Dear We Are Scientists,
This is a two part letter.
Part 1: I’d like to make a request to be placed on your mailing list. I lose an unhealthy amount of sleep worrying that you’re playing a show I didn’t know about.
Part 2: I am a college student taking a science class. However, I don’t go to normal college, I go to art school. And this is not just any science class, it is Introduction to Science (yes, that’s its official title). Besides the fact that Science and I were formally introduced in the third grade (my teacher had a poster on the wall that read “Science is much more ‘funner’ than gym.”) I had a healthy, active relationship with Science throughout middle school and into the second semester of my junior year in high school. Therefore, I feel that an Introduction to Science, especially at this point in my life, is rather unnecessary. As a matter of fact, this Introduction to Science class is so similar to my past science class experiences, that I have intense flashbacks to middle school. I would love to drop this class, but for some unexplainable reason, I’m required to have six science credits upon graduation. My art school offers other science classes, but they are equally silly, and require more work.
Every class my professor (an old-ish, balding, smiley man who likes striped polo shirts, dons a fanny pack, and talks as if he has genuine concern for numbers not in proper scientific notation) gives us a break halfway through class. My question is: should I have moral qualms about not returning for the second half of class? If I live by your “safety, fun, and learning (in that order)” law, spending three hours a week being (re)introduced to science is a very realistic safety concern. Such extensive exposure to boredom could potentially lead to craziness. I can name at the very least eight things that are more fun than sitting in science class. (One of them being gym. Another is finding a cute boy to make out with in a closet or secret corner. This make-out urge is a direct result of the previously mentioned middle school flashbacks. Not because that’s what I did in middle school, but because looking back, that’s what I feel I should have been doing.) Which leaves learning. Still very important, yet when juxtaposed with craziness, appears slightly less significant. So, as scientists, do you think it’s ok for me to skip the second half of my class?
Fan of Scientists; not science,
Cecilia R. Ziko
p.s. My roommate and I received your EP after the Phantom Planet concert. Her name is Allison. She’s already on your mailing list. Now you can say that you have at least two fans living within any given ten foot radius of each other, and not be entirely lying.
Regarding Part II: This is actually a fairly nuanced ethical challenge, Cecilia. We’ll try approaching it from several directions, directions chosen at random, with little thought to how useful they might be.
First, you observe that according to the law of “Safety, Fun, and Learning (In that order)”, you should go ahead and skip the second half of science class, your rationale being that science class makes you crazy, and craziness outranks learning as a determinant. Your logic is superficially compelling, but scrutiny reveals some substantial holes. In this sense your argument is like XXX, the summer blockbuster Vin Diesel picture–sweet on first sight, sugar sweet, but proving to be porous as fucking cheesecloth on a third or fourth or fifth or in our case sixth viewing. The error you’re making, Cecilia, is to confuse safety with sanity. Here the argument bifurcates, so we’ll head down fork one, but be aware that we’ll be coming back to pick up fork two. Fork One to the argument that safety isn’t the same as sanity: Crazy people are safe, basically. Sure, people hanging around crazy people aren’t necessarily safe, because who knows what a crazy person (“fucking nut”) might do, or when they’ll do it; the crazy person himself, though: he’s in little danger. Hard proof can be found when we look at the far end of the fucking nut spectrum: people who’ve been institutionalized. They are closely watched, constantly monitored, relieved of weapons, blades, and nooses, and basically just very carefully looked after to insure that their safety (!) is never compromised.
Now, Fork Two to the argument that safety isn’t the same as sanity: Turns out this isn’t really Fork Two, it’s more like the next stage of the argument that was developed in Fork One. So now that you see how craziness isn’t exclusive of safety, we’ve got to face the hard fact that what it is, what safety is, is a boon to learning. Let’s look at some of our generation�s most learned people: Kant, Ted Kaczynski, Ted Koppel, Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, Winona Ryder. No one would deny that these are some erudite mothers; a similar number of people will tell you that any of these folks is within a Hulk’s-leap of sanity. But–and we’re quoting Michael’s best pickup line here�we don’t want to beat you over the head with numbers, Cecilia; we want you to feel the force of our logic. Look at Kant: he lived in a middle-sized university town his whole life and never once ventured more than 30 miles from his house. Clearly he was crazy as hell, and yet he was also quite learned, and himself a fountainhead of shit to read about and consider at length. And when we think about Kant, as we frequently do, do we imagine someone doing wild things that threatened his safety? Do we imagine him casually flicking a couple pineapple grenades up a couloir then snow-surfing the tumbling glacier for forty harrowing seconds of montage until the frozen wave under his Burton board swallows a half-platoon of enemy footsoldiers? Negative. We picture Vin Diesel doing that, if we’re culturally literate, and Vin Diesel is a man of sub average intelligence, not to mention stone-cold sanity. Kant we picture stuffily trudging along a cobble path toward class after a morning spent musing intelligently and wittily on the subject of categorical imperatives in his dark and woody study. Perhaps, as he trudges, we notice that he has strapped on a boustier under his well-worn jacket, or that he has shaved off his eyelashes. It’s possible some small detail is off, because yes, he’s crazy. The formula we’ve arrived at, though, is that safety is most directly threatened by stupidity (the Diesel premise), not insanity. Crazy people tend to be at very little risk, and, what’s more, they are often quite intelligent. Craziness, then, while not a risk to safety, can be a real boon to learning. All of which would tend to recommend that you not skip the second half of class. If, on the other hand, you were just being theatrical when you said that going to class could make you “crazy”, then you should skip the sucker. Never suffer boredom for boredom�s sake, Cecilia, not in a world featuring ski-ball.
There are a couple of other things we want to comment on. First, making out a lot in middle school isn�t all it’s cracked up to be. Take it from us, each of whom spent almost every minute of seventh and eighth grades on second base. Frankly, it was all pretty forgettable. Making out in middle school is like shopping for retirement plans at 25�at best ahead of schedule, at worst annoyingly precocious. WAS recommends that a person begin sexual experimentation at age 30, and then only with droids.
You also make the dubious implication that fanny packs are not totally in right now. What else, may we ask, should a middle-aged person who�s trying to dress respectably yet hiply use for toting his unmentionables around? His wallet and assorted unmentionables? We�re not being sarcastic; we�d like to know. Women have purses and large hats. Men�? The fanny pack is really the only option. And there�s nothing wrong with your teacher liking striped polo shirts, as long as he doesn�t wear them.
Regarding Part I: You�re now on our mailing list. Congratulations. You�ll have access to up-to-the-minute info about concerts and band functions, first dibs on everything from backstage passes to memorabilia, and you�ll receive special offers from our sponsors, Twizzlers and Michelob. And that�s not all. We�re prepared to send you, free for a 30-day trial period, a yacht. This is a good yacht, a very good yacht, with chrome rope attachment thingers and barnacles on the hull. We will email it to you as an attachment. Be in touch about whether you want to keep it. Note that the aztec carpeting wasn�t our choice and apparently is standard on this size boat for reasons of tradition. We also tried to get it without the boat-shaped bottom�we wanted to get you a flat bottom�but that too, we are told, is not optional. Similarly inflexible are these boat-manufacturers on the question of making the whole thing out of styrofoam, pink styrofoam. Boating is an area positively steeped in tradition, it turns out.
Try Michelob and Twizzlers if you haven’t already,
we are scientists
Dear We Are Scientists,