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Matthew Pate


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...

Facing the abyss for real

For nearly 500 million people, the social media leviathan, Facebook, is a part of their daily lives. According to recent research, Facebook’s ability to link us with long-forgotten (and new) “friends” may be bad for our emotional well-being. Led by...

Lawn darts find their mark

A recent Associated Press report by Katie Zezima, “Dealers now being charged in drug overdose deaths,” details a growing law enforcement trend that bucks the traditional model of drug prosecutions. Citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics...

A little evolution from my friends

Survival dictates that we each make thousands of decisions every day. Most are wholly benign with little in the balance. Some are matters of life or death. Some seem benign, but hold life or death consequences. We like to think of ourselves as...

Old sounds not forgotten

Writing for Wired.com, Roberto Baldwin recently published the article, “Say Goodbye to the Tech Sounds You’ll Never Hear Again.” In it he highlights a number of once-common sounds that many of us will never hear again — and that many younger folks...

Millennials scaling dystopian Everest

“Mashup” is a term in popular music used to describe the blending of elements from two or more different songs. Often DJs will take the vocals from one track and lay them on top of the melody or rhythm from another. Just such a sympathetic...