Readers Respond to the December 2020 Issue
Your feedback on our coverage of dog cognition, Hawaiian language and more
I enjoyed the article about canine cognition (“Evolution of a Friendship”). When I got to the sentence about half of all the spending on pets being embezzled and gambled away by cats, I roared with laughter. My cat, sitting next to me, chuckled and demanded to know why I was reading instead of making her dinner. Perhaps cats really are smarter than dogs.
—Don Bonney | Discovery Bay, California
I was charmed by the December cover photo by Shaina Fishman of Oakley, the Australian shepherd puppy. Oakley has a slight turn of the head, a coy sideways glance and just a hint of a smile: nailed all the elements we revere about da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
—George Hiner | Nevada City, California
Every dog has its own personality and motivation. Certainly testing many dogs is required, but I will never believe that any definite conclusions can be reached about the human-dog bond because dogs really are too doggone complex.
—Larry Wolf | Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
As a linguist specializing in documenting endangered languages and cultures, I thoroughly appreciated Alia Wong’s article (“Beyond Aloha”) on the revitalization of the Hawaiian language. I lived in Hawaii in the 1970s when the language was rarely heard or spoken. The renaissance of Hawaiian is wonderful; the language has a vibrant literary heritage. It’s good to see the number of speakers increasing. I also greatly appreciate Smithsonian’s use of the proper diacritics (‘okina “glottal stop” and kahakō “macron marking long vowels”). Hana maika‘i!
—Neil H. Olsen | Holladay, Utah
A language lost is no different from the loss of a species. Perhaps the lack of respect for other cultures in the economically developed world is partially responsible for diminishing linguistic diversity. What a noble effort the Harmans are engaged in maintaining a fuller and richer vision of reality.
—Mark Meadows | Green Valley, Arizona
“Prairies of the Sea” is encouraging since seagrasses can be sown. That is good news for the planet. Humans are terrible stewards. We pollute and destroy, and greed is the major reason.
—Cynthia Evans | Lewisport, Kentucky
Side by Side
Finnish photographer Niko Luoma (“Look Again”) may have been inspired by Picasso’s Le Rêve, but he seems to have been more interested in his process of camera and filters than in the content of Picasso’s image. Luoma presents a light triangle that arrests the eye midline. Picasso begins with emotion and space. Light moves throughout the composition, as a color creating planes. Nothing stale in Picasso’s image.
—Joyce Harris Mayer | Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
The Hendrix Vibe
Aside from his unrivaled musicianship, remarkable songwriting, and daring showmanship and attire, one of Jimi Hendrix’s great gifts (“An Electric Presence”) was his sense of humor. At Monterey Pop, he plays an outrageous, spur-of-the-moment snippet of the chorus to Sinatra’s recent “Strangers in the Night”—one-handed, no less!—during “Wild Thing,” which closed the set. It’s a wry moment, Hendrix’s way of saying to the crowd that by the end of the evening we’ll no longer be strangers in the night, and our generation’s music will take a great leap forward beyond our parents’ button-down music tastes.
—Fred Rudofsky | Facebook
I was truly amazed at the wearable condition of the 1880 jeans (“Every Wear”). Handwash them today and they’d be ready for hard work tomorrow. No rips and tears like jeans favored by today’s fashionistas.
—David Werdegar | Naperville, Illinois
I’ve long been fascinated by Christmas card art (“From Bambi to Bethlehem”) and the artists who design it. It’s nice to know some of Mr. Wong’s beautiful Christmas cards have been reissued by his daughter and can be purchased on Etsy.
—Kathy Young | Little Rock, Arkansas
The Executive Mansion
“Welcome to the White House” (November 2020) did an awesome job of showing just how much work goes on behind the scenes. Laura Bush’s story not only describes the complicated workings of the White House, but is a real tribute to people whose faces we never see. It was particularly interesting to learn of those who have given their efforts for so many years.
—Suzanne R. Bevan | Fredericksburg, Virginia
In these difficult times, your story was an inspirational reminder that the White House is the people’s house and is run by dedicated professionals.
—Clare Murphy | Kensington, Maryland
I found myself spellbound while reading “The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur” (November 2020). How I wish I had known about her when I was teaching the art history part of the humanities course offered in the high school where I taught for 35 years. I was always trying to find women who could be used as examples for my female students to show them that it isn’t just HISstory, but also HERstory. I applaud the meticulous efforts of Katherine Brault to make Ms. Bonheur’s chateau into a museum. Thank you so much for enlightening me on this wonderful artist and the brave lady who is trying to keep her legacy alive.
—Linda Fuller-Cross | Beattyville, Kentucky