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Every year when an article of this sort appears, ol’ Robbo is seized with an overwhelming desire to line up all those new parents out there and collectively slap them silly.  This year is no exception:

WASHINGTON – Mom and Dad may be looking to popular vampire books and the first family for baby names: Cullen is on the rise for boys and Malia for girls. But Miley and Jonas are down, proving that acclaim can be fleeting.

Isabella is now the top baby name for girls, Jacob for boys, the Social Security Administration said Friday. Isabella’s climb to the top in 2009 ends Emma’s one-year reign. Jacob is on an 11-year run at the top.

“Anything can influence baby names, from pop culture to literature to music and celebrities,” said Jennifer Moss, author of “The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book” and founder of Babynames.com.

Barack still didn’t crack the top 1,000 for boys, but a version of the president’s daughter’s name, Malia, was the fastest riser for girls. Maliyah moved up 342 spots, to No. 296, while Malia, which is how Obama’s daughter spells it, came in at No. 192, rising 153 spots.

Many of the top names — and the fastest risers — match the popular “Twilight” series of books and movies about teen romance and vampires.

Edward Cullen is one of the lead characters. Edward moved up 11 spots, to No. 137 on the list, and Cullen was the biggest riser among boys’ names, up 297 spots to No. 485.

Edward Cullen is, of course, a vampire. His girlfriend? Bella, a common nickname for Isabella.

Jacob is another character in the stories, but Jacob’s rule at the top started well before the first “Twilight” book was published in 2005. Isabella has been in the top 10 since 2004.

“People seem to be a little bit more creative, inventive and flexible with their daughters’ names,” said Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue. “With boys, I think we tend to be a little bit more consistent. The names don’t change quite as much.”

What on earth are people thinking?  Go ahead and imagine the conversation 10 years down the road when you explain to Junior that he was named after a vampire in a trashy series of novels, or a boy-band that was briefly popular and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  

Names are like tattoos, my friends –  they don’t come off.

I see where Google is running a ballet caption in honor of the anniversary of the birth of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, born this day in 1840.

Well, it also happens to be the anniversary of the birth of Johannes Brahms in 1833.

Personally, I’ll take Brahms over Tchaikovsky any day.

Tchaikovsky once wrote of Brahms, “For the Russian heart there is something dry, cold, nebulous and repelling about the music of this German master.  For us Russians, Brahms lacks every sense of melodic fantasy.  The musical thought in Brahms is never completely pronounced.  Barely has a melodic phrase been as much as hinted at, it is so overgrown with all kinds of harmonic modulations as if the composer had set himself the task of being incomprehensible and deep whatever the cost.  His style is always so lofty [….], but in everything the most important element of all is missing: beauty!”

To which I say, “Bah!”  The beauty of Brahms is in his complexity and has an intellectual side as well as an aesthetic one.  If he didn’t spend his career penning over-the-top, vodka-soaked shlock, it’s because he had the sense to choose not to.

I had not known before that Rudyard Kipling interviewed Mark Twain.  He did, though, travelling all the way from India to Elmira, New York in 1889 to do so.  A sample:

Once indeed, he put his hand upon my shoulder.  It was an investiture of the Star of India, blue silk, trumpets and diamond-studded jewel, all complete.  If hereafter, in the changes and chances of this mortal life, I fall to cureless ruin, I will tell the superintendant of the workhouse that Mark Twain once put his hand on my shoulder; and he shall give me a room to myself and a double allowance of paupers’ tobacco.

Splendid.  

I am happy to say that Twain and Kipling became great friends, that each admired the other’s work, and that Twain repaid Kipling the compliment by going out to India to see him.

Just splendid. 

A glass of wine with Laura W. over at Ace’s.

For those of you keeping track, I may report that after tonight’s 14-10 win, the eldest gel’s softball team has reached a record of 6-0-1 on the season.  If – I say if – we can rack up two more wins in the latter half of the season, we’ll lock up 1st place in our division and also a first round bye in the end-of-season tourney.  We’ve got games on Saturday and Tuesday, so wish us luck.

The gel’s growth as a player and as a person is, for me, a sorely tempting topic of analysis here.   In the end, though, I’ve decided to resist that temptation on the grounds that the matter is too personal to her:  Really, I’ve no right to disclose such information to what amounts to the general public.  Suffice to say that, although it has been painful at times for the both of us, I believe in the end that it is helping her to become the sort of person she ought to be.  Oh, and I don’t think I’m violating any confidences by saying that  the gel has displayed a heretofor unexpected talent for bunting.  Aaaand, parental pride discount aside, this talent has contributed to the team’s succes.

No, instead what I really want to comment on is Robbo’s much more childish delight in the various cheers and chants that are a part of afternoons and evenings at the ball park.  I have no idea where these things come from, but I am endlessly fascinated by what one might call the flow of fashionable cheers that seem spontaniously to make their ways into the dugout from year to year.

Three current favorites come to mind.

The first is often used on a called ball.  It goes, “Good eye! Good eye-eee-eye!”

The second is used to distract opposing pitchers:  “I’m a monkey in a tree/ I’m a monkey look at me/Ah-OOOH-gha/ ah, ah, ah-OOOH-gha!”

The third is, perhaps, my current favorite, and is used when opposing pitchers are warming up: “Watch the pitcher/watch, watch the pitcher/Is she fast or is she slow/ Is she high or is she low?/ I don’t know, let’s watch her throw!”  After which the bench goes immediately into the “Jeopardy!” theme: Na-NA-na-nuh-na-NA-na!…..

These things always make me smile.  I’d be curious as to how far abroad they have penetrated, as well as to examples of other favorites…….

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