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Matthew Pate

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 ) 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.

Fatherly advice times a million

When I was around 17 my father gave me a piece of advice. I didn’t know it at the time — sitting there waiting for the traffic signal to change at the intersection of the Martha Mitchell Expressway and Blake Street — but the brief admonishment would have profound consequences for my life. As Thanksgiving is the one day each year we’re almost legally obliged to ponder that for which we are thankful, this seems as good a time as any to share that advice.

A different kind of 'Marxist'

As the holiday season creeps closer, I fall prey to the same rush and urges that many people experience in their drive to find just the right Christmas present. It’s all-too easy. I suppose I come by it honestly. I grew up in a household with very generous parents. They weren’t just generous to me, but also to nearly everybody they knew.

Privacy on full public display

Ayn Rand, the controversial darling of the rightmost extremities in modern politics, once wrote, “Civilization is the progress of a society towards privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”

When laughter met ambition

A few years ago I wrote a book chapter on the scandal surrounding silent film star, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The research taught me many things. I learned that Arbuckle was perhaps the first real movie star. He was among the first — if not the very first — actor to write, direct and star in his own films. He was one of the original Keystone Kops. He was a mentor to Buster Keaton, and his million dollar studio contract even predated Charlie Chaplin’s.

Old tune new villains

This week The New York Times ran an article titled “Sparse Competition and Higher Premiums.” If ever five words could sum up every broken aspect of American health care, those do it perfectly.