AN EXPENSIVE PERSONAL AD
This past week, all male undergraduates were treated to a rare delight, and an ego boost. A "recent gradaute" of the College, who wishes to remain anonymous--so let's call him MACK (Mal-Adjusted Cuckoo)--sent over 3,000 letters to "all male undergraduates" by U.S. Post detailing his very personal, very painful story. It turns out that Mack is "attracted to guys," but "repelled by gays, so far without exception."
And that's where you come in: if you agree with his page-long diatribe against his particular perception of the gay world--full of "limp wrists," "crudeness," and "obsessiveness about sex 'and superficiality in attachments"--you are given the unique opportunity to write back, and hook up with Mack.
What a treat!
Mack sounds like the sensitive type, and financially secure to boot. But before you eligible bachelors get too excited and decide to write back to Mack, you might compare yourselves against Mack's stringent requirements. First, you'll have to be the hyper-virile type, because among all gays, "effeminacy, in speech, looks, or mannerisms, is very common." Then you'll have to bring your voice down a few octaves, because "their is a tendency to whine and shriek." And don't pay too much attention to your appearance, because, of course, "gays show much greater vanity." But be gorgeous. Be very, very gorgeous. Mack has been disappointed with the selection thus far: "Many straight guys I know are good-looking, [but are you, Mack?] but the gays I have met are not [I guess not]."
Mack tells us that he majored in Government, is right-wing [no, really?], and that he has a penchant for Dostoevsky and Bach. Sounds like a pretty cultured guy.
He's well-off, too. He claims to have sent letters to every male undergraduate--that's over 3,000 of us--by U.S. Post. There were stamps on those letters, all seemingly uncancelled: that's 3,000 stamps at 32 cents a pop, totalling about $1,000! Mack: TAKE AN AD OUT IN THE CRIMSON! IT'S CHEAPER.
We should feel flattered that Mack wants us (but only if we're hyper-virile and beautiful; we don't have to be intelligent or have any personality--hey, wait a minute--does this sound like the "superficiality in attachments" that's making someone a little bit cuckoo?).
We should pass up his offer nonetheless: for one thing, we're clearly second choice. An almost-identical letter was mailed to all male Yalies a few weeks ago, giving the same return address, a post office box in Cambridge. Would you date someone who thought Yale had a better mating pool?
Second, we have no idea what this guy looks like, talks like, or smells like--hey, we have concerns, too. Third, it's probably a joint C.I.A.-U.S. military conspiracy to weed out straight-acting homosexuals, or else a senior thesis projects in Psychology about junk-mail danting services--a very, very well-funded project (3,000 Yalies plus 3,000 Harvard males is 6,000 stamps, almost $2,000 worth, not including paper, envelopes and printing costs).
If there really is a Mack, he ends on an ironic twist: he writes, "I hope that anyone with the same basic problem I have will write me." Mack, I'm willing to bet that your problem is neither widely-shared nor all that basic.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Humans have made a long-time habit of struggling with machines of their own construction. Just think of the archetypal office worker, harried by a combination of inscrutable copiers, fax machines, phone systems and computers.
Now and then, humans pay money to play games with machines. That is, to play games with themselves at one removed. Machines usually win. For some odd reason, this causes humans to come back for more and more punishment. Even if the machine wins a hundred times, the human is completely edified when triumph finally comes.
Now and then, the machines give something back--something that their human creators never envisaged. This happened recently in the realm of pinball. Pinball exists as the missing link between simple physical games and computer games. Here the physical element is still obsrevable enough for a human to easily grasp cause and-effect relationships without any prior knowledge.
Quincy House has a "Star Trek: The next Generation" pinball machine, hailed along the Internet as the most advanced of its race. It's a hard game, with unnaturally large drains and all sorts of ramps and locks. Futility was the rule for those in search of the replay--until last Wednesday.
The machine went haywire, locking and recycling balls like crazy. Players usually content with 300,00,000 points gawked at scores exceeding 7,000,000,000. Frequent costomers lined up to give the game the game its comeuppance at no cost, since the credits just kept mounting. "That's cheating," one protested, daring to invalidate this brief show of human superiority. Some of us would rather believe that the rules had just changed slightly.
Yesterday the machine was repaired. Why? Who brought the ride of satisfaction and confidence to an end? No doubt some greedy house committee members who had never played the game. Daniel Altman