Friday, May 24, 2013

Just a Question of Time

I love how people are posting, in dismay: "It'S FAKE?!?!" - From a post in the "Spook Archive" of Snopes.com

Let's see.  Where was I?  Oh, well, whatever it was couldn't have been all that important.

At any rate, I was most amused the other day to see an article concerning the "mystery" of John Titor, the famous time traveler.

Some memes never die.

The first time I heard of the mysterious time traveler was back in 2002 or 2003, right after beginning work at my current employment abode.  A co-worker I shall call Bud (because that's his name; I have no imagination) asked if I had ever heard of John Titor.  I confessed I hadn't.  He allowed that he was surprised since I was so interested in science.  After all, John Titor was a time traveler from 2036 who had returned to pick up an old IBM computer.  The model varied, but in the linked article it's a 5100. It was needed because there was some critical software needed to save society that would only run on this ancient hunk of junk.

Or if you prefer the version in the article, it was because all the computers in his time were eaten up with viruses.

Whatever.

At any rate, back then, I did some digging.  Turns out someone had started posting as this Titor fellow in some Usenet groups in 2000, perhaps a year or two earlier, making dire predictions about the near future.  His initial trip was into the late seventies to pick up the computer, but he stopped off in 2000 for various reasons ranging from problems with the time machine to just a rest stop to visit his little boy self.  His time machine was loaded in a car.  The article says it was a Suburban.  I recall it as a sedan of 1970 or 80's vintage.  At any rate it was just a vehicle to carry his time machine, not the machine itself.  Posted pictures of the device showed it bore an uncanny resemblance to a WW II era military or HAM radio.

A little more digging showed that Titor had, in fact, been ID'd as a guy working at a graphics design outfit, although I don't think he ever owned up.  There was probably more than one person posing as Titor anyway.

What's amazing is not that anyone thought up John Titor.  What's remarkable is that he won't go away.  This Snopes Spook Archive Forum thread has links to three other occasions when people brought up the old Time Traveler canard.  He even has a web site now.  What makes it even more remarkable is that his picture of the future is so gawd-awful dismal.  This isn't the hopeful future of Star Trek, for crying out loud.  This is World War III, which occurs after the American Civil War in 2004 or 2005.

What?  You missed it?  That's what you get if you don't pay attention.

Somehow, Titor managed to make those statements about our time without mentioning 9/11, the space shuttle disasters (he refers to a "space plane"; sorry, doesn't count), the first African-American president (that would have been a bombshell in 2000), or anything else of real significance.  Most of Titor's predictions were of the vague sort that would make the average psychic proud.  One story I saw said Titor predicted the Iraq way, by saying "...the war in the middle East is part of what's to come, not the cause."  The Middle East, of course, has been a source of troubles since, oh say, the Crusades, but particularly since 1948.  In fact, Alas, Babylon blamed the start of the nuclear war on "trouble in the Middle East" or words to that effect. 

So despite failed predictions and a dismal outlook on the future, John Titor refuses to join the junkyard of Internet silliness that includes such gems as The Good Times virus, Mars being as big as the moon, and National Don't Buy Gas Day.  What keeps him going?

I dunno.  Maybe it says something about a society where films like The Terminator and RoboCop among many others with their apocalyptic visions of the future are immensely popular.  In fact, after being around for 13 years or so there's even supposedly a movie in production about ol' John.  We have come to live in society seemingly obsessed with zombies, aliens (the space kind, not the illegal kind, although we're pretty obsessed with those, too), and other doomsday scenarios.  There were really people who sold all their belongings preparing for the rapture or building a bunker waiting for the Mayan Apocalypse.  So what's American society's solution to all of this?  Arm everyone to the teeth.

Herman Melville was right:  "...and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending."

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