August 2010 Archives

August 26, 2010

Village & Queen

During this business trip to England I was lucky enough to have a colleague who doubled as a tour guide, showing me around many places and things I should have seen on previous visits.

Our first stop was just a few minutes away in Windsor, which I knew nothing about. As an American, When I think of the Queen I think of Buckingham Palace; the truth of the matter is it is only one of three royal palaces, with Windsor being the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world (as a side note, the Royal Family also has two private residences).

Windsor is also a lovely village-now-town which surrounds the caste and is surrounded by Windsor Forest. According to my colleague Daryl, the Queen is still fond of horses and dogs, still hunting—with bow and arrow!—and occasionally riding through the forest on the same trails that are now open to the public.

It surprised me that she’d be wandering around in the park—certainly there must be a security detail. “If she’s in the park, you may see security at the gates, and maybe a helicopter or something, but she specifically does not want to see security when she’s there,” he claims.

Prince Charles (formally Prince of Wales) petitioned his mother to make a section of the great park reserved for model planes and kite flying, which he was fond of, and she agreed.

What is the Queen’s last name?

4699557423_b1e621e4cb_o.jpegThis is the first question Daryl asked me, which totally took me aback. “Elizabeth,” I responded. He disagreed, but I persisted. “‘Queen’ is her first name.”

He said her last name was Windsor, and Windsor castle was passed down from her family. Wikipedia states:

Unlike most westerners, many of the world’s royal families do not have family names, and those that have adopted them rarely use them. They are referred to instead by their titles, often related to an area ruled or once ruled by that family. The name of a Royal House is not a surname; it is just a convenient way of dynastic identification of individuals.

Flag atop WindsorAt any rate she is of Windsor and she does live in the castle. Obviously she travels quite a bit and has several residences to occupy, so there’s a way to know if she’s home when you visit—a flag that flies from the tallest tower of this hill-set domain. I was lucky enough to see that flag on both of my visits.

Understanding the Village

Even before visiting Windsor I spoke with someone who kept using the term “village.” I just took it as a British colloquialism for town, but upon visiting a castle you immediately recognize the need for a supporting population. Outside the castle walls the peasants worked on the feudal lord’s behalf in return for protection.

With most of my time here spent in Reading and Bracknell, I got to see a number of new and old villages. They seem to be focused upon the city center and are entirely walkable—the people work and live together. For those villages I saw seemingly not attached to a fortress or castle of some sort, the structure also seems to support an agricultural emphasis, clustering tightly in order to maximize field space.

Windsor wraps and winds around the castle and along the Thames, and towards its edges are homes provided for the elderly who were in the Royal Family’s service. I felt somewhat fonder of the British monarchy after visiting this place, hearing the stories and observing the people. With all the visits and appearances they make, it would almost seem as if the Queen and her family still feel as if the Commonwealth is their village, to whom they dutifully protect and provide for in return for their allegiance and support.

Reading Queen Elizabeth’s wikipedia entry, I came across this quote from a broadcast she gave on her 21st birthday:

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Admittedly, I knew very little about the Queen before this visit. Though her popularity has had its low points, I cannot help but admire one who commits their entire life (not just an elected term) to the people who make them who they are—and rises above them by their willingness to consider each one part of their own. That kind of intent makes someone royal regardless of their pedigree.

August 15, 2010

Recipe for Family

My younger sister has entered a phase where her seeming pastime is to repeatedly lament the quality and repairability of our family. Long story made short, I had typical teenage angst until I went away to boarding school (not because of behavior) in 1995—just months before my parents divorced. My sister bore the brunt of the separation alone and I move on my own shortly after freshman year of college. Today, she and I live walking distance from each other, yet neither of us really see the other nor do we maintain more than occasional obligatory contact with our parents.

This is most certainly a dysfunctional home. It is by no means bad, but there’s no one calling it ideal. “Ideal” and “broken” are two different things. My sister sees friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who seem to pretty unanimously have more frequent interaction with their family, and that of a higher caliber. While I question the sampling—the grass is always greener, after all—my greater inclination is to identify the recurring theme that exists within these examples yet is absent in our situation.

Over the years I’ve come to recognize the shortcomings that have led to my familial awkwardness. I believe that these, spun positively, create the basic ingredients for successful family.

  • Shared Experiences There is no family without a common thread. There must be something that you can relate to/with in order to maintain a familial culture. This is Intercultural Communication 101: perceived cultural similarities are what allow us to make the connections that build the foundation of our grouping. Even if events are not experienced by all parties, communicating the experience allows for understanding and, hopefully, sympathy. In the last 15 years or so, I’ve had about 10 addresses (which includes time spent living overseas); I moved too frequently to generate large quantities of mutually experienced events and failed to update others as I moved on. This has lead to a bifurcation of one life into many—the most stark being the disconnect/reconnect I experience when visiting Korea.
  • Physical Proximity. While not the most important aspect, closeness allows for greater preservation of shared values and experiences. It also allows for an atmosphere of family to develop. Close proximity means you see the good and bad; the experiences that are conveyed are not one-sided but real and near to your own. Moving away from my family at a young age and not returning to my home state had a significant impact on the frequency with which I engage with childhood friends and family in non-obligatory situations.
  • Active Maintenance. Consistent habits help to counter balance life’s centrifugal forces. Though spokes start from a center and spread in every direction, the inner and outer hub create a zone where divergent intents can still act cooperatively. Those who amicably share a location but develop varying interests often still find camaraderie, and maintaining daily/frequent contact has nurtured relationships when those involved are forced to be very far apart. Unfortunately, I’ve never been good at maintaining anything; let alone relationships.
  • * Commitment.* Nearly every conversation I have with my sister about this ends with me offering a theory to be proven: If she, Fru and I made a commitment to have one meal together each day for 90 days, the quality of family-ness between the three of us (I believe) will skyrocket. After that, it would just be up to us to provide active maintenance. I’ve committed to something similar with Fru as we build our marriage; my sister’s being in the area is based on a commitment I made to be closer to her, and I’m hoping to draw others to the area as well.

I don’t think my family is broken. With a little effort, small steps could create fantastic improvements. I think that in all relationships—not just mine, not just with family—these elements are proven keys to group-making and group-keeping. Feel free to adjust my recipe to fit your palate.

August 7, 2010


/found at yay!everyday

August 5, 2010

Did the Old Spice Campaign Really Work?

Trying to find the source of this video… it almost seems as if it was released by Old Spice itself. If those figures are accurate, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like is probably going to be in college marketing textbooks very soon.

/found via @kimstearns

UPDATE: Actually clicking a couple links took me to the actual adfreak article which says it comes from Old Spice agency Wieden + Kennedy. Legit stats! Wow!