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Matthew Pate


Pate: Calling Doctor Franken-circuit

Last week I ran across Martine Rothblatt’s new book, “Virtually Human: The Promise - and the Peril - of Digital Immortality.” In this philosophically evocative tome, Rathblatt describes a not-so-distant future world where exact digital copies of humans which she calls, mindclones, co-exist with traditionally conceived (pun intended) organic beings.

Robin perched at TG&Y

I must have been 8 or 9 years old when I met my first celebrity. The star was Burt Ward, best remembered for his role as Robin on the television series “Batman.” Our meeting took place a few years after the series’ 1968 final airing.

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 it’s not in the limelight, digital technology is omnipresent.

Sitting at the Altheimer roundtable

The 19th century poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold once observed, “Culture, then, is a study of perfection, and perfection which insists on becoming something rather than in having something, in an inward condition of the mind and spirit, not in an outward set of circumstances.”

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 on Jan. 16. He was 89.

Coda for Bohemian Rhapsody

Back in 2008, the topic of my Christmas column was the song, Good King Wenceslas. Since its original publication, I’ve only become more fond of the familiar refrain. I’ve collected many versions of the tune, everyone from Mel Tormé — the best version — to the Beatles and REM.

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.

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.

Feudalism all over again

In Christopher Hill’s seminal 1940 treatise, “The English Revolution,” he describes the economic and political arrangements of the European feudal era: “By feudalism I mean a form of society in which agriculture is the basis of economy and in which...

Reelin' in the years

As a birthday present, Kathleen — the nice lady who lets me live in her house — took me over to the Mud Island Amphitheater in Memphis to see Steely Dan in concert. I’ve been a fan of The Dan since I was a little kid. Some of my first musical...