When baby name SEO gets out of control

First, let me present this, sent to me from a friend who is a part of what is essentially a mom’s group on Facebook.

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As someone who is one of many, many Stephanie Simons (and someone married to a Michael Simon, no, not that Michael Symon), I appreciate the focus on wanting a unique name. I considered not taking my husband’s name because of it.

In a world of Google, I think it could be forward-thinking to give your baby a name with good SEO. I’ve seen numerous articles about naming your baby a la a brand.

But this isn’t a car. Or an energy drink. Or a podcast company (Startup did a fascinating ‘cast on naming their company, Gimlet, which is worth a listen). This is a BABY. Who will become an adult human who will introduce himself as the name you select for the rest of his life. Reconsider.

52 books in 52 weeks: January and February

For the fifth year, I’m attempting to read a book per week in 2015. That’s 52 books in 52 weeks. Of my four previous attempts, I didn’t succeed in 2013 (sad face). I blame buying a home and moving, which got me so far behind schedule that I became overwhelmed and stopped trying.

People are always checking in to see what I’m reading and what I recommend. Here’s what the first two months of 2015 brought:

  • “Redeployment” by Phil Klay. This was on many end-of-year lists and was the National Book Award winner. It’s a collection of 18114068
    short stories focused both on soldiers in combat and when they’re at home. It reminded me a lot of Siobhan Fallon’s “You Know When the Men Are Gone” which was part of my 2012 reading challenge and one of my favorite books. I was able to relate to that book more than Redeployment because it wasn’t from a soldier’s perspective. But nonetheless, I think stories like this are important to tell, and I admire the writing. Not my favorite book, but one I would recommend.
  • “Dear Life: Stories” by Alice Munro. I picked this up when Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s another book of short stories, mostly set in rural Canada, and it took me more than a year to make my way through it. The writing is deft, but the stories are quiet. I found it hard to look forward to picking up the collection on many occasions. There’s not much action to be found, but Munro’s characters are very real. I think this book might mean more if you read it over time, finishing a story here and there. I’m glad I read it, and I think English major-types would enjoy it. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a beach read or to skim through on the train.
  • 51mSJNECGyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This one has been on my to-read list for quite a while, and I inhaled it. I read the roughly 500 pages in about three days. I couldn’t wait to get home so that I could dive into it. I remember texting Cameron, “Her writing is like eating sorbet.” It’s a love story story about a Nigerian woman who comes to the U.S. and makes a life for herself and her eventual move back home. I’m a little biased because strong female narratives and immigrant stories are my favorites (major love for Jhumpa Lahiri). I think the ending was abrupt, but this book easily secures a spot on my favorites list. And now there’s going to be a movie with Lupita! OMG.
  • Still-Alice-cover“Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. This book haunted me, and I’ve heard it did the same to others. A Harvard professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s may not sound like a horror story, but I had nightmares about it. If I found myself searching for a word in conversation, I immediately thought, “See, this is how it starts!” I bought a second copy and sent it to my mom (who also couldn’t stop thinking about it). I think this book is really important in de-stigmatizing Alzheimer’s. I recommend this book to everyone because we all live in a world with people suffering first- or second-hand from this disease and could all use some more understanding.
  • “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. This author-as-guinea pig memoir trend has become a popular genre. This book could easily be summed up as “privileged white lady with no real problems complains she’s just not happy enough.” In each section of the book (which corresponds to a month of the year) she looks at a specific aspect of her life and tries to find ways to improve it. At the heart of it, I think it’s well-meaning and interesting. Some of her happiness fixes are really small: I get hungry and then become annoyed, therefore I’ll have snacks on-hand so I can ward off the hangry monster. But overall, not an engaging read, and I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • “The Girl On the Train” by Paula Hawkins. Is this on everyone’s book club list right now? Yes. Would it be as popular if not for “Gone Girl?” Maybe not. The femme fatale suspense novel is getting big play right now. The main character is an alcoholic and gets wrapped up in a murder case involving a family she views from her train car during her morning commute. I definitely think this is worth a read. I didn’t find the characters very real or easy to relate to. They aren’t very well developed and don’t always act the way you’d expect. However, I found the story engaging and always looked forward to picking up the book.
  • 22367526“My Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh. I immediately downloaded this after reading a Tribune review. The story centers on a Baton Rouge neighborhood during a summer in the 1980s when teenage Lindy is raped. Her neighbor and admirer discusses at length the impact this had on him, her and the rest of the neighborhood. In many ways it reminded me of “Everything I Never Told You” (one of the best books I read last year) because it looks at how our lives are impacted so strongly by tragedies that don’t happen to us directly. This in mind, I was left with a feel-good buzz after I finished the book. The writing is warm and detailed, and I thought of it long after I snapped it shut. One of the best reads in recent memory.

 

Discovering disruptive marketing trends

Today I went to a luncheon on disruptive marketing trends at the Digital Professional Institute, and I heard about some pretty cool stunts and ideas. I don’t consider myself much of a marketer, so this was all new to me. I’m also hesitant to download new apps (I get app fatigue) and don’t attend many cool events or conferences. But at the end of the presentation, I took away from it how rich consumer experiences can be paired with technology for really amazing results.

