A friend sent me this striking image a collector had reproduced as a postcard in 1993, and titled “Angel of the Asphalt: A Miracle on Maplewood Drive.” The attribution on the back guessed its original date at 1954. Irony had accumulated over those four decades between the original and the reproduction. The collector, in a skeptical, post-modern spirit, meant the copy to evoke and poke fun at a hokey, bygone ideal.
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Do you keep a toy on your desk? Perhaps one of those widgets like a Newton’s Cradle with its clacking, momentum-conserving chrome spheres; the mysterious Magic 8 Ball with its looming messages; that perpetual motion drinking-bird thingamabob; or maybe the insoluble Rubik’s Cube? A recent conversation with Julie Lasky, the New York Times feature writer, started me thinking about the device she noted that Germans call a “managerspielzeug” and that in France are known as “gadgets de bureaux.” To us […]
We think of “the vacation” as a typically American invention. The trip to the beach in summer, the fall color tour, the week at the ski resort in winter, and the excursion to the theme park during Spring break mark American calendars and give an exuberant rhythm to the year.
This Christmas an online commerce company (you know which I’m talking about) failed to cancel an order in my wish-list and so delivered to our front door a foot-long, remote-controlled, battery-powered, blimp-shaped, gyro-stabilized toy drone. At the museum, I’m up to my ears in thinking and writing about play and toys, but playing is another thing entirely. I hovered over sending the package back, but decided to keep it, putting my money where my mouth is, with hilarious, chaotic results.
I count the chance to watch A Christmas Story, a film based on the recollections of the radio raconteur and writer Jean Shepherd, as one of the distinct joys of the season.
The historian’s craft always requires probing the past for significance. Making sense of bygone events obliges investigators to guard against irrelevance and superstition. We historians aren’t numerologists or astrologers, and so we sort out ironies and coincidences from meaningful events.
This season of make-believe and dressing up is a good time to think about pretending—one of the cornerstones of play. For kids, make-believe is partly aspirational. If you’re little and you dress as a crime fighter or superhero you take in the fantasy, feeling power surge in your imagination. You have nothing to fear, even fear itself. Bad guys beware. And so too the ghostly hosts that will roam our neighborhoods this Halloween, scary in themselves, scaring off fear. They’ll […]
While on vacation and passing through a park recently, a Scrabble game in progress at a picnic table caught my eye and then my ear.
Abraham Lincoln, burdened as only a commander in chief could be in the midst of terrible civil war, beset by feuding or reluctant generals, harried by restive dis-unionists in border states, beleaguered by constituents petitioning for pardons or pleading for favors, under continual threat of assassination, and struggling with bouts of melancholy, found respite in his young sons’ play at the White House.