Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It may be the stream Thoreau goes a-fishing in...

... but for me, time is a swampy marsh that floods with an irregular tide that sometimes leaves the errant flotsam of history laying around improperly installed when the sea has ebbed away once more.
If popular media depictions of temporal traipsing is to be believed, there are various means by which a time traveller can determine his or her or its whenabouts. And since anticipation is the essence of drama, it just wouldn't do to have a character simply ask a local or just read the time and date (and sometimes even location) superimposed on the bottom of the screen.
For many popular chronologic gallivanters, newspapers provide a common and conspicuous resource.
One such newspaper-consulter was Dr. Sam Beckett, portrayed by actor Scott Bakula. The teevee series Quantum Leap followed a scientist who conflated string theory with lousy memory and travelled willy-nilly through time by turning blue and "leaping" into other people in the last thirty years (mostly from the Seventies, where the costumes and props were easier to get). Sometimes -- particularly during sweeps -- he would "leap" into a real person. Some of my favorites, actually.
Like the episode where Sam Beckett
About to leap into dance leapt into Sam Beckett.
We are all born mad. Some remain so. Helluva crossword today, huh?
Dr. Beckett, of course, had comic relief Al to validate the dateline in the previous scene and drive the setting home so that even the exposition-incapable could chuckle at quips from the future, 1999. Your host, however, is not a fan of such cliché "newspaper dating" because of obvious confoundments like a week-old newspaper or zany pranksters Yes I know. Wrong headline. Right date. But boy, the trouble you'll have with Bess. or the scarcity of print journalism in alien environments.
I prefer more immediately accessible signs of temporality -- seasonal product displays in shops.
Whenever I see Christmas stuff start to appear, I know that it's after Hallowe'en. I also know that it's the week after Hallowe'en because the Hallowe'en candies are on sale. Plus, there are still tacked-up paper leaves in colors like alizarin, auburn, and amber, a sure sign that it's not yet Thanksgiving, when the white paper snowflakes replace them. Some back-to-school items, and the Election Day posters are still up. So it's the first or second week in in November, probably a Wednesday.
Life on the time marsh.
Except for when the newspaper runs a headline like this,
He lost the second term in the preliminary.
which seems to infer that both Lang and Coelho were running for a third term as mayor.


Anonymous said...

Two parallel realities intersecting in the voting booth.

PJ said...

As I understand it, if parallel Lang or parallel Coelho were to came back and re-enter his own timeline, the result would be an inversion of reality upon itself, creating a destructive black hole in New Bedford. I don't anticipate any change.