This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #371, on the subject of The Twenty-Twenty Twenty/Twenty.
I believe the correct greeting is Happy New Year, as we enter 2021. That means it is time for us to look back at everything that we published in 2020.
The big deal is the book, in paperback and Kindle format, Why I Believe, a compilation of evidence on the basis of which intelligent people believe in God and in Jesus Christ. I’m told the hardcover version is out, joining the paperback and Kindle versions, but haven’t seen it yet.
The year began, appropriately, on January 1st with a look back at the previous year, web log post #325: The 2019 Recap, doing then what we are doing now, providing a quick look at everything from the previous dozen months.
On the first of the year I also published a song, the first of a dozen continuing from the seven of the previous year:
That series continues with another song later today.
On the subject of series, there are several others, including both the Faith in Play and RPG-ology monthly series at the Christian Gamers Guild. These are both indexed, along with other excellent material from other contributing authors, at 2020 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, posted yesterday. Thanks to the editorial staff of the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, a large collection of the original Game Ideas Unlimited articles, thought to be lost when Gaming Outpost closed, have been recovered and are now appearing slightly repolished in these series. (Quite a few of them plus other articles have been translated into French for their site.) We also finished posting the rest of the novel Versers Versus Versers, along with updated character sheets in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages, and started on the seventh, Re Verse All, which will continue well into the new year. There were quite a few behind-the-writings web log posts connected to those, but they are indexed in the novel table of contents pages so we won’t burden this entry with them.
There was also the continuation of another series, reminiscences on the history of Christian contemporary and rock music from the early 1980s, which picked up with:
I should mention for the time travel fans that there is indeed a book in the works, possibly with a sequel, but it’s still in the early stages so that’s on the list for the coming year. Meanwhile, temporal anomalies were not ignored, as we had several posts and pages.
Toward a Time Travel Book, presenting the contents page from the first very rough draft of the promised temporal anomalies book.
Among the miscellaneous posts this year is one about the fact that my work appears under several slightly different names–Mark, Mark J., M. Joseph, M. J., and Mark Joseph–and the story behind that is explained in web log post #331: What’s With the Names? A musician asked a question on a Facebook group, which I answered in web log post #352: Why No One Cares About Your Songs.
Giving extra confusion to the year, in February my second grandchild, my first grandson, was born, roughly a decade or so after his half-sister. That was the beginning of a saga that still is not completely resolved, but it was several months before he came home, in time for Halloween.
My book reading slowed drastically, due largely to the fact that my Kindle was smashed and I’ve been trying to get it repaired, but there are a few book reviews (one of a book on writing) at Goodreads. Also appearing are two republished book reviews, as web log posts #351: In re: Evil Star and #368: In re: Cry of the Icemark, recovered from the lost Gaming Outpost archives.
The year ahead looks promising. There should be another song posted today, with Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles already queued for publication later this month and well into the year ahead, chapters of the novel Re Verse All with their accompanying behind-the-writings peeks standing by, more CCM history, some time travel movies awaiting my attention, and–well, we’ll have to see what appears. Meanwhile, this is your opportunity to catch anything you missed or re-read anything you forgot.
I would be remiss if I did not thank those who have supported me through Patreon and PayPal.me, and to invite and encourage others to do so. The Patreon web log is the first place where all new pages are announced, and the place to go for glimpses of what is to come, and even as little as a dollar a month helps me immensely and gets you that information delivered several times a week. Thank you.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #348, on the subject of Temporal Thoughts on A.R.Q..
This was running on Netflix, and it appeared to have a time travel element, so I put it on my list of movies to watch and possibly analyze. The blurb, though, suggested it was yet another Groundhog Day clone, people caught in a time loop, and as temporal anomalies go time loops are pretty boring. However, a time travel fan sent me a Messenger message suggesting that it was worth watching, so I grabbed my pad and pen and started watching. My notes cover maybe the first half of the movie before I gave up on them.