  • Chevy’s World’s Largest Claw Game. Remember the claw game in the movie theater lobby? This is a virtual version where the prizes are cars and laptops. It was projected onto the side of a building in L.A. I could easily see how this event could go viral on social media as people stopped to watch, record it on their phones or post the experience to their Facebook page.

  • Coca-Cola created interactive vending machines that connected people in India and Pakistan. The idea was to create joyful interactions, because that’s what Coke wants people to associate with their brand. And this feeling even has ripples after the event as people watch the ad now.

  • Bud Light’s “Up For Whatever” campaign. Besides making pretty entertaining ad spots, by giving these people once-in-a-lifetime experiences (prancercise, anyone?), they become brand ambassadors who will likely be lifelong Budweiser evangelists.

There are huge costs associated with all of these, and I don’t think it’s feasible for most businesses. Nonetheless, it’s important to see where the best marketers in the world are taking brands and how we can take small parts of it for ourselves.

(Above brand examples were courtesy of folks at Populous Digital and Resolution Productions Group).

 

Bad bitch weekend: Marie Antoinette, tattoos and Annie Lennox

A quick recap of some important notes from the weekend, full of bad bitch-ness.

  • Hubs and I had tickets for the Steppenwolf Theatre’s newest show, “Marie Antoinette.” It’s the story we were all taught in high school, but pretty sympathetic towards Marie, who was basically a child bride. Plus it has modern dialogue and amazing costumes (think Beyonce in the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour).

THE CLOTHES, PEOPLE. She started off the show with a tiny crown nestled in a three-foot-tall wig and a bedazzled top that said “BOSS.” Between scenes there was dance music and strobe lights. Stylistically one of the coolest things I’ve seen. The second act dragged a bit, but hubs and I give it two thumbs up. Go see it, Chicago!

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  • After years of toying with the idea, I finally got inked. I joined the Chicago flag tattoo club. I brought some moral support who ended up getting an impulse tattoo. (Bad bitch props to her.) Hat tip to the guys at Studio One in Pilsen who gave us a great experience. They were chill and funny and patient. Plus the shop is uber clean, intimate and has cool vintage decor. I’ll definitely recommend them to others and get more work done there.

 

  • Annie Lennox at the Grammy’s. Flawless. She starts in around the 2:05 mark. Get it, girl.

Also doing work at the Grammy’s: Lady Gaga looked and sounded amazing. And I give props to Madonna for doing her thing.

 

Why I didn’t like Sundance 2015’s biggest hit

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This was the third year hubs and I went to Sundance, and, as in trips past, we had tickets to the U.S. dramatic grand jury prize winner.

This year it was “Me and Early and the Dying Girl,” also winner of the audience award.

It’s the story of Greg, an awkward high schooler whose mom forces him to befriend Rachel, a classmate with cancer (why exactly mom does this, and why he’s so compelled to actually do what she says, still bothers me about this flick). He’s a quirky kid who films remakes of classic movies with his only friend, Earl, who he refers to as his colleague. It’s not a teen romance nor does it delve much into Greg’s relationship with his family. Most of the story focuses on Greg’s time befriending Rachel. I won’t give away any spoilers, but the movie does have “the dying girl” in its title.

I have a few problems with this movie.

1. Character development. Earl and the dying girl are two of the main characters, but they’re very one-dimensional. I found it pretty offensive the way they cast Earl, the only black character, as a stereotype. He lives in the bad part of town, and the only thing we see of his life is his older brother who sits on the front porch with a pitbull (which is constantly trying to attack people). His most frequently uttered line is “those titties.” Rachel is a similarly flat character. She has little personality, we don’t know anything about her aspirations or desires and really we aren’t even sure why Greg enjoys her company so much.

2. It tries so damn hard to be quirky. The main character makes remakes of classic films (but weird versions!). His dad wears a kimono and is always cooking some weird Southeast Asian dish! He confesses to a cute girl that he masturbated into a pillow! He spends lunch hours with his overly tattooed, pho-eating history teacher! I have a fair amount of contact with high schoolers. No one is this weird or interesting.

3. The kids with cancer genre, or “sick-lit.” Remember those Lurlene McDaniel books? I read her books as a preteen. Typically they dealt with main characters who had chronic illnesses (the title of her books say it all: “Don’t Die, My Love,” “Til Death Do Us Part” and “Mourning Song”). Then there’s “A Walk to Remember” where—spoiler alert—Mandy Moore dies!

Add in “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Red Band Society.” It feels like an easy way to create drama—just add a dying child! Cancer is real, and those going through it should be able to see themselves depicted in film. But it feels exploitative. An easy way to elicit tears (of which there were many in our screening).

I only saw eight of the many films at Sundance this year, but “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” was not the best one. To its credit, the movie has some genuinely funny moments. The boys accidentally trip on edibles. And supporting cast Molly Shannon and Nick Offerman make for a colorful background. Add to that the interesting shots and some animated cutaways, and it’s pretty entertaining. I have no doubt it will be a commercial success.

But I won’t be recommending it to anyone.