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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
It’s hard to know what will make a lasting Christmas memory. I don’t know if the two I’m about to relate are my most favorite, but they’ve stuck with me for many years. Both just happen to center on my father.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In last week’s column I discussed several encounters I’ve had with famous people. I also talked about visits with a few people in the more shallow end of the celebrity pool.
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?”
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.
Recently I’ve had a number of experiences that reinforce the importance of perception. Perception is the currency of celebrity, but it also forms the rails within which all of us run.
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.
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 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.
This week voters in my home state of Arkansas exercised their franchise in the primary election. Beginning in 2014, voters are obliged to present a state-issued photo identification card to poll workers.
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.
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.
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.
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