Daily Archives: May 12, 2005

What’s in a Pseudonym?

A lot of my online friends don’t use their real names.

They do this for a number of reasons.

For those of the neopagan persuation, it’s a way to keep one foot in the closet, so to speak. We are, after all, not in a country that actually embraces freedom of religion. There is also a kind of authenticity in hosting a site on matters “non-mundane” if your gentle leader is named Willow, or Ratsfoot, or Harmony Broomfinder, or Silver Pom-Pom. Jack (or Susie) Smith’s “Book of Shadows” just doesn’t have the same punch, does it?

Another reason for adopting a nom de ‘net is to embrace a persona, a part of your everyday individuality that for some reason has been forced into second (or further down) place.

Then there’s the privacy issue. You don’t necessarily want every Internet-based crackpot hunting down your street address in order to “throw down” on you in person just because your worldview happens to disagree with theirs. I can understand that, particularly if you’re young, and particularly if you use your online forum as a place to “talk about things that nobody cares…” or that are impractical in your current geographic and cultural wasteland.

A big one is more than privacy. It’s anonymity. With a false name, one that is tied in no way to your social security number, work, address, family or school, it’s much easier to be a total and complete asshole, flinging electrons into space with relative impunity, safeguarding only your IP address and your right to talk via emoticons in a way that would never dare speak face-to-face.

For me, there’s always been the sound of the name issue. Some names, for example, WORK as names of musicians, or poets, or prizefighters. Others are more of a stretch, regardless of what Arnold Swartzenegger once said, that the harder a name is to remember, the more difficult it is to forget. Mick Jagger, for example, sounds like the name of a lead singer. Mick Ralphs, on the other hand, sounds like a guitarist. James Joyce (or James Jones, for that matter) sounds like a novelist name. I think it’s a sonic issue. Poets probably have a little more leeway here, but not much.

I have often considered adopting a nom de plume, in addition to my pagan-use name Greybeard Dances (which came about thanks to the combination of a physical feature and my mate’s Native American given name, which is “Starlight Dances in the Treetops”, or Starlight Dances). I suppose it would be an easy way out to adopt something that just SOUNDED cool, the way Zane Grey rolls off the tongue, or George Sands. Or Marilyn Monroe. But I would like to infuse it with a little of my own history, rather than influences, which is how Elton John came from Reginald Dwight.

So here are a few options:

John Roberts (first and middle names)
J. Robert Grebnezlit (pretty ridiculous, actually)
Sean Baldun (taking the Irish ancestry approach to my first name, John, and my mother’s maiden name, Baldwin)
Schrier Baldwin (often considered as a country singer pseudonym, the combination of the last names of my paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather)

and of course, my new all-time favorite:

Jack Rattelfinger (which would be John transformed in combination with my paternal great-grandmother’s maiden name)

of course, none of these touch upon the issue of my Use-Name versus my True-Name … and did anyone but me notice that in the made-for-television version of “Earthsea” that the two were switched. The True-Name was supposed to be “Geb” and the Use-Name was “Sparrowhawk”. So I’m confused.

Of course, in the world of blogging, where the point is to share YOUR opinion with the rest of the world, and to accumulate a bit of notoriety for actually being yourself, it’s more likely that you’ll use your own name. Because you’re a journalist, so to speak, and your name is your byline. It’s unlikely that you’d hear Walter Cronkite (for example), say, “I’m Dancing Firefly (or satanlovesme_666, or green_lily4), and that’s the way it was.”

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Thought for the Day: On the Arts

From the wonderful book The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine by Robert Bly and Marion Woodman. This bit from Marion:

…the arts are becoming frills in the eyes not only of the government but of many citizens as well. As budgets are being balanced, the arts suffer because so many tutors [status quo protectors] are so far away from the soul they simply don’t care…Their head is separated from their heart. What these pathetic tutors who pass these laws do not realize is that young people do start out with imagination, with enthusiasm. Take away their disciplined outlets and they are birds without wings. Moreover, their frustration at not being able to soar results in rage, which they have no idea how to contain. Any one of the arts can give them a container strong enough to hold their natural frustrations until it distills into paint, or dance, or song. Any teacher knows how much energy is required to teach a student how to hold the container solid enough until the emotion has time to resolve itself into an art form. That is what culture is. Our tutors are passing laws that will destroy what has taken centuries to build — a civilization that can contain its own vision. Without the arts, the principal is shot in his office instead of Julius Caesar being massacred with yardsticks in the classroom. Raw instinct runs rampant in the streets, imagination is ciphered into primitive behavior, spiritual and moral values cease to exist, and the millions that are saved are spent in building boot camps to try to contain thugs.

We are building a nation of reactionary soldiers, who are so repressed and angry that they are willing to kill, whose emotional maturity and self-awareness is such that they will kill as instructed, as their heart-strings, no longer attached to viable, meaningful relationship with the world, are jerked at the bidding of those who wish the killing done, but at the same time wish to lament such violent acts while washing their own hands clean of the blood.

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Bipartisan Blues

The fascist right … the commie left … the accusations fly,
with neither side, in truth, much worried ’bout the little guy;
they do not represent him, even though that’s what they claim,
’cause behind all their rhetoric, they’re pretty much the same:

Both sides make heartfelt speeches to a captive audience,
who, face it, have eschewed most logic and good common sense,
in thinking that these politicos, who speak of some gesalt,
have anything in mind but finding someone else at fault.

Just once, I’d like to hear a politician state the truth:
that they’d said anything to get you in their voting booth,
and that the numbers they rely on are in fact just lies,
manipulated to reduce their opponents to size.

And further, I’d like congressmen, and senators, to boot,
instead of claiming justice is their sole end of pursuit,
to simply say they’re sorry, but the way that things are now,
free speech, fair play, and honesty they simply can’t allow.

At least then I know where I stand, as if I couldn’t guess:
a once-great country trying to deny it is a mess;
a people proud of learning less and less each day in schools,
whose main interest is money-making, educated fools;

a flag that isn’t fireproof, because it does not wave
for truth, justice and liberty for all, free man and slave;
instead, by some selective wind, it chooses its flagpoles
by special interests, narrow vision, and pretense at soul.

I wonder, as I hear them speak on C-SPAN or the news,
if anyone who is in office really knows my shoes.
They do not know my first name, that I’m sure of. After all,
it’s never them in person making their fund-raising calls.

Bipartisan, bischmartisan; blue, red, and purple hues;
Republican or Democrat; evangelist or Jew —
why don’t they get it? Why not look beyond such simple lines,
and think what’s best for the whole country, while there is still time?

12 MAY 2005

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