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Matthew Pate


Success takes a big eraser

For reasons that escape me, I get asked to do a lot of public speaking. More often than not I’m called to discuss matters of crime and justice, but increasingly I get asked to talk about other things. After a recent lecture a young man from the audience approached me and asked a simple question, “How did you get to be a writer?”

When science isn’t funny

Last week I read an evocative article by livescience.com writer, Tanya Lewis, in which many of history’s unjustly forgotten scientists were highlighted. In addition to the rather obvious conclusion that female scientists have often gotten less than their due, the article speaks to a much larger point about the nature of academia.

The irrelevant Mr. Chips

If you’ve taken or taught a college class in the last decade, you can probably attest to the changes brought about by digital technology. We have so-called “smart classrooms” where the technological interface is front and center; and even when its not in the limelight, digital technology is omnipresent.

A Samurai down in Old Mexico

You might recall the old idiom, “Everything old is new again.” As I was recently organizing a shelf of DVDs I came across a boxed set of films that are among my favorites. They are a collection of movies by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Among the included titles are Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress, Ran, Rashomon and my personal favorite, Yojimbo (trans. The Bodyguard).

It’s not a doll

It was the worst business decision I ever made. I regretted it almost immediately; and I have thought back upon its folly ever since. I was probably 12 years old. I fancied myself too big for children’s toys. When mother held a yard sale I offered up a small wooden chest (something my father had made —- actually the more stupid thing to let go) full of G. I. Joe action figures. A ready buyer came along with three dollars. My Joes and the box went to a new home.

Redefining what free speech is

While I make no bones about being lifelong Democrat, I’d like to think I don’t embrace everything just because it’s got donkey on it. Of course, I tend to go that way more than the other, but I hope I’m at least a little dogmatically ecumenical. In that spirit, I urge all Americans to give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposed campaign finance Constitutional amendment a chance to win their favor.

Never a cannibal when you need one?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my affection for the 1960s sitcom, Gilligan’s Island. On a US Airways flight last Thursday from Reagan National to Little Rock I came to a realization about the show. It grew clear to me if Gilligan’s Island were real, Thurston and Lovey Howell would have lived about a month before their fellow castaways boiled them alive for being so insufferable and entitled.

It was a mad, mad world

I can’t say that I have a lot of happy childhood memories — at least where school is concerned. Imagine going to public school every day for 12 years and in Sisyphean fashion every day was a replay of the movie Footloose – at least the parts where the intolerant townsfolk are affronted by anything that challenges their well-ensconced provincialism.

Chasing the jumping flea

In a December 2013 column I confessed to the ownership and operation of a ukulele. Since then a number of other furtive uke players have emailed to share their tales of four-stringed folly. Even so, I know deep-down that the ukulele is largely regarded as a novelty… something 1920s Ivy League guys played while hanging out of a Stutz Bearcat or heaven forbid, Tiny Tim’s instrument of choice.

Reality folding in on itself

One of my favorite periodicals is Smithsonian magazine. Like the museums it represents, Smithsonian is a wonderful collection of art, culture, history, science and considered thought. More often than not, a flip through the pages (or the website www.smithsonian.com ) leaves me both entertained and informed. This month’s issue was no exception.

Small frame for big picture

Each of us wants to believe we are a special snowflake, a unique shimmering reflection of the divine spark that made us. On a certain level we are all unique and special. On another, we are nauseatingly predictable and driven by the surrounding herd. The chasm between these realms is a matter of scale and perspective.

Justice bound, gagged and bought

As a criminologist, I have seen time and again that the process one is due and the justice one is accorded depend largely on one’s bank account. Nowhere is this point more clear than in a recent decision by a Texas judge to sentence a 16-year-old boy to 10 years of probation and mental health counseling after the young man killed four people by driving drunk.

Much longer than three hours

Only the truly devoted will recall Prof. Roy Hinkley, but legions remember “the Professor” from the 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island. The actor who brought the Professor to life, Russell Johnson, passed away earlier this week. He was 89.

Fifty years of committed journey

My parents just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. In a world that coined the term “starter marriage,” such accomplishments are all-too rare. While I have an obvious bias, I believe they deserve a lot of praise for holding fast those five decades.

Spray painting de Tocqueville

The Internet has been described as a kind of “great equalizer” in that it holds the power to give otherwise voiceless masses a platform for public opinion. I tend to regard this sentiment the same way I think about nuclear power plants: they’re a great way to make a lot of electricity, unless something goes wrong; and if it should go wrong, then it’s going to be very bad.

Musica universalis and me

Pete, my best friend from college, used to teasingly call me “the man with a thousand hobbies.” Perhaps “a thousand” overstates it a bit, but I will admit to having a variety of interests. Most of these interests would likely be curious to the uninitiated.