For what it’s worth, it’s a decent action film with quite a few twists; this is not a full analysis and I have attempted to keep the reveals minimal. I immediately recognized lead figure Robbie Amell as Renton from his role in When We First Met where he played heartthrob Ethan; he was also Stephen Jameson in The Tomorrow People and Ronnie Raymond in The Flash, so by now he was a familiar face to sci-fi/fantasy fans. The action begins immediately, as Renton awakens to see that the clock says 6:16, the girl whose name we eventually learn is Hannah is sleeping next to him, and suddenly the door bursts open and masked men come through, grab Renton and drag him out, there is a scuffle in which Renton falls down the stairs and hits his head, and he awakens back in bed at 6:16 with Hannah lying beside him.
Unlike Groundhog Day, more like 12:01, we gradually learn why time is looping. It has something to do with the Arcing Recursive Quine, A.R.Q., which is usually referenced as the Ark or Arc. Working for a massive corporation called Torus, Renton, an engineer, invented something he thinks is a perpetual motion machine that produces excess power. For what it’s worth, I conceived of the same device when I was in junior high, and when my father pointed out that that was what I had described it was obvious that it wouldn’t work. His doesn’t actually work, either, but he doesn’t know it yet, and neither does Torus, who wants it back. Torus is engaged in something called the Energy Wars, their chief adversary being The Bloc. Renton has it up and running in his garage, monitored by a multi-screen computer system. He booby-trapped it with an electric charge, and at 6:16 in the morning a member of the team that had come to find it touched it, was killed by the electrical charge, and created the front end of the time loop.
The machine has a motor driven by batteries which are recharged by a generator turned by the motor. It’s probably not as simple as that, but they figure out that the loop resets at 9:25 because for some reason the batteries fail. They know that the loop resets consistently at 9:25 because for some reason which the movie ignores the computer is recording the activity of the machine as it goes through every loop, showing that it runs from 6:16 to 9:25 and then again runs from 6:16 to 9:25, repeatedly. Why the computer’s memory is not erased when everyone else’s is (and the computer remembers more iterations than Renton) is not addressed. Further, it appears that the loop has been happening thousands of times, so it is remarkable that the computer’s memory has not overflowed. Presumably eventually it will.
The second time we see that it is 6:16, Renton is the only one aware of it. He goes through the beginning of the day several times, each time learning more including the first big twist, and each time being killed one way or another, usually shot. Then suddenly, and perhaps not entirely inexplicably, Hannah awakens aware of what had happened in the previous iteration–only the one, but from that point forward she is aware of each repeat of the loop. That means that the two of them are now working to make it different, as they uncover additional twists.
Renton and Hannah are arguing about what they need to do, as Hannah wants to give the machine to the Bloc so they have a chance to defeat Torus, and Renton wants to take the machine and run, or barring that to destroy it so that no one will have it. Their options become more limited when someone they have identified as a Torus mercenary infiltrator (plot twist) in the team becomes the third person aware of the loop. Now three people are trying to change events as the loop unfolds, each aware of what happened in some of the previous loops.
We are ultimately told that the loop is localized to the house, but we don’t learn from that what’s happening in the rest of the world. In fact, in the early iterations we hear the same television broadcast several times, so we don’t know whether somehow time outside has frozen and the broadcast repeats because it played in the first iteration, or whether the idea that the loop is spatially limited is wrong and the broadcast is repeating, or whether something else has happened out there. In several of the iterations the villain calls in a strike team from the company, and in at least one, probably more than one, it arrives, so time within and outside the circle must be connected.
There is a problem that in one of the later loops Renton and Hannah discover a recording they sent to themselves that they do not remember having made, which they later do make to send to themselves. This is inconsistent with the temporal loop scenario unless they made it in an earlier iteration that they don’t remember, and the content of the message really could only have come from their memories of the loop.
Both sides develop the interesting strategy of escaping a losing situation by permitting themselves to be killed so that when the time expires they will get another try at it. They reach the conclusion that if they turn off the machine time will continue past 9:25, but only Renton knows how to turn off the machine.
The film ends with another unexplained temporal twist, and the loop continues reminiscent of Triangle.
It is indeed a compelling action movie with several excellent plot twists, and despite the fact that the morning is repeating the viewer rarely knows what will happen next. I wouldn’t recommend it for the time travel elements, but it’s an enjoyable film well done overall.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #325, on the subject of The 2019 Recap.
