Just finished reading a book from Michael Crichton called “Timeline” – it was a good one. But then, which Crichton book isn’t, really? From the sleeve:

In an Arizona desert a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within 24 hours he is dead, his body switftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival – six hundred years ago.

So, a book on time travel, sort of. This company develops the ability to visit past ‘universes’ using the theories of quantam mechanics and sends this group of people back to 1357 France, of all places. I won’t write a spoiler on the book – however there was one part that I found humerous that I thought I’d share.

This corporation is planning on marketing the past – with the spin on it that our modern world is not authetic since we live in the days of plastic surgery – fake reality on television – politicians who will say/do anything to get elected . . . the marketing spin is that the general public wants to go back to something real and authentic. So they bring you the past. They were working on a PR slideshow to show to investors – so they sent a group of PR execs. into the past to videotape some well known historical events:

The screen showed a gray, gloomy image, overhanging clouds. the camera panned to show some sort of gathering, shot over the heads of a large crowd. A tall man was climbing up onto a plain, unpainted wood platform.

“What is this, a hanging?”

“No,” the media kid said. “That’s Abraham Lincoln, about to deliver the Gettysburg Address.”

“It is? Jesus he looks like hell. He looks like a corpse, all wrinkled and pale. Is that his voice? It sounds squeaky!”

“Well, no one’s ever heard his voice before . . ”

“Are you out of your mind? No one wants to hear Abraham Lincoln sounding like Mickey Mouse!”

“…Well, let’s look at the second video. We wanted to get a real famous event tha teverybody would know. This is Christmas Day – 1778, on the Deleware River. I’m afraid it’s a bit dark. It’s a night crossing. But we thought George Washington crossing the Deleware would be a good . . . ”

“George Washington? Where?”

“He’s there . . in the boat”

“That huddled mass laying in the back of the boat is George Washington?”

“Well, yes”

“No No NO! If we’re going to sell this thing – he has to be standing in the front of the boat looking like a General!”

“I know that’s the way the paintings portray him . . but, in reality . . ”

“FUCK reality – What’s the matter with you people? I don’t care about reality! I want something intriguing, something sexy and you people are showing me a walking corpse who talkes like Mickey Mouse and a drowned rat in a boat!”

Ever wonder how much of history has been ‘spun’ to fit an image? Probably a very large part of it. I found this passage amusing. Ever think of where you’d go if you had the chance to travel back in time? If it were possible?

I know where I’d go. I head straight to ancient Egypt – as fascinated as I am with the ancient Egyptians . . . plus, I’d really like to know how they built those pyramids.

But then – I’d like to know who shot JFK, too. And how did those stones get to stonehenge, anyways? Did Betsy Ross really make this nation’s first flag? Pearl Harbor – did FDR know in advance? Was the Apollo Moon landing a total fake? Is there a different story behind Princess Diana’s death?

Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall of history? If only to put some conspiracy theorists in their place . . . or have them put you in yours. 😉

You see what insomnia does to me?

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14 thoughts on “Timeline”

  1. Oh, my! I’d certainly look for some sleep aids if I were you… your insomnia seems to be creeping slowly toward the paranoia side of things!

    Several of the things you cite as mysteries have pretty factual backgrounds that are now “known” as best anything can be known. The stones for Stonehenge, for instance. They do know where the several types came from (chemical analysis), they do know that they were transported by boat (sunken boat with stone) part of the way. The hauling from the nearest river was probably done the old fashioned way: grunt labor.

    Betsy Ross? Depends on what you mean by “make”. And “first”. We do know, through records, that she didn’t design it. We do know, through records, that she got into the flag-making game a little late. We know (from flags in museums) that other American flags were in existence, made by hand, before she started making them. But she did make flags and hers is the “first” with a bill of sale attached.

    Kennedy? It’s completely settled by my standards of evidence. And my version matches the original Warren Commission. I blame Oliver Stone for muddying the waters most recently.

    FDR and Pearl Harbor? Not according to any real history books.

    The construction of the Pyramids, though, is a pretty good one. The Colossus of Rhodes, too, strikes me as an engineering marvel. How did they get a statue to span the entrance to a harbor? That means getting an arch over a waterway that was considerably greater than any of the Roman bridges that still exist.

    And how about migration patterns to the Americas? Was it exclusively through the northern passage (now the Bering Straits), or were there oceanic passages as well?

    Or languages: where did they originate and when? What’s the deal with Basque and Ainu?

  2. If I could travel back – it would be to suggest to a young Michael Bolton that his voice was terrible and working at the drycleaners would be a really good idea.

  3. .. this all reminds me of a story I heard once about Washington crossing the Deleware.. supposedly, after crossing, he threw a coin in the river, and said a prayer…

    …but, in reality, he was in the boat with Henry Knox (his chief of artillery, I think).. who was incredibly fat – and also seated in front of him… anyway, being that the river was freezing, no one wanted to get wet.. they were in a rowboat, after all… so, according to witnesses, Washington’s first words after crossing were basically directed at Mr. Knox..

    … “shift that fat ass, Harry, but shift it slow, or we’ll all get wet”….

  4. I really liked the book too. I thought it read like it would make a good movie, so I watched it. Now if only I could travel through time to stop myself from watching the movie… :shock::shock::shock:
    (It’s not really that bad, it’s actually worse than you could imagine it being.)

  5. Well I haven’t read the book, but I saw the movie (which doesn’t include any of this “PR” stuff…it’s just about them going back in time to save their professor, etc, etc. My wife and I enjoyed the movie but now I may have to track down the book if it’s really that much better.

  6. For your next bout of insomnia, check out Chris Buckley’s No Way to Treat a First Lady (or anything else he wrote since he’s absolutely hilarious!). From Amazon…
    “The novel opens with the President of the United States returning to the conjugal bed after an illicit Lincoln Bedroom romp with the Streisandesque Babette Van Anka. His wife, the long-suffering Beth McMann, promptly clocks him with a Paul Revere spittoon. Several hours later he dies. “Lady Bethmac,” as the First Lady is immediately dubbed by the media, is put on trial, and the resulting media circus gives Buckley lots of opportunity for nicely observed skewerings of legal culture.”.

  7. Just heard about Crichton’s new book, State of Fear. This one sounds like a lot of fun with Crichton taking on junk science. I guess when he was on Today he even told Matt Lauer that he questioned global warming. I’m not a huge Crichton fan, but this one’s definitely on my want list!

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