Tuesday, September 28, 2010

As Seen in The New York Times

Yes, it is true. Your favorite informatimusicologist has received the ultimate acknowledgement as a writer of note. Dr. Ross D. Martin has been published in that paragon of journalistic excellence, The New York Times.

Okay, it was a letter to the editor to the Sunday Magazine in response to Lisa Belkin’s article on redefining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But it was my first submission attempt, so I can now also claim a track record of 100% acceptance of all works submitted to a national media outlet. Last weekend, tens of thousands of readers savored my punditry as printed on page 8, the first page following the Table of Contents. Countless others will sojourn to The New York Times website in search of truth and meaning and will find, preserved for posterity, my ninety-nine carefully crafted words.

Okay, I thumbed them on my BlackBerry… on the Metro… on my way in to work… But this fact in no way cheapens the thrill of victory in the face of faceless editors whose sole motive is to justify their self-perceived importance by eviscerating would-be authors with a stroke of their red pens. In fact, after receiving an initial notice that my letter was being "considered for publication" and subsequently discovering that the Magazine editors decided to exclude my contribution in the next week's edition—all in the name of "limited space"—I was compelled to send a threatening email to let those editors know I was onto their game of instilling false hopes in would-be authors. I informed them of my intent to file a class action lawsuit (see my email below) should they fail to render my work on the printed page. They, of course, crumbled immediately and published my letter the following week.

Okay, my email turned out to be the result of a slight but understandable oversight on my part. I did not notice the two-week publication lag between initial article and corresponding letters to the editor. Nevertheless, I am holding fast to the inalienable right bestowed upon me by the Founding Fathers and vigorously defended by the American Bar Association to sue the creeps at any point in the future should I experience the sting of rejection.

One action is required on your part: Just as comedians in the halcyon days of late night television (that is, before Johnny Carson retired), the universally recognized mark of successful acts was the phrase "As Seen on The Tonight Show" appended to a performer's name. Therefore, all future references to me in emails, PowerPoint presentations, printed materials and other works shall include the words "As Published in The New York Times" following my name. My agent, Mr. KP Sethi, will be monitoring compliance with this new requirement and will be administering disciplinary actions commensurate with the level of offense.

Yours in the pursuit of achievement through self-aggrandizement,

Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA
As Published in The New York Times


-----Original Message-----
From: Martin, Ross
Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 10:24 AM
To: Magazine@NYTimes.com
Subject: Revenge of the Bridesmaids

To the Editors of the Sunday New York Times Magazine:

We the writers, having subjected ourselves for far too long to the cruel manipulations of faceless editors who dangle the prospect of appearing in prestigious publications - only to see our dreams snuffed out with a keystroke...

We the bridesmaids, offered an electronic crumb of acknowledgment and false hope through what one may liken to a sweepstakes mailer (You already may have won!) - only to be left at the altar of literary fame and sacrificed there in the name of "so little space"...

We the unpublished, now rise up with one voice and say, "Enough!"

This email is to inform you that we are assembling ourselves and intend to establish a class action suit seeking compensation for the untold pain and suffering resulting from countless rejection letters sugarcoated with false encouragements and emails informing us of "consideration" for publication.

The ruse is up, editorial staff! We know the game you have been playing by encouraging writers of lesser skill to "keep those cards and letters coming," knowing full well that they will all find their way to the circular file. You've maintained your alleged relevance by claiming to sift through the chaff in search of that precious grain of brilliance. You've sought protection in volume, making it appear as though your diligence is the last bastion of good taste against the barbarous bloggers storming the gates that lead to the hallowed printing press floor.

We know you hoard your small cadre of publisher's pets - writers like Michael Pollan, who need only make an offhand remark about the origins of the Twinkie to make the cover of your magazine. And David Sedaris can drone incessantly about the most insignificant indignity and you give it the coverage of an event of historical significance. Well of course you do! They are fabulous writers - one needn't have "Editor-in-Chief" behind one's name to see that.

