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Matthew Pate


Some bigotry is still acceptable

In the last few weeks, many in the United States appear to have rediscovered the Confederate battle flag. Much of what has been said makes sense to me. No one wants to be persistently faced with a thing that to them symbolizes fear, hatred and oppression. Neither would someone want to be told that an important part of their culture is to be dismissed wholesale because other people don’t like it. This is why America is hard. This is why democracy and freedom take work. Whatever happens to the battle flag, I hope we as a nation learn to get along a little better as a result.

Some bigotry is still acceptable

In the past few weeks, many in the United States appear to have rediscovered the Confederate battle flag. Much of what has been said makes sense to me. No one wants to be persistently faced with a thing that to them symbolizes fear, hatred and oppression. Neither would someone want to be told that an important part of their culture is to be dismissed wholesale because other people don’t like it. This is why America is hard. This is why democracy and freedom take work. Whatever happens to the battle flag, I hope we as a nation learn to get along a little better as a result.

Singing the paper towel blues

A few weeks ago this column featured a tribute to the late blues legend B.B. King. Yet again proving his genius, King provides a lyric to guide another discussion, “I got some outside help I don’t really need.” While King’s elegy concerned an unfaithful spouse, my issues are admittedly a bit more mundane. In specific, I take umbrage with “improvements” to two household products: paper towels and facial tissue.

We the mere players upon it

A team of researchers from Columbia University and California State, Northridge just published an evocative new study in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science. Their article, titled “The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing,” explores the influence that clothing choices may have on our thinking. Specifically, they asked whether an individual dressed in more formal clothing (i.e. a business suit) thinks differently than people wearing more casual clothes.

Will you wait for this?

In 1622 Pope Gregory XV created the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide. This was a commission of cardinals tasked with spreading the faith and regulating foreign mission outposts. It is from the name of this body that we get the modern term, “propaganda.”

Octopuses driving Porsches

A recent study published in the journal, Current Biology, studies how octopuses move. Titled “Arm Coordination in Octopus Crawling Involves Unique Motor Control Strategies,” researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Weizman Institute of science explore how octopuses (and yes, it’s ‘octopuses’ not ‘octopi’) use their unique structure to glide through the water.

Giving no quarter for Chambers

Most of us are probably used to hearing politicians say things that are ill-conceived, irrational or just outright dumb. In the current age of information overload, the Internet has made it possible for us to branch out into the verbal landmines of political figures all over the world. As if we didn’t have enough fodder at our state and local fingertips, we can now borrow the miseries of constituents the world over.

A jumble of cookies to remember

In the Broadway musical version of the Addams Family, Grandma tells a crestfallen Pugsley, “That’s life, kid. You lose the thing you love.” I saw this musical several years ago. For all the show’s silliness, this somber line is what stuck with me.

Thieves Singing Among Us

Back in the early 1990s when I was in landscape architecture school at the University of Georgia, I took a design class led by a very talented young architect named Hank Methvin. Hank told the class something that has stuck with me all these years.

Where no nerds have gone

A couple of weeks ago I learned that the actor, Leonard Nimoy, had been hospitalized. Upon hearing this, I remarked that it wouldn’t be long. It wasn’t. As the world knows, he succumbed last week to COPD, the cruel reward for a lifetime of smoking — a habit that he had abandoned three decades ago.

From ashes to prosperity

In 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius near modern Naples, Italy, erupted, burying the city of Pompeii in a thick blanket of volcanic ash. As one witness to the calamity wrote, the dust “poured across the land” like a flood. Nearly two thousand people died; and the city was abandoned for the next 1700 years.

Deeper than the skin

Confucius once said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Beauty is a tough word. We’ve all heard the aphorism, “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” I am not so sure.

Now Serving Student Number Six

Recently, I attended a meeting where an administrator from a small public university treated the audience to a review of his institution’s new “brand identity campaign.” There’s a lot I don’t like about the current direction of higher education in America. This is the thing I despise the most.

Pear-ish the thought of spring

As I let the dogs out to do their morning business, I saw the first harbinger of spring. The row of quince beside my back gate has begun to bloom. The blossoms are a deep rosy pink. They’re always the first plant to suggest the coming end to winter’s cold.

Neither easy nor really free

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the French government rounded up a number of people sympathetic to the horror unleashed on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. All tolled, French police have arrested or are investigating around 100 individuals for making comments that support or attempt to justify the barbarity.

Tall and tan and young and lovely

Thus begins a new year. I don’t really make much in the way of resolutions. I find that life has enough rules without imposing a bunch of new ones on myself. It may be that I’m so much of a contrarian I can’t even stand my own arbitrary orders.

Christmas without Darth Vader

In 1969, the Rolling Stones released the album, “Let It Bleed.” The fourth track on the second side was “You can’t always get what you want.” As the lyrics explain, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find. You get what you need.”

Hidden in plain sight

It may seem an odd parallel, but there exists an interesting relationship between the judicial evolution of obscenity and changing sensibilities regarding police use of force. The comparison suggested itself as I read an article on James Joyce’s landmark tome, Ulysses. Eighty-one years ago this week, a federal magistrate ruled that the book was not obscene.

Silence of the Carrots

‘Tis the season for culinary exploration. At least around the extended Pate household, that’s when Mother and I usually trot out at least one “experimental” dish alongside the perennially prepared and preordained. Every once in a while, one of the experiments makes it into the regular roster; more often they just quietly fade into history.

No reason to come home

It’s that time of year when most colleges hold their annual homecoming celebrations. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the school in my hometown, just completed its annual pageant. There was a parade. Innumerable parties and other commemorations were attended; and of course, there was the big game. It also gives the school a chance to showcase its recent additions and improvements. The newly opened STEM center comes to mind. It is an awesome and inviting spectacle.

Neither folded, spindled nor mutilated

The 1999 comedy, Office Space, was writer/director Mike Judge’s sendup on the perils of corporate drone work, but it applies equally well to almost any bureaucracy. The film has since become a cult classic and touchstone for the disgruntled, marginalized and unappreciated.

The ugly noise of false democracy

Since I was 16 I’ve worked in more than two dozen political campaigns. While most of my candidates have been Democrats, I’ve also worked in several Republican and Independent campaigns. I’m a registered Democrat, but some of my fellow party members might argue I’m not a very good one.

Movement without real leaders

As most regular readers know, I don’t often address issues that attract the bulk of commentary or punditry. This week is an exception. Recent events in Ferguson, Mo,. demand a critical response. As someone who studies crime and social responses to it, I feel compelled to say something.