Discussion of our October Issue

Feedback from our readers

Smithsonian Magazine
Smithsonian Magazine

Readers of the October issue responded to Joshua Hammer’s “The Salvation of Mosul” with praise for Layla Salih, an archaeologist who has worked to preserve Iraqi antiquities that ISIS has targeted for destruction: “She has more courage than most and a dedication to her calling that you do not hear about anymore,” Linda Goddard commented on Facebook. “Layla Salih is the personification of the proverb that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness,” wrote Don Lacasse of Glocester, Rhode Island. Clive Thompson’s “The Illusion of Reality” conjured stereoscopic memories for Tony Imbimbo of Toms River, New Jersey. “My parents had a photographer take pictures of my sister and me on Kodak slides that were stereographic,” he writes. “We found them and a Delite viewer and talked for hours. Thanks for bringing back our childhood.”

Revolution Revisited

In “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?” Ian Frazier wistfully savors certain accounts of the 1917 event. True, in a few clinical sentences he passively mentions the savagery and butchery, but then he lingers on the personal charisma of those responsible. The left has a soft spot for Communism, and considers its failures as unexpected and accidental, rather than as the inevitable result of a flawed view of history and human nature. The Communist propagandist John Reed is your author’s “hero.” If you want the answer to what happened, do a story on Venezuela in the 21st century. The legacy of 1917 continues to exact a horrific toll in human misery and injustice.  How curious that your story avoids answering its own title question.

Brad Congdon, Buxton, Oregon

Thuggish Vladimir Putin is certainly no Lenin, but Russia is still meddling and troublemaking throughout the world. That’s why America needs to do more than worry about Russian interference in the affairs of our country.

Nona Ross, Sedan, Kansas

As Frazier relates, Alexander Kerensky totally alienated the army, and when the Bolsheviks did their next coup in October, the army did not respond to Kerensky’s pleas for help. Perhaps the revolution was more of a Kerensky loss than a Lenin victory. What is certain is that once the Bolsheviks seized control, they never let go...until Gorbachev.

William Thayer, San Diego, California

Great Pumpkin

Most giant pumpkins aren’t fully pumpkins anyway (“In Gourd We Trust”), but are crossed with gourds for a much thicker skin to withstand the ridiculous weight without collapsing.

Hank Randall, Facebook

The Man Behind the Mobiles

Over the last 50 years, I have spotted Alexander Calder’s works in museums and parks around the world (“Calder’s Magic Year”). They remain as distinctive today as ever, and of course I cannot pass one without smiling. Thank you for a wonderful article about the early events that shaped this amazing artist.

Gregory Nole, Cheshire, Connecticut

Calder’s sculptures are intellectually surprising, visually recognizable, emotionally exciting and humorous. They touch everyone.

Katherine Teel, Facebook

Reality in the Classroom

When computers started appearing in classrooms, companies rushed to create educational content (“The Illusion of Reality”). But a boring lesson presented on a computer is still boring. Let’s just hope today’s techies, brought up on digital games, smartphones and tablets, will give us truly engaging educational experiences.

Robyn Sheppard, Rochester, New York


The Illusion of Reality” mistakenly said “stereograph” has Latin roots. In fact, the word comes from Greek.

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