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Sunday, September 23, 2012

What do Cynthia Ozick and Snoopy have in common?

Their writing style and experience of  rejection
Cynthia Ozick's response to the routine of rejection from The New Yorker 
in a letter written on January 5, 1962 is one of the discoveries from the magazine's files shared in from It opens just like Snoopy's query letters:

For a number of years now I have been sending you poems, and until very recently I have always found you entirely reliable. Exactly seven days after each new poem has been dropped into the mail, it has come punctually home, accompanied by that little rejection slip of yours marked with the number 1 in the left-hand bottom corner. (You know the one.) You have, as I say, been altogether faithful and dependable. For example, it is never six days, it is certainly never eight or nine days. It is always seven days to the minute, and your conscientious devotion to precision all these years has been matched, to my knowledge, only by the butcher's deliver-boy, whose appearance is also predicated on a seven-day cycle.
This time, however, you have failed me. A poem of mine, entitled "An Urgent Exhortation to His Admirers and Dignifiers: Being the Transcript of an Address Before the Mark Twain Association by Samuel Clemens, Shade," reached you on December 18, 1961, and, though eighteen days have already passed, a daily inspection of my letterbox yields nothing. I have enough confidence in your hitherto clean record of never considering anything I have submitted not to be tempted into the unworthy suspicion that the delay is actually caused by your liking this poem. What has been shattered, I must admit, is my sense of serenity, of certitude, nay, of security — not to mention my sense of rhythm. Does this mean you can no longer be relied on to conform to the seven-day schedule you have consistently adhered to in the past? In short, is the Age of Doubt truly upon us? O tempora!
Or (but I venture this with a cheery hopefulness I do not dare to feel) is it only that you have finally gone and lost my manuscript? I realize I am probably being too sanguine in putting forth this rosy possibility, but I guess I am just basically an optimistic sort. Please reassure me that this, rather than some flaw in your clockworks (even to contemplate which disillusions me hideously), is the real nature of the difficulty.
I expect your answer in seven days.
Seven days later, she must have found herself in Snoopy's position here:
According to Yagoda, there was no answer in the files, though Ozick's stories were, eventually, published by the magazine.

As we know, Ozick went go on to achieve fame as a writer.  Snoopy also achieved fame, though not necessarily for his literary endeavors. Still, his persistence remains an object lesson and inspiration in the book Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Representing 100 years of childhood

Representing 100 years of childhood
At the rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day, we have created 90 percent of the data we have in just the past two years. And while 10 percent sounds small in comparison, working with the data of the past presents the same challenges as any Big Data project. You have to consider what to include and what to exclude to come up with the questions, correlations, and contexts that relate to your concerns. They are key to the representation of your data, whether in the form of a report, an inforgraphic, or a physical exhibition.
Some of those essential components were missing in  the  Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.  It’s described as “the first large-scale overview of the modernist preoccupation with children and childhood as a paradigm for progressive design thinking. The exhibition will bring together areas underrepresented in design history and often considered separately, including school architecture, clothing, playgrounds, toys and games, children’s hospitals and safety equipment, nurseries, furniture, and books.”
Granted, it is impossible to show everything. Yet, I question the omission of an American Girl Doll. (The company that produced it was sold to Mattel  in 1998 for $700 million). The line was introduced in 1986 and was considered a significant departure from the Barbie style that had dominated the doll market at the time. These dolls represented girls rather than full-figured adults and offered some historical insight with their accompanying books. When they first came out, the $100 dolls also raised questions about how much parents are expected to spend on toys, something worth bringing up in relation to consumerism.
Of course, people get a nostalgic kick out of seeing the toys and furniture they associate with their own childhoods, like classic wooden and Lego blocks, an Erector set, an Etch-a-Sketch, a Rubik’s cube, a Slinky, and a Barbie house.  Still, the toys should have offered more than a trip down memory lane. While  the exhibit points to the rather obvious cause for the proliferation of toys associated with the space age, it does not explore how other toys were also a product of their times.
Aside from what different types of toys represent, there is the evolution within toy lines to consider.  For example, Lincoln Logs also started incorporating plastic and premade windows into its sets.  Tinker Toys evolved from simple wooden forms to plastic ones that included specialized pieces and set in pastel colors that were marketed to girls. These modifications raise questions about materials, imaginative play, and gender that should be considered in such an exhibit.
Without context and explanations, you just have random items that do not signify meaning. As Jean Aggasiz said, “Facts are stupid things until brought in connection with some general law.” The same holds true for data, no matter how big.