23 may 01


Dear Mute,
I have a few questions for you.

1. Why am I constantly disappointed by rock music?
Because you have discerning taste and most rock music sucks.

2. Will Alison Doody ever make another movie?
Alison Doody will make four more movies before her untimely demise in 2008 which will cheifly be the result of her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. None of these films will be anything you will have any interest in seeing, and she will be remembered only as Dr. Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

3. What the hell was calculus? My records indicate that I spent eight months studying it, but I couldn't explain what it is or how it's used to save my life.
Calculus was, and is, a branch of mathematics that deals with the rates of change of continuous functions as their arguments change. Calculus is reported to have been discovered by Sir Isaac Newton (you know, that thing about the apple falling from a tree) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. As far as I am concerned, calculus is not used to save your life, and this is probably why you are having difficulty with this question. Self-defense classes or wilderness survival skills would probably be more useful in this regard than calculus.

4. Are there any great unexplored frontiers left?
Yes. Caves. Apparently a "new breed of scientists" are boldly exploring these mysteries of the underground and are bringing back unprecedented footage from these ice, underwater, and terrestrial caves. You can see this amazing footage with your own eyes by watching the new film "Journey into Amazing Caves," which is narrated by actor Liam Neeson and features new songs and performances by the classic rock band The Moody Blues. This probably won't help with your issue concerning disappointment in rock music, however.

5. Can I play electric guitar and still be a Luddite?
Yes. The electric guitar is not on the cutting edge of technology. Electricity is not on the cutting edge of technology. These days it's quite possible to use electricity on a daily basis and still be considered a luddite for behavior such as eschewing computers. As long as you're not feeding your electrical guitar sounds into a synthesizer or computer a la the new Daft Punk album or constructing mixes of bleeps and bloops like the Boards of Canada, I think you can safely call yourself a musical luddite.

6. Plural of "monkey": "Monkeys" or "monkies"? And "fly": "Flys" or "flies"?
Monkey: monkeys
Fly: flies

7. Will the decreasing emphasis on proper grammar and spelling lead to the intellectual bankruptcy of our country? Can one formulate an intelligent idea without proper grammar and spelling?
Speaking of luddites and intellectual bankruptcy, critic Sven Birkerts believes that electronic media is undermining our literary culture. He's one of the Death of Print people who attributes to the waning of print communications the decline of all things intellectual and artistic. Print has come to represent the linear and the logical, the intellectual and the traditional. Birkerts believes that as "a society that has begun to come loose from its textual moorings," we make the transition from a print culture to the shiny, seductiveness of electronic communication, where we will lose our analytical skills and our historical permanence. For Birkerts, print culture is associated with the private self, with sharp, intellectual focus and with immortality. Neil Postman had similar things to say about the degrading effects of television on society. For men like these, books and print and the things that are associated with these (such as proper grammar and spelling) symbolize their status as intellectuals, as opposed to the people who have allowed themselves to be seduced by technology and are doomed to become illogical, simple and unenlightened. Personally, I find this sort of thinking to be dangerously attractive and seriously flawed. However, the decreasing emphasis on proper grammer and spelling may lead to the intellectual bankruptcy of our country inasfar as it is a symptom of the decling level of education in this country in general. As far as the ability to formulate an intelligent idea without proper grammar and spelling goes, let me bring up the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic determinism which states that a person's thoughts are determined by the categories made available by his or her language. So people from different cultures with different words for cheese are going to actually have different thoughts about cheese. Meaning reality is based not in the world around us but in the words we use to describe the world around us, words that are not objective but are taught to us culturally. I'm no more a fan of linguistic determinism than I am of the belief that print is inherently better than other media and would say that no, a person doesn't need proper grammar to be able to create intelligent ideas, but it sure is a shame we seem to be losing our respect for the language.

8. Am I done yet?
Yes. And so am I.

More Choose Your Own Mute Adventure coming tomorrow. Questions still being accepted.