Happy New Year to you. A year ago I continued the tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #278: The 2018 Recap. I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable, so that if you missed something you can find it, or if you vaguely remember something you want to read again you can hunt it down. Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.
For example, that day also saw the publication of the first Faith in Play article of the year, but all twelve of those plus the dozen RPG-ology series articles are listed, described, and linked in 2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, published yesterday. There’s some good game stuff there in addition to some good Bible stuff, including links to some articles by other talented gaming writers, and a couple contributions involving me one way or another that were not parts of either series. Also CGG-related, I finished the Bible study on Revelation and began John in January; we’re still working through John, but thanks to a late-in-the-year problem with Yahoo!Groups that had been hosting us we had to move everything to Groups.IO, and I haven’t managed to fix all the important links yet.
At that point we were also about a quarter of the way through the novel Garden of Versers as we posted a Robert Slade chapter that same day, but that entire novel is indexed there, along with links to the web log posts giving background on the writing process. In October we launched the sixth novel, Versers Versus Versers, which is heating up in three chapters a week, again indexed along with behind-the-writings posts there, and it will continue in the new year. There are also links to the support pages, character sheets for the major protagonists and a few antagonists in the stories. Also related to the novels, in October I invited reader input on which characters should be the focus of the seventh, in #318: Toward a Seventh Multiverser Novel.
The first one after the recap of the previous year was an answer to a personal question asked impersonally on a public forum: how did I know I was called to writing and composing? The answer is found in web log post #279: My Journey to Becoming a Writer.
I had already begun a miniseries on the Christian contemporary and rock music of the seventies and early eighties–the time when I was working at the radio station and what I remembered from before that. That series continued (and hopefully will continue this year) with:
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it is evident that the music dominated the web log this year. In May I was invited to a sort of conference/convention in Nashville, which I attended and from which I benefited significantly. I wrote about that in web log post #297: An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session. While there I talked to several persons in the Christian music industry, and one of them advised me to found my own publishing company and publish my songs. After considerable consideration I recognized that I have no skills for business, but I could put the songs out there, and so I began with a sort of song-of-the-month miniseries, the first seven songs posted this year:
I admit that I have to some degree soured on law and politics. Polarization has gotten so bad that moderates are regarded enemies by the extremists on both sides. However, I tackled a few Supreme Court cases, some issues in taxes including tariffs, a couple election articles, and a couple of recurring issues:
I was hospitalized more than once this year, but the big one was right near the beginning when the emergency room informed me that that pain was a myocardial infarction–in the vernacular, a heart attack. Many of you supported me in many ways, and so I offered web log post #285: An Expression of Gratitude.
Most of the game-related material went to the RPG-ology series mentioned at the beginning of this article, and you should visit that index for those. I did include one role playing game article here as web log post #303: A Nightmare Game World, a very strange scenario from a dream.
So that’s pretty much what I wrote this year, not counting the fact that I’m working on the second edition of Multiverser, looking for a publisher for a book entitled Why I Believe, and continuing to produce the material to continue the ongoing series into the new year. We’ll do this again in a dozen months.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.
A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219: A 2017 Retrospective. I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable. Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.
For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters). We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link. Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site. That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent. It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.
Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.
Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me. If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.
Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.
#220: The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.
#221: Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.
#247: The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.
#251: Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.
#274: Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.
One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224: Religious Politics.
Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233: Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245: Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267: A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.
A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.
So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts). In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.
Again, your support through Patreon or PayPal.me helps make all of it possible. Thank you for your support and encouragement.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #227, on the subject of Toward Better Subtitles.
Decades ago I saw a joke birthday card. On the face it raved about how it was the first perfect birthday card, designed and printed entirely by a computer so nothing could possibly go wrong. Inside, it said in Courier Block lettering, MERRY CHRISTMAS.
It came to mind recently because I have come to watch television with the subtitles activated so that if somehow I miss what someone says I can read it and keep up, and sometimes they can be rather silly. In a recent time travel movie I analyzed, Paradox, one of the characters at one point asks what it is they are seeing, and another reasonably clearly says, “Quark gluon,” but the person writing the subtitles apparently had insufficient education in advanced particle physics to recognize those as words, and so subtitled it “[Speaks Indistinct]”. My wife recently reported watching a British mystery series and seeing the name “Wetherington Perish Church” as the local parish church.
