easier course, but it wouldn't have been as fun.

That actually reminds me of Robert Frost. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference. Story of my freaking life.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Good Things Come to an End

I finished Godless over the weekend and am now moving on to Alex Rider #1, amongst a bevy of submissions that I want to get through this week. But Godless -- I really liked it. I thought the idea of a kid who is questioning his faith, in God and in the adult authority figures in his life, creating a new religion based around the town water tower. I love that it was the water tower. Water towers and underground tunnels and abandoned cabins in the woods always give me this feeling of adventure and parent-less mischief. Maybe because it brings me back to when I was a kid and I would explore all over my town with my friends, going into abandoned water pipes, under waterfalls, through random woods and over train tracks that cross ridiculous high over a very shallow river. So reading about these kids climbing a water tower, opening it up and swimming in brought me back.

I also really loved how each person in the religion took on a different personification. The zealot, the religious separatist, the person who only joined because they wanted to feel included. And then there's the main character, trying to keep order despite his ridiculous, made up rules for his ridiculous, made up religion. And I love how this plot is tied into the concept of faith and teens questioning their faith. This kid thinks religion is a sham, made up and followed by people who are clearly sheep. But then he makes up his own religion and people start following it like sheep, even though they all know it is completely made up. I love the mirroring and the thoughts if provokes.


In other news, the dating is over (at least with the one guy I was referring to in my most recent posts). He had everything I could've wanted...but there was no romantic spark. Try as I might, I just wasn't feeling it. So I broke it off tonight. It was painful. I know he liked me and he was a genuinely nice guy. I hate thinking that I hurt someone, even just a little bit. He was totally cool but I could hear the disappointment in his voice. It didn't feel good at all. But I know I did the right thing in the end -- it would've been worse if I had ignored it and ended up in a relationship with him, and then said something after months and months of dating. That wouldn't be good AT ALL.

So I'm fresh off of a book and fresh off of a boy. Time to start anew. Next stop Stormbreaker and on the guy front...we shall see.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Updates for the sake of updating

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
The Spiderwick Chronicles #1: The Field Guide by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black
Godless by Pete Hautman (currently reading)

I just saw Juno last night. I was able to borrow a preliminary DVD copy from a friend. I really enjoyed it, mostly for Ellen Page. She's just phenomenal. But then, I knew that when I saw her as Kitty Pryde in the third X-Men movie. Also incredible was Jennifer Garner. I was shocked by how well she was able to portray a fragile and emotionally vulnerable infertile woman with just a look. I really believed she knew what it was like to not be able to conceive.

Some parts were eh. Jason Bateman, pretty as he is, was working with an underdeveloped character. Michael Cera, while good, played the same part he played in Arrested Development and, I'm scared to confirm, probably in Superbad too.

I gave this movie 4 out of 5 stars on Netflix, because I really did like it. There were parts I would've changed or expanded on, and maybe I'm blinded by my awe of Ellen Page, but I genuinely enjoyed watching.

Next from Netflix -- Ben 10, Season 1. Anyone seen? I <3>

I've been on two dates with Michael now and we're going on a third this weekend. It's tough dating someone who lives in NJ though, since it limits the time we have with each other. I don't get out of work until a certain time and he has to make sure he's on the last bus so time really matters. But we have fun and we have a lot in common, so things are going well so far. There was a minor bump in the road, which we had to have a conversation about, and yes I'm being vague, mostly out of respect for him and because I doubt people care about the dirty details (ok they're not really dirty but if you really want to know, email me).

I've been listening to Vanessa Carlton's recently released third CD (called Heroes and Thieves) a lot lately! I'm really enjoying it and there are some songs that are, as my best friend put it, "classic Vanessa." Check her out. If you enjoyed her first CD, you'll most likely enjoy this one.

I also acquired Natasha Bedingfield's new CD (Pocketful of Sunshine) and I have to say, I'm not thrilled with it at the moment. It seems to have a lot more hip-hop-lite (Natasha-style) and the rest of the songs just sound blah to me. I do enjoy Freckles but I'm not compelled to relisten to any of the tracks.

Next on my musical list is Jordin Sparks (from American Idol). My friend gave me a copy of her CD and I like the single (Tattoo). We'll see. She may be overshadowed by my purchase of the new Idina Menzel CD which just came out recently. I'm buying that once payday hits. WOOT!

Oh writing. Sometimes I think I have given up on my writing dream in lieu of my editing dream. Pursuing my editing career hasn't been easy, but I really wanted it and I got it. I really want to move my way up the editorial ladder, so I'm working my butt off for it.

Writing is similar. It's something that I want, that I know I'm good at, but it's a lot of hard work. But for some reason, I am blocked. I have story idea after story idea. I have AMAZING first chapters. I have great hooks. And then i just...don't write. Maybe I'm trying to force something that isn't meant to be quite yet. Blogging comes so natural to me. I can write flap copy and catalog copy and factsheet copy. But writing a novel continues to elude me. So maybe I need to take a sabbatical from that dream. Maybe the dream, wanting it so badly, putting all the expectation on myself to be an amazing writer...maybe it's stifling me. Maybe it's holding me back or putting too much pressure on me. So I'm just going to stop pushing so hard and maybe some day, when it's meant to be, it'll come to me. My writing group is not going to be happy. But hey, better that than end up like the Jack Torrance in The Shining.

So that's all for now. I've had some deep thoughts that I may or may not share, but those were the updates that were bugging me to come out, so here they are.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Once Upon A Time

Tonight, after karaoke, I bought my first Fables trade paperback and I think I'm love. For those not in the know, Fables is a graphic novel from Vertigo about characters of fairytale and classic fantasy legend (i.e. characters pulled from the public domain) who have been exiled from their Homeland and have created an underground community in New York City, with Old King Cole as their mayor-for-life and a bitchier, more bad-ass version of Snow White as his 2nd in command. Me likee!!

In other news, I'm trying to organize a group from work to go see the Spiderwick movie when it comes out. I'm ridiculously excited to see it. It is going to be AWESOME!

And tomorrow I have another date with Michael, who I mentioned previously. I guess that gives some indication as to how the first date went. I'm not one to kiss and tell, but I guess that says it all. ;-) We were originally going to have our second date this Wednesday, but I fell ill earlier in the week so we pushed it back. And we were actually going to do something during the day tomorrow but now we've pushed it back again, since he wanted to take me to a show his friend will be in. So dinner and a show in Williamsburg. Wish me luck (again) and pray for no rain.