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Matthew Pate

PATE: From ashes to prosperity

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 1,700 years.

PATE: Now Serving Student Number Six

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.

Pate: Neither easy nor really free

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 told, French police have arrested or are investigating around 100 individuals for making comments that support or attempt to justify the barbarity.

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.

Pate: 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.

Pate: One more for the road

Over the last few months I’ve grown a big goofy handlebar mustache. I didn’t start out with that as the intended end product, but a slight end curl during the formative weeks kept suggesting itself.

Pate: Far less than thirty pieces

There’s been a lot of discussion lately regarding the proper separation of church and state with respect to business practices. The most notable example of which is the fight waged between the conservative Christian owners of the craft store chain, Hobby Lobby, and the federal government over that company’s resistance to certain parts of the Affordable Care Act mandates for birth control coverage.

Pate: 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.

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.