The reason I thought of the birthday card is upon reading some of these I began to wonder whether someone was experimenting with speech-to-text software, feeding the soundtrack into a computer and getting it to figure out what everyone is saying. I somehow doubt it–speech-to-text software has its limitations, but some of the mistakes I’ve seen could only be made by a human. The kind of mistakes I see strongly suggest that someone is sitting at a keyboard listening to the soundtrack and typing what they hear, and that no one is proofreading the finished product. Yet it strikes me that the people who do these subtitles are missing an obvious aid in their efforts.
I once watched an excellent Spanish-language time travel move, Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes, which was both subtitled and dubbed in English, and it was intriguing to me to notice that the subtitles did not always match the dubbing. My conclusion was that the subtitles were probably the more accurate rendering of the original Spanish. My reasoning was that the dubbed text had to be adjusted so that the words we heard in the audience credibly matched the movement of the lips of the speakers, but the subtitles would be a direct English translation of the original Spanish dialogue. Therein lies my solution: use the script.
It wouldn’t work for a lot of programs–news, reality shows, talk shows–but the majority of the television I watch is scripted. The people on the screen aren’t making up their lines; they’ve memorized them (or sometimes are reading them from a teleprompter). The script is available, and given the ubiquity of computers it’s almost certainly available in an electronic file format. So the obvious fix is for those who write the subtitles to start with the script, copy/paste the text into the subtitle program, and then simply adjust it whenever the actor got the line wrong–or not. I often see subtitles in which the actor actually said about twice as many words as the subtitle, but didn’t really change the sense.
This solution seems so obvious to me that I find myself swithering between two conclusions. It may be that the people responsible for the subtitling just aren’t bright enough to realize that they have an available resource for any text of which they are not certain, or to recognize that what they typed can’t possibly be right. On the other hand, maybe the attitude is based on that corollary to the familiar law, Anything not worth doing is not worth doing well. After all, how many of us out here really rely on subtitles? Why spend a bit more time, a bit more money, a bit more effort on getting them right? I’m constantly reading and reviewing books which are poorly edited; should I expect better of television and movies? Does the subtitle audience really matter?
Maybe we don’t–but we aren’t all hard of hearing. Some of us use subtitles because we watch late at night and don’t want the television to be so loud that it disturbs the sleep of others in the house. Some use subtitles because we’re watching at work, such as night security, and we don’t want the noise of the television. Some use subtitles to get past character accents that are sometimes challenging to understand (oh, that’s what she said!). They’re a convenience–but an annoying one when they make stupid mistakes.
I don’t have much influence in the film industry. I write a few articles about time travel in movies, and I’m aware that a few independent film producers have read them, but in the main I’ll probably be ignored. However, it would be nice to have the subtitles match the dialogue, or at least accurately represent it, especially if the people typing them can’t understand what the actors are saying–that, after all, is when many of us most need to have the written form. So here’s hoping that those who provide the subtitles can do a bit better for those of us who use them.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #219, on the subject of A 2017 Retrospective.
A year ago, plus a couple days, on the last day of 2016 we posted web log post #150: 2016 Retrospective. We are a couple days into the new year but have not yet posted anything new this year, so we’ll take a look at what was posted in 2017.
That’s apart from the Chaplain’s Bible Study posts, where we finished the three Johannine epistles and Jude and have gotten about a third of the way through Revelation. There have also been Musings posts on the weekends.
Over at Goodreads I’ve reviewed quite a few books.
Our Law and Politics articles considered several Supreme Court cases, beginning with a preliminary look at #156: A New Slant on Offensive Trademarks, the trademark case brought by Asian rock band The Slants and how it potentially impacts trademark law. The resolution of this case was also covered in #194: Slanting in Favor of Free Speech, reporting the favorable outcome of The Slant’s trademark dispute, plus the Packingham case regarding laws preventing sex offenders from accessing social networking sites.
