Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Great Americans: P to Z

If I had more time in the A to Z challenge, I would profile the Americans below:

P is for Pat Morita, (1932-2005)
Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid (1984-1994)
1984 Academy-award nominee for Best Supporting Actor

Q is for Quvenzhané Wallis, (2003-still living!)
Hushpuppy, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013 Academy-award nominee for Best Actress
(The youngest actress to receive this nomination)

R is for Rupert García, (1941-still living!)
Contemporary artist and art teacher recognized for his posters dealing with politics, race, and the Vietnam War. See his work here. 

S is for Sandra Cisneros, (1954-still living!)
Former teacher, author of The House on Mango Street, and winner of the American Book Awards. 

T is for Theodore Roethke, (1908-1963)
American poet, Pulitzer prize winner, National Book Award winner. Read more about him here.

U is for Ulysses Grant, (1822-1885)
Not a highly regarded former president, but as a general he was credited for bringing the Civil War to an end. 

V is for Vivien Thomas, (1910-1985)
Instructor and Supervisor of Surgical Laboratories at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has an AMAZING story, read about him! And watch the movie.

W is for William Hung, (1983-still living!)
The popular American Idol third season contestant who obviously did not make the cut, but scored a record deal, television appearances, and thousands of fans. Some may think that he was exploited on television, but his life seemingly turned out great. He recently became a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and believes that “[w]hatever you believe in, if you keep trying, you can eventually succeed.” 

X is for Xavier Becerra, (1958-still living!)
U.S. Congressman and the first one in his family to graduate from college. Read more about him here. 

Y is for Dr. Yellapragada Subbarao, (1895-1948)
Yellapragada was an Indian biochemist. Though not an American, he graduated from and taught at Harvard Medical School. He sought American citizenship but was denied; still he remained in America to work until his death. Yellapragada was responsible for developing revolutionary research in the field of medicine, particularly in synthesizing folic acid and developing methods in cancer treatment. His work is still largely unsung.
Read more about him here. 

Z is for Zelda Wynn Valdes, (1905-2001)
First black boutique owner on Broadway in NYC. Clientele included Mae West, Marian Anderson, Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt. She designed the first playboy bunny outfit. Read more about her here.

I really enjoyed the A to Z challenge! 
Next time, I want to plan my theme and posts in advance. 
How was the challenge for you? 
Did you plan your theme and posts in advance? 
What blogging tips do you have to share? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Great Americans A to Z: Oscar Hammerstein II

O is for Oscar Hammerstein II, (1895-1960) an award-winning American songwriter and theatrical producer.

Oscar grew up in a family of show business. His grandfather was an opera producer, and his father managed and produced shows at the New York Victoria Theatre. His uncle also produced shows on Broadway.

In college, Oscar studied law, but he wrote and acted in school plays. He eventually left law school to pursue theater, and his first job was assistant stage manager for his uncle.

He went on to provide lyrics for 850 songs and produce many great musicals.

Had Oscar become a lawyer instead of a songwriter, we would not have:


Or Do-Re-Mi

Or My Favorite Things

What’s your favorite tune penned by Oscar Hammerstein?  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Great Americans A to Z: Norma Fox Mazer

N is for Norma Fox Mazer, (1931-2009) an award-winning American author of children and young adult books.

Norma grew up as the middle child of three sisters. She loved school and reading. When she was a teenager, Norma felt like she was an outsider and began to set herself apart from her family, being labeled “the cold one.” She started writing for the school newspaper and toying around with the idea of becoming a writer.

Norma went on to college, got married, and had four children. After her third child was born, Norma and her husband (Harry) realized that they had dull jobs and unfulfilled lives.

With several unfinished stories and only dreams of becoming a writer, 28-year-old Norma promised herself that she would commit to pursuing a writing career and would write for at least one hour at the end of each day. Her husband, who was also an aspiring writer, made this promise with her.

Three years after their one-hour-a-day writing challenge, Norma and Harry received an insurance settlement that enabled them to write full-time. Since then, Norma has written over 30 books and has won many awards for her novels. Her work features young characters overcoming difficult situations such as bullying, the death of a parent, and child abduction.

How do you overcome procrastination in your work?

If you work at home, how do you balance work and family time (especially if you have to cook and do laundry!)

What is the purpose or vision for doing what you do? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Great Americans A to Z: Maya Lin

M is for Maya Lin, (1959-still living!) an American installation artist, architectural designer, and author.

As a child, Maya was a homebody with few friends. She had a close-knit family (dad, mom, and one brother), and she loved school, studying, and doing creative things. Since she didn’t have many playmates, Maya made up her own world with art.

Maya’s parents raised her and her brother without gender differentiation. Her mother told her that she could aspire to any passion she had, as long as it was wholesome and not centered around money. Art was Maya’s passion from childhood, but she did not realize it at first. In college, she initially majored in pre-med zoology and wanted to work with animals. After the university’s advisor told her that her coursework would include dissecting live animals, Maya realized that she no longer wanted to study zoology. She switched her major and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in architecture.

When she was 21 years old and still in college, Maya entered a national contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Maya’s design (Entry #1026) won out of 1,421 submissions. Her design was a granite, V-shaped black wall with the names of slain or missing soldiers from the Vietnam War carved into its surface. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is in Washington D.C., and there are 58,272 names carved into the wall.

Maya received controversy for winning the contest. Among Vietnam veteran survivors, politicians, and other critics, Maya was deemed too young and inexperienced to know enough about the war to design the memorial. Along with age discrimination, she faced racial discrimination as well, when former presidential candidate Ross Perot called her an “eggroll” once he learned that the winner of the contest was Asian-American. To this day, Maya believes that she would have lost the contest if submissions had to include the designer’s name and not just an entry number.

Recalling this experience, Maya felt like the most hurtful thing was not the discrimination; what hurt her most was that her design had to be compromised. Maya wished for the memorial to pay tribute to the lives of the veterans with no regard to the political issues of the war. She knew that some of the families of fallen soldiers were against the war, and some supported the war. She wanted to design a memorial that would be sensitive to both sides by being apolitical and simply acknowledging the lives lost. Still, two traditional statues and the American flag were added to the memorial. When the wall was dedicated in 1982, Maya received no recognition. But as time passed, her memorial design proved its effect on people. The memorial is visited by as many as four million people every year.

When the families of veterans come to visit this memorial, they touch the names and are able to see their reflections on the wall. The experience is said to allow visitors to feel as if they are part of the fallen soldier whose name is being touched.

In 1988, Maya also designed the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery Alabama. This memorial pays tribute to lives lost in the Civil Rights movement.

Maya went on to design many more sites. Her accomplishments have made her the feature of an Academy Award-winning documentary titled Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. She also wrote a book titled Boundaries. In 2003, Maya served as a judge for the World Trade Center Memorial Competition. In 2005, she was elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Maya received the National Medal of Arts award in 2009.

If you ask Maya what inspires her art, she will tell you:

“My work originates from a simple desire to make people aware of their surroundings and this can include not just the physical but the psychological world that we live in.” 

How do you feel about Maya's story? Have you visited any of the sites she designed? What are your thoughts on age discrimination?