We know that you need us, the prosaically feeble, to ensure your job security. If only good writers wrote, what function would you serve? It is time to give us a piece of the action. We seek $738 million in compensation for wages lost in pursuit of false hopes, tuition wasted on writer's conferences and correspondence courses, and hours frittered away on the therapist's couch. Of course, we would be willing to settle for seeing our work on the printed page, but that is a matter for counsel to resolve.

Please consider yourselves put on notice. You will be hearing from our lawyers.

Yours in the quest for wealth creation through victimization,

Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA, FACMI
President, Literary Mediocrity Association


From: Magazine, Sunday [mailto:magazine@nytimes.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:45 PM
To: Magazine, Sunday
Subject: Urgent: your letter to the times Magazine
Importance: High

Dear Reader,
Thanks for your interesting letter to the New York Times Magazine. We are considering it for our letters column in the issue of 9/26/10. Would you please read the edited version of your letter below, and write me back immediately to tell me if you approve it being published as it is? Please also make sure your name, location and affiliation are correct. Because we have so little space we do have to reduce most faculty positions to their simplest form; please be sure that yours is accurate, if not comprehensive.
Thanks again.
Sarah Smith, Managing Editor, Magazine

War Games
Chris Suellentrop makes it clear that video war games in which players are participants are in effect recruitment and training devices promoting the latest war technology of our armed forces. Players become anesthetized to the horror and destruction of war and at the same time are indoctrinated into the technology. The ‘‘players’’ in the ‘‘game’’ of the predator drones sit in comfortable environments in Colorado and do not see or hear the resulting horror and destruction in far off countries.
Rosaleen Mazur Warren, R.I.

Living to Be a Parent
I feel compelled to correct a common misperception about evolution that appears in Lisa Belkin’s essay. We do not ‘‘as a species’’ act in particular ways to benefit the species. A primary premise of evolutionary theory is that individuals behave in ways that maximize individual reproductive success, relative to other individuals within a population. Hereditary behavioral traits of individuals that help them to increase the proportion of their offspring in future generations will thus be ‘‘selected for,’’ i.e., become more common; this process results in evolution.

Evolution of a species is, therefore, a by-product of individuals acting in their own interests. Although humans present some potentially interesting exceptions to this idea — working for nuclear disarmament could potentially diminish the time you spend trying to reproduce and increase the likelihood of human survival — the idea that the evolution of human behaviors springs from individuals acting to ‘‘abet the survival of the species’’ is incorrect.

Catherine Lindell
Department of Zoology
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Mich.

Abraham Maslow had it right in leaving wiggle room at the top of his hierarchical pyramid for personal definitions of self-actualization. His version accommodates parenting and creative pursuits equally well — without wedging these drives into the goal of species propagation. The resulting diversity of our psychological landscape keeps our busy brains interested in thriving and in extending the same opportunity to future generations. Our ability as humans to look above the fray of survival of the fittest and instinct-driven reproduction may in fact turn out to be the evolutionary advance that ultimately saves our own species and countless others.

Ross D. Martin
Germantown, Md.

There seems to be some serious intellectual confusion, if ‘‘academic psychologists’’ have placed parenting at the top of the pyramid of human needs, in an effort to ‘‘look at human motivation based on evolution.’’ It seems hardly necessary to point out that no living creature is motivated to achieve evolutionary goals. While it is a credible hypothesis that the experience of sexual pleasure, for instance, arose out of the evolutionary process, the motivation itself has nothing to do with procreation, and in fact it motivates humans to avoid procreation.

So it would seem that academic psychologists are essentially guessing at the consequences of evolution on human behavior. But to infer that humans have a need to parent, in the sense of ‘‘parenting’’ that has arisen only in recent generations, is a most tenuous hypothesis, a flying leap of uninformed logic, in fact. Equally likely is that progressively infantile generations of the middle class, ever more reluctant to leave childhood behind, find a gratifying outlet in living vicariously through their own pampered children.
Only time will tell if this turns out to be an evolutionary plus or minus.

David M. Smith
Plano, Tex.

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