We presumed to make a suggestion #159: To Compassion International, recommending a means for the charitable organization to continue delivering aid to impoverished children in India in the face of new legal obstacles. We also had some words for PETA in #162: Furry Thinking, as PETA criticized Games Workshop for putting plastic fur on its miniatures and we discuss the fundamental concepts behind human treatment of animals.
We also talked about discrimination, including discriminatory awards programs #166: A Ghetto of Our Own, awards targeted to the best of a particular racial group, based on similar awards for Christian musicians; #207: The Gender Identity Trap, observing that the notion that someone is a different gender on the inside than his or her sex on the outside is confusing cultural expectations with reality, and #212: Gender Subjectivity, continuing that discussion with consideration of how someone can know that they feel like somthing they have never been. #217: The Sexual Harassment Scandal, addressed the recent explosion of sexual harassment allegations.
We recalled a lesson in legislative decision-making with #182: Emotionalism and Science, the story of Tris in flame-retardant infant clothing, and the warning against solutions that have not been considered for their other effects. We further discussed #200: Confederates, connecting what the Confederacy really stood for with modern issues; and #203: Electoral College End Run, opposing the notion of bypassing the Constitutional means of selecting a President by having States pass laws assigning their Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
2017 also saw the publication of the entirety of the third Multiversernovel, For Better or Verse, along with a dozen web log posts looking behind the writing process, which are all indexed in that table of contents page. There were also updated character papers for major and some supporting characters in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages section, and before the year ended we began releasing the fourth novel, serialized, Spy Verses, with the first of its behind-the-writings posts, #218: Versers Resume, with individual sections for the first twenty-one chapters.
I launched a new set of forums, and announced them in #197: Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums, officially opening the forum section of the web site. Unfortunately I announced them four days before landing in the hospital for the first of three summer hospitalizations–of the sixty-two days comprising July and August this year, I spent thirty-one of them in one or another of three hospitals, putting a serious dent in my writing time. I have not yet managed to refocus on those forums, for which I blame my own post-surgical life complications and those of my wife, who also spent a significant stretch of time hospitalized and in post-hospitalization rehabilitation, and in extended recovery. Again I express my gratitude for the prayers and other support of those who brought us through these difficulties, which are hopefully nearing an end.
Which is to say, I expect to offer you more in the coming year. The fourth novel is already being posted, and a fifth Multiverser novel is being written in collaboration with a promising young author. There are a few time travel movies available on Netflix, which I hope to be able to analyze soon. There are a stack of intriguing Supreme Court cases for which I am trying to await the resolutions. Your continued support as readers–and as Patreon and PayPal.me contributors–will bring these to realization.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #206, on the subject of Temporal Thoughts on Colkatay Columbus.
I realized that the premise of this movie was absurd enough that it was probably not going to be a serious time travel film. Found on Netflix, the blurb simply said that Christopher Columbus arrives in Kolkata, India in the present, where two young men seek his advice in their own searches for success.
What was not evident, though, was that the movie itself was not intended to be absurd nor even comedic, and it might not involve time travel at all. It is an Indian movie, viewed with subtitles.
Apart from the intrepid explorer himself, who plays a significant role in the story, our primary characters are called Sam and Ray.
Sam has a longer more ethnic name, but he shortened it and cut all ties with his family eight years before the story opens. He is reasonably successful as a radio disk jockey (an “RJ” in the parlance of the film), but wants to be a musical recording artist. To this end, he has begun dating an entirely self-absorbed girl solely because her father is wealthy enough to finance the production of an album for him–despite the fact that he has a very close relationship with a girl who adores him.
Ray is a corporate office worker who writes short stories in what little spare time he has, and wants to succeed as a writer, but with mixed objectives he also wants a promotion up the corporate ladder. His complication is that he is clearly attracted to a girl who is his superior, perhaps supervisor, in the company, and she to him, but although he would like to pursue a relationship he is too concerned about persuading her to pull some strings to get him promoted.
One day the two young men are riding in the back seat of a car driven by one of their friends when they almost hit a man, maybe sixty or so from appearance, dressed in Italian Renaissance clothing. They are curious and engage him in conversation, and he claims to be Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America, or at least of quite a few islands off its coast. Then when he swoons (and hey, wearing all that heavy warm clothing in India, it’s surprising he lasted as long as he did) they catch him, bundle him into their car, and then debate whether to take him to a hospital or take him to their home to see if he can help them find success.
