From our readers

From the Editors Readers responded to our artistic celebration of the Star-Spangled Banner’s 200th anniversary with a discussion of the many meanings the Stars and Stripes hold today. Some argued that the flag “is a symbol of violence and invasion of small nations” and linked it to current events as a sad reminder of the way America “treats the vets and the poor and sick.” Others, like Martin Morris on Facebook, commented that the flag stands for “freedom, equality and personal achievement around the world.” Cecil T. Compton agreed. “It’s everything to this nation,” he wrote. “Stand up, be thankful, and have pride.”

Noc’s Message
Voice From the Deep,” about the captive beluga whale named Noc, is a truly sad story. It’s a shame that the U.S. Navy didn’t make more of an effort to truly “bridge a linguistic divide,” instead of continuing to send these whales to do military tasks once these vocalizations started occurring. It seems criminal to me that all we have left of Noc’s efforts to communicate is a 20-second tape. What a tragic loss to us all.

David Michael Brandt
On facebook

These highly intelligent creatures do not deserve to be captured and enslaved by people to do our bidding. They should be respected and left in their natural habitat. Any human interaction should be on their terms, not ours.

Ashley Ann Goodson
on facebook

Do not underestimate the intelligence of the beluga whale. Noc’s captors heard him say, in imitation of one of them, “Get out!” Maybe he meant it.

Liz Kelner
El Prado, New Mexico

Restoring Mont-Saint-Michel
Thank you for giving “Makeover for Mont-Saint-Michel” a practical, as well as historical and preservationist, tone. How ironic that the treasured Venice struggles to gain enough leverage beneath it to stay out of the water, while Mont-Saint-Michel works so hard to remain in the water, apart from the land. Both cities are of historical import and capture the imaginations of millions of people, and yet the struggle for each to remain intact continues against the forces of nature and the sea.

Amy HornburgHeilveil
on facebook

Day of the Dad
In “Father Figure,” Jeff MacGregor says that Whistler was “perhaps the greatest American painter of the 19th century—some argue the greatest painter ever.” I have an original woodcut by Whistler and truly enjoy it. But I believe Winslow Homer is the greatest American painter ever. Am I right?

John S. Munday
Isanti, Minnesota

Glowing Wearables
The use of glow-in-the-dark numbers on wristwatches may have been helpful to World War I soldiers and fashionable for postwar consumers [“The First Wearables”], but they were deadly to the factory workers who did the painting. Many “Radium Girls” became ill and died from radiation poisoning caused by repeatedly licking their brushes to get just the right point. The women suffered a second insult when their employer refused to accept responsibility for the illnesses and downplayed the harmful effects of radiation—which also killed radium’s famous discoverer, Madame Curie herself.

Chris Holmes
Escondido, California

Practical or Invasive?
Most people can automatically see just how practical small drones can and will be [“Friendly Skies”]. The mind boggles at all the things we’ll be able to use them for. Of course, that assumes they stay in the sky and don’t start crashing into houses, cars or people. For drones to work, the FAA is going to have to come up with some amazingly clever plans...which is not something it is known for doing in a short time frame.

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