Wednesday, November 12, 1986
The Michigan Doily
Every once in a while one takes time
out to stop and consider what is the most
annoying household appliance.
The prize, I think, goes to the
telephone answering machine.
What exactly does one say to these
machines when they ask for "your name.
time of day, and any message"?
The conversation with the machine
does not have to come out stilted. But,
inevitably, it does. The reason is that
half way through the message, the caller
realizes he is jabbering away to a
The problem could be solved if
callers only left their name and the time
of day. But most people realize how silly
this looks to the person on the receiving
end. It sounds like you have called them
up to tell them what time it is. They
turn on the answering machine and hear,
"Dave. This is Ralph. It's 8:53."
Gee, thanks, Ralph. One is tempted
to call back, "Ralph. This is Dave. It's
Thus, the inevitable occurs. We
make a concerted effort to leave a
message. Somehow this never works too
Most people will say that this is
because there is something inherently
uncomfortable about talking to machines.
I think it goes beyond this, however.
The reason talking to an answering
machine never works is that we get no
feedback. We need someone to respond
to what we say.
Some persons claim talking to an
answering machine is like talking to a
wall. But, I contend, that if the wall
would nod its head, laugh at our jokes,
ask us questions, and say "uhuh" every
once in a while, most people would find
this a pleasant diversion.
In fact, they might even be surprised
at how good a conversationalist the wall
Ideally we would have an answering
machine that gives feedback. It would
have a built in laugh track and
periodically emote an "awesome" or a
"Naw. That's too incredible." Every
once in a while, it would ask for a
clarification to show it is still interested.
A generic "what?" would be spoken every
(This machine may come in handy
even when the person receiving the call is
home. If he feels particularly bored at
some point, he can simply turn on the
machine, go make himself a sandwich,
and come back. Of course, the person
placing the call may take advantage of
this machine, and he too may turn his on.
This would allow both parties to leave
the phone, go make themselves
sandwiches while the machines talk to
each other, and return to the phone with
no one the wiser.)
However, these types of feedback-
giving machines are a long way off.
And until they are invented,
answering machines will remain more a
nuisance than a convenience.
The problem of answering machines
is complicated by many factors.
Telephones used to be a relatively
innocuous way of introducing yourself to
someone. That is, until answering
machines came along.
Try introducing yourself to someone
or calling up someone you haven't seen
in a very long time. We end up trying to
identify ourselves as "the dude in your
chemistry discussion" or "the woman
who always steps over you in poli. sci.
Conversations like this get doubly
complicated with machines. One does
not have the feedback of "Oh, yeah. I
know you." With answering machine
conversations, one would not know where
to stop. If the caller does leave a
message, one hates to think what he
would sound like with nothing to save
him from total embarrassment.
"Hi. This is-John from your world
politics class. I'm the guy who sits two
rows back of you and to the left.
Glasses, short hair. I spilled Coke on
you that one day and I loaned you that
piece of paper once. You always look
back at me when I cough real hard.
After that introduction, the chances
of the caller getting to meet this person
are somewhere between slim and zero.
The frustrations of answering
machines go beyond these special
instances, however. There are many
different answering machines on the
market, and they all have different
features. For instance, some machines
give you 10 tol5 seconds to have your
say. Other machines are voice activated
and will continue as long as you do. The
problem is you don't know which you are
Suppose you have a very long
message, and to play it safe, you say it in
If the machine was, in fact, limited
in the amount of time, the person
receiving the call will experience
incredible frustration as the last and most
important sentence will be cut off.
However, if the machine could have gone
on forever, the receiver will be amused
and perhaps confused as to why you are
talking as if you are on a Federal Express
Telephone answering machines do
have one good feature: they are a
valuable outlet for creativity. People
owning these machines can exercise their
ingenuity by designing inventive blurbs
for callers to hear. Even this good
feature, however, can quickly turn sour. :
had a friend who would think up originalt
messages every week. And this was cute
for a while. But it got so that if his
friends called and he was home, they
expressed disappointment. They hadn't
called for him, they wanted to hear this
Pretty soon word got around. For-a
good laugh, people should call 769-8990.
My friend was then inundated with calls
from strangers, asking him to play his
answering machine for them. "Hi, Johr.
I don't know you, but could you play
your answering machine for me?"
John finally and rightly decided
answering machines were a plague on
The problems with telephone
answering machines are getting to be very
annoying. And I don't think my
frustrations with them are an idle hangup.
Others must share my feelings.
I think it's time we vent our anger
on these machines. We cannot physically
But next time we get one on the
phone, we should make sure to give it a
piece of our mind. This may not work
well either, though.
After all, what do you say to a stupid
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
DOES ROWNALD A&Ik RE-ALLY
UNERTAND l JMSCONTROLISSUS ?
Vol. XCVII, No. 50
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board
All other cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Daily.