That is certainly the theme of the film, that everyone is exploring, searching for something. Columbus believes himself to be the greatest explorer, and wants to help people find what they seek, so he becomes involved in advising the boys on reaching their goals. It is genuinely interesting, if you aren’t stymied by the slow pace, but it is not the point of our investigation.
At this point we have three plausible understandings of who this person might be. He might, of course, be some crazy person who believes himself to be Christopher Columbus, memorized much of his history from available sources such as Wikipedia, and dresses and acts the part. He might be the real Christopher Columbus, rumors of his death having been greatly exaggerated, still alive half a millennium later. He might be the real Christopher Columbus leaping across time to the present.
When the film is rising to its climax the first of those is knocked out of consideration, as fifteenth century Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz (first man to navigate around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by water) shows up at the apartment looking for Columbus, saying that the latter gave him the address and asked him to bring a hammock so he could sleep better. It appears that they are genuinely who they claim to be, despite the weak explanations for their fluency in the local language and somewhat native appearance.
However, Diaz explains that he has been living in South Africa in recent years, along with Gandhi, and that suggests that they are not time travelers at all. They simply are the continuations of their original selves from years before, still alive after their deaths.
That may be the significance here. In the closing scene, two other young men are asked for help by someone in a military uniform who claims his motorcycle broke down and gives his name as Che Guevara. In some way, these famous people are still around.
There might be a clue to the author’s intent in the fact that a couple times characters engage in tossing quotations from famous people at each other. One even comments that if you become famous, silly little things you said become famous quotes. There is thus a sense in which those famous people are still with us, still influencing us, still in some sense alive in our midst, having a sort of immortality that is manifest within the movie by their corporeal presence.
I had some concern that at some point Columbus might return to the past. Indeed, there is pressure on him to “go back”. However, he only returns to his ship, and we can reasonably conclude that he does not travel through time in any way different from the rest of us, he only has continued to do so for five centuries beyond when we thought he died.
So despite the notion of Christopher Columbus appearing in the early twenty-first century, there is no time travel in this one.
I appear to have access to copies of Paradox, Synchronicity, The Man from the Future, and Abby Sen, all of which have strong claims to containing time travel elements. Watch for posts, either here on the web log or as full page analyses in the Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies section of the site.
This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #201, on the subject of The Grandfather Paradox Solution.
I sent birthday greetings to a time travel fan on Facebook–one who deserves special mention, as he has provided copies of several time travel movies analyzed on our Temporal Anomalies site–and in response received a discussion of a time travel issue. I would have said that this is addressed already on the site, but I recognize that the site has become unwieldy in some ways and it’s difficult to find, let alone absorb, it all. I have edited his comments for space, and added links to references on the site for those who are uncertain of the terminology.
I’ve been thinking about Niven’s Law (ie the popular “if you change it in the past it stays changed even if you undo the time travel” version).
Here’s the thing–without it, it seems to me that things work by magic. Let’s use the old example of going back and killing my grandfather as a child.
Replacement theory is where it gets interesting (of course). Let’s first postulate that I’m not going back to kill Granddad. Let’s say instead that I’d discovered in talking to other people that there was some sort of childhood toy in my granddad’s house…that was extremely rare, and if I went back and got it I could sell it for a fortune in the future….Unfortunately while I’m back in the past I interrupt a burglar, he shoots at me and misses but kills my granddad who was hiding behind the couch watching this armed burglar tussle with me….
So…I haven’t erased my motivation for going back. However, obviously if I never exist, I can’t go back, which means that I won’t interrupt the burglar, which means he won’t shoot….
But what exactly happens? What does the burglar see? Does he just see me vanish into thin air? That’s what I mean–there’s no real known phenomena that would cause that. And in fact he wouldn’t see it anyway, because the whole idea is that I could never have been there in the 1st place.
I think in reality, if time travel is possible at all…either Niven’s Law must exist or else something like Hawking’s Conjecture must be true (the one where he says that you will be physically unable to successfully perform any actions that would create a paradox…). I find the Conjecture even less likely (it pretty much falls under your “God won’t let it happen” thing).
