Thursday, July 29, 2004

Touching Mikes

I really didn't want michaelball.com at first. After all, I'm a Mike. My eponymous site should be the diver's.

However, a few days after setting up the domain, I started getting mail for the singer and then for various folk in his company. This or that interview was in the works, for example. These quick, intimate peaks into his professional life were funny, like the flash into the living room when the train passes by the windows.

He has fan clubs and fan Web sites in England, Scandinavia, Japan and probably elsewhere. It's no more surprising that a tingling teen would send mail to michael@michaelball.com without bothering to visit the site, than that some second grader would write to Santa at the North Pole. Either is as effective communication as the other.

On the other hand, I do notify the fan or flack or whomever to try him or the minion at michaelball.co.uk. One would think that the PR and scheduling types in England would think co.uk, but not all of them do.

It's probably time to send him some email and let him know that I link to his site, among other Michael and Mike Balls. I wonder whether he has identity with the name or would have a lackey screen out such notes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Boy Named Ball

Like Sue, my surname is a tough one to carry, particularly for a kid, compounded for those of us who moved. Years ago at a party, a Harvard linguist and I mused over it. He was pretty sure that Ball is the most risible, easily ridiculed last name in the language.

I've heard whines from Shoemakers and Fuchs and so forth, but they are small beer. My name brings with it body parts, countless sports, far too many clich├ęs (get on the ball, behind the eight ball...), sexually explicit verbs, dancing allusions, and even fairy tale citations of Cinderella.

As a kid, I'd go to a new school only to have a new group of classmates run through the same set of jokes I'd just left behind in the last town. There'd always be the clown or two who'd gawk after an insult or bad pun and wait for me to appreciate his brilliance. In the end, it's an intelligence and etiquette test to see who says what, how innovative or clever, and if they pick up on the cues to cool it. All that written, I must add that every couple of years, someone comes up with a new one and I marvel at and enjoy it. There must still be good Ball jokes unverbalized.

By the time someone named Ball is a teenager, he's earned the name.

He Has My Name!

While family and friends have nicknames for me, to virtually everyone I've known I'm Mike Ball. Because I met Tom, John, Steve, Mike, Bob and Bill Balls, I figured five years ago that I might grab mikeball.com before someone else.

Well, down by the Great Barrier Reef, another Michael Ball was ahead of me. When Network Solutions reported the domain was not available, I did a whois to find out the owner and then checked the site to see what sort.

It's pretty impressive.

He runs diving expeditions and SCUBA certification down under from Queensland and Papua. The site with OUR name has exotic diving pix, Australian and New Guinea weather, interactive maps and reef reports as well as promos for his business.

There are some super coral and fish photos in colors that never appear in New England waters unless someone has tossed their postprandial lobster shells overboard. Check out the view at:

mikeball.com/photogallery.htm

Get Common

One would suppose that a very common first name and a pretty ordinary surname would coincide very frequently. Yet, I moved every couple of years as a kid and didn't even hear of another Michael Ball until I was an adult. Everybody knew people with the last name, but not the combo. I met hundreds of males with last name, but no Mikes.

Ironically, the first time I knew of another one, it helped me. I was a Boston stringer for a computer weekly. I called up Lotus when CEO Mitch Kapor was thinking of leaving. I identified myself by name only and asked for him. The operator put me though. To his credit, when he found out that I wasn't the big shot U.K. advertising executive that he did know, he did continue to speak with me and gave me some news (although not of the resignation that soon followed).

By the bye, in the last U.S. census, Michael was the fourth most common first name. Ball was the 320th most common surname, less common than Barker and Bush but more frequent than Keller and Chandler. For the politically curious, Kerry ties with a long list and comes in as 14,023rd most common surname.

A Mike Among Many

The Michael Ball sites on the Net are many and diverse.

The most visted surely must be of the British singer:
www.michaelball.co.uk

Perhaps the most fun is that of the SCUBA and snorkelling expedition leader:
www.mikeball.com

I'm very fond of the work of the German sculptor:
www.michaelball.de

Mine is mundane, as befits a tech writer and erstwhile journalist, and I'm just populating it:
www.michaelball.com