MICHIGAN STUDENT ASSEM- howev
BLY'S FORUM TO HONOR State thoses
Senator Lana Pollack (D-Ann assemb
Arbor) and State Rep. Perry for B
Bullard (D-Ann Arbor) has been assemb
criticized as a political endorse- on it.
ment. The assembly should have Eve
considered the consequences before
before holding the forum. be vie
The forum was held to thank Instead
Pollack and Bullard for their until af
support of higher education. Both made
candidates have consistently Baker
protected the University's interests from t
in Lansing. Had the forum not was h
directly preceded an election it forbidd
would have been an excellent way or pass
for MSA to praise supportive student
In retaliation for MSA's action, consun
Debbie Buchholtz, president of the grasper
College Republicans, is working to appear
remove MSA's tax exempt status Both
on the grounds that tax exempt Gaber,
organizations can't endorse Assem
candidates. According to its Comm
constitution, MSA cannot make that the
political endorsements. Buchholtz argum
argues that since Bullard and appear
Pollack funded the forum, along weeks
with MSA, it's unlikely that they inhere
considered it nonpolitical. She has unwilli
a point: in a campaign, candidates a blow
don't spend money where they The
don't see a political advantage. By status
giving the candidates this political celebra
advantage a week, and a half legally
before, she argues, MSA is in spentc
effect endorsing them. sugges
Buchholtz's view that MSA is an taxing
apolitical organization is overly declin
restrictive, however. Though MSA progra
should not violate its constitution studen
by making endorsements, it would spons
lose much of its effectiveness if it ramific
did not take political stands. be take
Buchholtz says MSA's stands MSAr
don't represent her views; they do, credibi
er, represent the views of
students who voted for the
bly members. The best way
uchholtz to change the
bly would be to run for a seat
n the assembly recognized
hand that the forum would
,wed as an endorsement.
d of postponing the fofum
fter the election they merely
cosmetic changes. Dean
's posters were removed
he tent in which the forum
eld and the candiates were
den to wear re-election pins
out flyers. It's unlikely that
ts who stopped by to see
k and Bullard, rather than to
me free cider and donuts,
:d the fact that they were not
ing as candidates.
h Michael Margolis and John
Chair and Vice-Chair of the
ably's External Relations
ittee, have vigorously denied
e forum was political. This
ent ignores the fact that any
ance by a candidate two
before an election is
-ntly political. MSA's
ingness to admit a blunder is
to its credibility.
loss of MSA's tax exempt
would not be cause for
ation and may not be justified
. Although the $1000 MSA
on a mediator this summer
ts that it has money to burn,
it would lead either to a
e in funding for student
.ms or an increase in the
it fee. Next time MSA
ors a forum the political
cations of the action should
en into account. Otherwise,
may lose more than just its
DO E s
AS WELL AS
I Do !
NO'S A ttAR
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DSA takes Reagan's cues
Ly jLGUS4I..L..W A)
15 t1 crtae u. Fcwar s
In their letter to the Daily ("DSA
Clarifies its platform," 10/27/86), the
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)
respond to Republican Rep. Carl
Pursell's despicable Red-baiting of 1986
Congressional candidate Dean Baker by
stating that such Red-baiting will give
voters the impression that Baker has
"some sort of Communist link." The
DSA complains that Pursell is
attempting to "connect DSA to Soviet
The Ann Arbor Club of the Communist
Party USA (CPUSA) condemns Pursell's
Red-baiting tactics; such tactics are
always used by the capitalist ruling class
to divide and weaken the people's forces.
However, we object to the implicit
suggestion in the DSA letter that being a
communist would indeed make one a tool
of "Soviet expansionism."
The DSA's talk about "Soviet
expansionism" and "Soviet
totalitarianism" is the same kind of Big
Lie anti-communism that Reagan uses to
justify his war policies and the need for
Star Wars as a counter to the "Soviet
threat." The DSA's anti-Sovietism is
what one expects from Pursell or Reagan,
but not from "democratic socialists."
What DSA is attempting to do is
identify anti-Sovietism with socialism
We are left with the riddle, "What is
socialist without being socialist?"
Answer: the DSA.
Socialism means social, that is public,
ownership of the major means of
production, a planned economy (versus an
anarchic one), and the working class as
the leading force in society. That is what
exists in the Soviet Union and the other
members of the socialist community.
And any (honest) person who has been to
the Soviet Union and recognizes what it's
really like will tell you that the Soviet
Union is a socialist and not a
"totalitarian" state-though it may seem
"totalitarian" to those who believe that
bankers, corporation owners, financiers
and/or their hirelings should rule.
The "Soviet threat" is a creation of
propaganda. The unilateral Soviet mora -
torium on nuclear testing (now in its
second year) and Mikhail Gorbachev's
proposal at the meeting in Iceland to
eliminate all nuclear weapons (and the
Reagan Administration's attempts to
ignore or obscure these proposals) have
exposed the Reaganites before the entire
The Reagan Administration (and the
ruling circles who support it) is now seen
as a gang of nuclear madmen seeking war-
economy profiteering and first-strike
The DSA calls itself "socialist," as is
its prerogative. But even where social
democratic parties like DSA have been in
power for decades, they have never
abolished the domination of big capital.
They have never established socialism.
Under their governments even modest
improvements in labor and social
conditions are vulnerable to reversal, as
current developments in Western Europe
graphically show. And one wonders what
the DSA thinks about their friend, the
"Socialist" president of France, who sank
the environmentalist "Rainbow Warrior"
The Communist Party USA is very
active in the peace and trade union
movements and, unlike the DSA, we are
very involved in the struggle against
racism and for affirmative action. We
work in broad coalitions with many
forces, some of whom may disagree with
us on many points, but we always strive
to achieve the greatest unity to defeat the
main enemy of the working people,
which is currently the Reaganites. (The
absurd ravings of the irrelevant pseudo-
revolutionary and ultra-left grouping,,
which equate Reaganite and anti-
Reaganite politicians-usually the work
of agents of reactionary government
agencies-are not worth responding to.)