Reader responses to our April issue

Smithsonian Magazine
Cover of Smithsonian Magazine, April 2017 Smithsonian Magazine

From the Editors Readers applauded “The Rise of Homer Sapiens,” about the obscure 20- to 30-second variety show sketches that led to “The Simpsons.” Enrique Casarrubia says it “was the first thing that I watched in my life that made me question my beliefs, my principles and everything I was told to believe as a child,” and Patty Hudson calls the series “one of the best things about America.” Not everyone gets the joke, however. “I don’t understand how this dumb show is still on TV,” Bennett Donaldson says. Lauren Greenfield’s photographs (“Flaunting It”) aroused umbrage about the extravagance of the wealthy. Lisa Frett says, “Society will be better off if we break our addiction to the rich and famous.”


We have oryx here in Texas by the thousands (“Born to Be Wild”). A lot of the herds in Africa now are descendants from the oryx we have been breeding in Texas. It will be interesting to see if we can not only successfully relocate them but also have them prosper in their native lands. Poaching and desertification had a devastating effect in the past, and those factors haven’t gone anywhere.

Paul Werner, Facebook

Brave Poet

It is a sign of past times and prejudices that so much of Emily Dickinson’s legacy (“Raging Belle”) is rooted in her eccentric, poorly understood lifestyle rather than the force of her art. It is a sign of current times and progress that a film has taken on the task of defending and reframing Dickinson’s legacy into something brave and defiant.

Ksenia MK, Facebook


When I was a kid, I identified with Bart (“The Rise of Homer Sapiens”). But as you grow, you realize you can identify with any one of the Simpsons. Some days, I feel as stoic as Maggie—other days, as worrisome as Marge. But Homer: The quintessential American everyman. The icon of a generation. A lovable, adventurous, multifaceted buffoon.

Jonathan Jurczak, Facebook

Prima Ballerina Dreams

I grew up loving ballet and dance but ultimately gave it up because there were no African-American role models. Thanks to Misty Copeland (“Small Talk”), my 8-year-old niece has the courage and spirit to list dance as one of her three future careers!

Angela Petitt, Facebook

Driven Mad?

Michael Cannell notes that George Metesky was a Con Edison plant worker injured by toxic fumes from a furnace blast and forced to quit his job due to a crippling case of tuberculosis caused by the fumes (“Unmasking the Mad Bomber”). In 1940, there was no Occupational Safety and Health Act attempting to hold companies accountable; workers’ compensation was in its infancy. Not to excuse Metesky’s criminal acts, but he may well have been justified in feeling that Con Edison management did not play fair.

Catherine M. Stanford, Highland Park, New Jersey

The Ring of Truth

I read Stephen Fried’s exciting “Saved by the Bell” with chills at the realization that what our nation could use today is a Liberty Bell tour. Perhaps my grandparents took their two little girls to watch as this symbol of freedom rolled slowly past on the tracks. The story of the Bell’s trip shows that we were then and are still now a nation of stitched-together immigrant families, Americans for sure, who just might come together again to work for the success of our nation and for cooperation among nations.

Barbara Robb, Cincinnati, Ohio

Some readers thought the March “Ask Smithsonian” should have stated that the acceleration of Saturn’s rings was “centrifugal,” not “centripetal,” as printed. Here is an extended explanation from Matthew Holman at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on why “centripetal” is correct:

“Perhaps I should not have written ‘balances out,’ because it is easy to misinterpret. But the force is indeed centripetal. An object in circular motion with a constant speed v and a radius r about the center it is orbiting has an acceleration a=v^2/r that is always directed toward that center. That acceleration is centripetal.”


Fit for a King” (March) stated that Commodore Jesse D. Elliott plundered the sarcophagus he presented to an ailing President Andrew Jackson. In fact, Elliott reported that he had purchased the sarcophagus in Beirut.

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