Frequently Questioned Answers About Time Travel

There was a recent story that got picked up by the world media concerning some vintage footage surrounding the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 feature film, The Circus. In it, you can see someone walking down the street with a hand-to-ear like they’re talking on a cell phone. This, obviously enough, was seized upon as sure proof that time travel does (or will — this sort of thing is fuzzy when it comes to time travel) exist. The footage and the story was an internet meme and news sensation for five whole minutes and held everybody’s attention for about the same amount of time it takes the cell-phone chatter from the future to cross the film frame. A few seconds.

Now that it’s all blown over and media attention has been safely refocused on trivial matters like mid-term elections, I would like to point out that the argument for a futuristic sightseer walking around outside a 1928 movie premiere falls apart on three key points.

Time travel doesn’t exist today. If it did, they’d be selling tours of 1863 Gettysburg to Ted Turner and his reenactor history-nerd buddies in order to jump-start the American economy. If it exists at all, it has to be a future tech. So if that’s a future person walking around in an old movie, why do they have such a large, conspicuous cell phone? Wouldn’t they have some more advanced blue-tooth thingie stuck deep in their ear canal where it won’t draw the attention of all the primitives?

Then there’s the question of who exactly are they talking to? I don’t know what the roaming fees are like in your area, but how much do you think it’s going to cost you to be able to call someone in the future from the distant past? Especially when you’re calling from a time before satellites. Good luck getting more than a couple of bars on that connection. Can you hear me now? No, asshole, you’re in the wrong fucking century.

And I have a quibble about the location. Here’s how the conversation would probably go down.

“Dude! I’m totally at the premiere of an oldie-timey Charlie Chaplin movie!”

“Who the hell is Charlie Chaplin?”

Less than a century later, people today don’t watch black and white movies, let alone silent movies. If film geeks from the future ever plan to infiltrate some old cornerstone of pop culture, it will probably play out more like this:

“Dude! I’m totally on the set of the original Avatar movie and James Cameron is every bit the megadouche our history books told us he was!”

“Sweet! Is it awesomely cool?”

“Not really. Everybody’s covered in Ping-Pong balls and acting against a green screen.”

“Did you meet anybody famous?”

“Only the greatest leading man of twenty-first century cinema!”

“Joel Moore?”

“Fuck yeah! Oh, and I met Sam Worthington too.”

“Who the hell is Sam Worthington?”

“He was the guy in the original cut before George Lucas edited him out for the twentieth anniversary special edition following James Cameron’s tragic death in an ego inferno.”

“So the world back then still hadn’t discovered the destructive potential of overinflated egos and harnessed their might for war and demolition purposes yet?”

“Nah, they were all primitive and shit.”

So bottom line: there are no time travellers from the present or near-future visiting film sets and attending premieres. The real time travellers are the humans who have evolved into bug-eyed, lily-white, bald midgets and visit us in flying saucers that are frequently mistaken for alien space ships. At least that’s the compelling theory put forth by some deep thinkers who point out that it’s probably easier for super-evolved humans to travel back from the future than for aliens thousands of light years away to hop a ride to our backwoods planet. That means all the little dudes they have on ice at Area 51 are just us a few untold eons down the road from now, not invaders from another galaxy.

So what do we have to look forward to in the future, other than universal hair loss, a complete abandonment of tanning salon technology, and poor bone development? Apparently we turn into a bunch of bumpkin-abducting anal-probing scientists on an archaeological dig up the asses of our ancestors in order to discover what it is we all seem to be looking for in each other’s colons. The future folk have seen enough of our broadcast media, still bouncing around the stratosphere in future centuries, to have come up with all sorts of unanswered questions about our current society. Like how do people like Snooki and John Boehner achieve such a healthy, vibrant orange complexion? Why does NBC keep backing Jay Leno in the late-nite wars? And what’s the deal with the ass-obsession thing? They get that last one from prison dramas and porn.

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Not since the mass return of unwanted AOL discs to the company of origin have I seen such a worthy recycling/protest project with the message, “Stop printing so much shit we don’t want!” Just like newspapers everywhere, it’s time for the Yellow Pages to admit that their day is done and close shop before any more hapless forests get pulped to sustain their dying enterprise. This video features Montreal activists rounding up all those unwanted tomes and dumping them on the doorstep of the culprits, while this anecdote reveals the lengths the brown shirts at the Yellow Pages will go to intimidate people into keeping their failed business model afloat.

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