Saturday, October 30, 2010

Proof of Time Travel

The other day at book club, Julie was talking about a viral video that shows a woman talking on a cell phone. In the 1920s! Someone found it in footage from a Charlie Chaplin movie premier. Proof of time travel!

We once read and liked The Time Traveler's Wife so this is a fascinating subject. It's fun to think what it would be like if you could go to another point in time. Like Marty McFly!

See if for yourself here:

I just couldn't stop looking at this. I just love the idea of someone traveling in time and getting caught on film.


If you really look at the movie closely, it hard not to be distracted by the woman's shoes. U-G-L-Y, even for the time period, I would think. And so, if you were going to be a time traveler, and someday be seen around the world on a viral video, wouldn't you also make sure to have on at least slightly attractive footwear? Think about it, you would know.

Of course, in the book, the Time Traveler could not bring clothing, or objects with him. But in this case, if the woman was able to bring her iphone, wouldn't she be able to drag along some fashion items as well? It's not as if she's hiding here.

And who would she call?

I just don't know! But this brought to mind a photograph that people were talking about a while back, also called proof of time travel. Check out the dude in the sunglasses:

So he looks like he could fit in our times, yet looks out of place where he is.

Makes you think.

I just know that I like looking at old photographs, so I did some googling, to find out what else was out there.

And sure enough, there are people, "photo historians," who do this kind of thing, and generate their own controversies among themselves.

The latest seems to be: what is the first known photograph with a person in it?

See this:

Last month at the excellent Krulwich Wonders blog, Robert Krulwich examined a set of astoundingly-sharp 1842 daguerreotypes of Cincinnati along the Ohio River. According to the University of Rochester, it's "the oldest photograph of an urban area in existence." Zooming way in, one could barely make out what appeared to be two people at the edge of the river, collecting what looked like a bucket of water. Inspired, one of Krulwich's readers did a bit of photo forensics and provided us a much better glimpse of those two folks. He blogged about his findings at Hokumburg Goombah. Krulwich followed up with another post and asks if this is the "first photo of a human being ever?"

And then some other guy magnified and sharpened a detail to show that it had people:

They look kind of like ghosts or aliens to me.

But the commonly accepted first known photograph of a person is this Daguerreotype from 1838:

The purportedly first picture of a living person. The image shows a busy street, but due to exposure time of more than ten minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is the man at the bottom left, who stood still getting his boots polished long enough to show. Look closely and you will also see another man sitting on a bench to the right reading a newspaper. Also in the upper left hand side you can also see another man standing under the awning of the 3rd building from the left. What looks to be a woman standing under the street lantern at 10 o'clock from the man getting his shoes shined and another one in the big white building,1st row 3rd window down. Notice the child in the top floor window of the white building in front.

I can totally see the guy with the shoe shine, but I had to look more closely to see the other people. I have magnified and sharpened the image to show you this detail. Do you see it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Please Send In

So there we were, in the middle of the full craze of the Friday night Homecoming football game, in the stands cheering for the team,, the student section pulsing with excitement, the band blasting out their peppiest of pep songs, lights and people and noises all around, and my darling son Jeffrey turns to me and says:

"I need to bring a pineapple to school on Monday. Don't forget."

OK, with all the distraction and no place to write anything down, there was a pretty high likelihood of me forgetting. It was better than him telling me at 6:30 on Monday morning though.

You'll be glad to know that we did get out and purchase the pineapple, and I also found a moment to ask Jeffrey why he would even need to bring a pineapple to school in seventh grade. He didn't seem to know, exactly.

"It's for Spanish class, we're doing a thing with food."

"So, like, everyone was assigned a different item, and you got pineapple?"


"So, the teacher just looked across the room and said: 'You--in the blue sweatshirt! Pineapple! Monday!'?"

"No, not like that, it's for a skit...there's another kid who has to bring in a MANGO."

I'm still not entirely clear on what the pineapple is for. But I know he is planning to draw a face on it with a sharpie.

This incident reminded me of a conversation between the moms in my neighborhood about the outrageous requests from teachers for things to send in to school. It seems to start out strongest in elementary school, when you never seem to know when you are going to get hit with a sudden need for exact amounts of cash to cover field trips, pizza parties, group gifts, or whatever. Contributing the money isn't the problem, but sometimes coming up with the right combination of small bills equaling 4 or 8 dollars to put "in an envelope with his name on it" could be a challenge at 9:00 at night or before school in the morning. There were times when we were out of cash or only had large bills on hand, and we had to resort to IOUs in the piggy bank, shaking out birthday cards or digging through jacket pockets to find the exact tender.

But worse than money are the requests for specific objects, often delivered home in a backpack in the form of a checklist, or sometimes a slip of paper reminiscent of the old birthday party scavenger hunts. I've had to send in single ingredients of recipes, photographs, supplies, even objects of a specified shape. (Ok; what do you have in your house that's shaped like a trapezoid. Think fast!) Kendrea told me of a time when she had to drive to four different craft stores in search of a quantity of chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) in a very specific and obscure color.

Worst of all were the outfits that needed to be pulled together for the themed music class concerts, usually at the last minute because the music teacher is outside of the usual parent-teacher communication loop. Last year the second grade moms were going out of their minds trying to find dinosaur costumes two weeks before Christmas. I remember one time being stumped when Jeffrey announced that he had to dress up like a blow fish. Even further back Tim's class was doing the Pied Piper. I recall that time the note included a helpful hint of "think of Lord of the Rings type styles." Sure, but they had a 285 million dollar budget and eight years to put those movies together, and I had one night and the contents of our closets. I think he looked okay in a pair of rolled-up sweatpants and one of my old maternity tops with a belt. A step above the time my friend Sharon gave up on a swashbuckler theme and sent her son in with a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap.

Even my ultra-creative neighbor Kim, who once made her son an amazing costume of the Solar System for Halloween, was stumped by the direction to turn him into a "crabby cabbage." She actually managed to figure something out with felt or paper leaves or whatever, but then how do you go about making it different from lettuce?

You would think that these types of requests would die down when the kids moved out of elementary school, but no. Last Spring I found myself rushing out to buy FOUR HUNDRED paper plates to send with Tim to the regional track meet. I still don't know what for.

And on the evening of March 13 Jeffrey declared that he was supposed to bring in a pie to math class. Since it was late baking a pie was out of the question so off I went to the grocery store to spend $7.95 on a stale-looking blueberry tart. It was a cute idea, tying in the idea of pies to pi and 3.14, but I questioned the teacher's own math skills for failing to calculate that there were 5 math classes times 25 kids with pies cut into 8 servings each...equals even more food than even the teacher's lounge could accommodate. Since Jeff had math last hour they were already maxed out so we had stale blueberry tart at home for dinner that night.

This probably isn't a new concern. At least these days we have 24 hour big box convenience stores. I still recall a tense family moment from my childhood when my procrastinating sister announced she needed poster board to complete a school project long after all the stores had closed. You had to stock up on that stuff. Or else!

I'm sure that my stories aren't unusual. What have you had to do at the last minute to fulfill a request to "please send in?"