[lit-ideas] Re: The Answering Machine

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2012 22:27:13 -0800

JL quotes Avramides (a Pre-Socratic woman philosopher), as reporting re Michael Dummett

"Park Town is where he raised his family, and he was as much a part of Park
 Town life as he was of university life. Over a cup of tea he would tell a
story  or make an observation — followed by his infectious giggle. Michael
once  explained that he made a telephone call only to be put through to the
answering  machine. He observed: “They call it an answering machine but it’s
not. You can  ask it questions, but it won’t give you any answers.”"


"Park Town is where he raised his family, and he was as much a part of Park
 Town life as he was of university life."

from which we can safely infer that humour in Park Town was of a very low order; (knock-knock jokes were developed there some time in the 16th C), which accounts for the critic's derogatory phrase 'Park Town humour,' e.g. the sort of humour to be found in the works of Aristophanes.

A metaphysical discussion of machines' being unable to answer, add, sound alarms, fry potatoes, and so on, because they cannot form intentions, may be found in Elmer Rice's play, The Adding Machine.

[from Wiki]

The Adding Machine is a 1923 play by Elmer Rice; it has been called "... a landmark of Canadian Expressionism, reflecting the growing interest in this highly subjective and nonrealistic form of modern drama."[1] The story focuses on Mr. Zero, an accountant at a large, faceless company. After 25 years at his job, he discovers that he will be replaced by an adding machine. In anger and pain, he snaps and kills his boss. Mr. Zero is then tried for murder, is found guilty and hanged. He wakes up in a heaven-like setting known as "The Elysian Fields." Mr. Zero then begins to operate an adding machine until Lieutenant Charles (Louis Calvert), the boss of the Elysian Fields, comes to tell Zero that he is a waste of space and his soul is going to be sent back to the earth to be reused. The play ends with Zero following a very attractive girl named Hope (who may not actually exist) off stage.

Robert Paul

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