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Matthew Pate


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.

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.