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Readers Respond to the September Issue

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My husband, an Asian Indian, is often asked about his origins [“So Where You From?”]. He replies with a grin, “My mother.”
“Really?” the stranger says. “I’m quite sure,” my husband says.
P. S. Dastoor
Farmington, Missouri

Small-Talk America
I am an immigrant from the Dominican Republic with a thick accent, and I am constantly asked where I am from [“So Where You From?”]. I do not see it as an inquisition but as a wonderful icebreaker and an opportunity to share my heritage. I am a world traveler and like to relate my experiences. Had I met the author, Iva Skoch, I would have asked where she’s from. Upon hearing Czech Republic, I would have told her how much I enjoyed her country, how beautiful Prague is with its historic architecture and about my love of Alphonse Mucha’s art. I hope she will warm to American ways and welcome our interest in other cultures.
Margarita Bergen
New Orleans, Louisiana

Mental Stability
As a former circus stilt walker, I’ve spent many hours observing various animals and their interactions with people. Jon Cohen’s article [“Thinking Like a Chimpanzee”] comparing chimpanzees and human beings answered questions that I’ve pondered for years. Tetsuro Matsuzawa, the primatologist, says the main distinguishing feature that contributes to our superior mental capability is “the stabile supine posture,” but he also says muscles shaped our minds. That revelation should, at the very least, encourage us to put a greater value on physical education in schools.
Ellen Cox
Granada Hills, California

Dubious Woodpecker
Far from adding weight to ornithologist James T. Tanner’s claim of observing an ivory-billed woodpecker in 1938 [“The Rarest Bird”], the recently found photographs seem to raise new doubt. The nestling in the pictures appears to be neither “clambering” nor “vital,” as the article states, but posed and static. The open bill and the rigid conformity of head, neck and overall body posture in each photo resemble a creation of taxidermy. I am not claiming that the bird is a fake but commenting on the choice of photos included in the article, all of which show the bird in essentially the same posture. I strongly urge you to make all 14 images available for public inspection.
Steven Patterson
Allentown, Pennsylvania

To see all the newly discovered ivory-billed woodpecker photographs go to Smithsonian.com/woodpecker. —Ed.

Hidden Talents
As a clinical psychologist familiar with mediumship, a topic covered fairly and responsibly in “Ghost Writer,” I wish to add that unconscious talents of any kind tend to emerge in stages and may at their inception seem alien to both the individual involved and to others. Patience Worth’s statement that she lived two centuries earlier and a continent away can thus be read as indicating the psychological distance between Pearl Curran’s dormant talent and her conscious personality. She was unusual in her ability to integrate her latent literary gifts into her conscious self. She became less dependent on the Ouija board and trances and more able to speak directly. Given the positive reviews of Worth’s writing, I would have appreciated the inclusion of more examples of it.
Meredith Sabini, PHD
Berkeley, California

For samples of Worth’s literary output, go to Smithsonian.com/patience. —Ed.

Paranoid Public
I was struck by the phrase “tragically misguided actions by our government” in reference to the World War II Japanese internment [From the Castle: “Lest We Forget”]. The government acted because we the people demanded it. Paranoia wiped out any common sense or realistic look at individuals. Paranoia always nudges people toward extremism. We might be interning Muslims this very day if extreme views were allowed to dominate the discourse. Fortunately, the paranoia currently festering is not yet sufficiently widespread to repeat our earlier mistake.
Arthur Hills
Santa Rosa, California

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