Mind you that doesn’t get off the hook with “uncaused causes“. There’s no perfect answers. It just always seemed weird to me that things could magically change just because I remove the reason for the change.
This happens to be exactly the problem that is resolved by the standard concept of the infinity loop, two histories each of which causes the other. My reader has missed this, falling into the notion presented by other time travel stories, perhaps most notoriously the ending of The Philadelphia Experiment II, in which the death of the childless father causes the son, a moment later, to dissolve into non-existence. The reality postulated by the theory is much less complicated.
The postulated problem suggests that when I travel to the past I accidentally cause the death of my own grandfather. The questioner then wonders whether I flicker out of existence, but recognizes that the problem is more complicated, that in fact if I never existed I never made the trip to the past and the burglar never shot at me. That, though, means he never killed my grandfather, and I am able to make the trip to the past. This much the question recognizes; it then gets caught in trying to make both versions of time real simultaneously, as if the death of my grandfather means that I must immediately vanish. This fails to grasp the significance of causal chains, which we will here review.
In all of our science, we have causal chains: A causes B, B causes C. If B does not happen, C does not happen, because C only happens if caused by B; similarly, B only happens if caused by A, so if we prevent A, we prevent B, and in so doing we also prevent C. This is simple for us in most situations, because of two “rules” that have always applied to everything we have observed. One is that causes and effects have always happened in temporal sequence, that is, A happens before B and B before C even if only infinitessimally (the hammer strikes the firing pin which compresses and ignites the gunpowder which drives the bullet out of the shell, all in a fraction of a second but that fraction divided into sequential fractions). The other is that once a cause has brought about an effect we are unable to remove the cause.
Time travel erases both of those rules, and therein lies our confusions.
In the present circumstance, the original history has Burglar invading Grandfather’s house, observed perhaps by grandfather but otherwise unmolested. Decades pass and Traveler learns of the valuable toy in Grandfather’s attic. Having access to a time machine, he travels to a time when he believes he can obtain the toy without changing anything significant in history.
There is an issue here which is not addressed in the problem: we do not know how Traveler became aware of the presence of the toy in the attic, but if he removes it too soon he might well break the chain of information such that he does not know about the toy. For example, if his information about the toy comes from the estate sale records, the toy will not be listed there once he has removed it. However, our theorist having been careful on all other points, we will assume that Traveler got the information through a source that predates his effort to steal the toy.
He arrives in the past, and interrupts Burglar, who in attempting to kill him accidentally kills Grandfather. There are scores of steps in this causal chain, but simplifying it we have A: Traveler travels to the past; B: Traveler interferes with Burglar; and C: Burglar kills Grandfather.
However, there was a causal chain in the original history in which Grandfather sired Father who sired Traveler, who eventually left for the past. Our logic problem recognizes that because Grandfather is now prematurely dead, Father will never be born, and Traveler in turn will never be born. It is precisely because the original causal chain has been disrupted that Traveler is never born–there is nothing magical about that, and no one imagines that it is. We understand completely that if you remove the cause of an effect, the effect never happens; if you kill someone’s grandfather before he has children, the grandchild is never born.
Yet exactly the same rule applies at the other end. If Traveler is never born, he never makes the trip to the past, which means A: Traveler travels to the past never happens. Since A is the cause of B: Traveler interferes with Burglar, B never happens, and since B never happens, C: Burglar kills grandfather, also never happens. If it applies to the A-B-C sequence that is Grandfather sires Father, Father sires Traveler, then it also applies equally to the A-B-C sequence Traveler travels to the past, Traveler interferes with Burglar, Burglar kills Grandfather. The removal of the cause A undoes the effects B and C.
We balk at this because what we perceive as inaction in the future is becoming a cause of a change in the past, and we feel as if whether or not the past can be changed it can only be changed by someone traveling to the past. However, if we look at it a different way, it might become clearer. If I know that Gary traveled to the past, leaving tomorrow, and that what he changed altered history in a disastrous way, in theory I might attempt to travel to the past and prevent him from making that mistake, but could I not just as easily act to prevent him from making the disastrous trip? (I admit that this would cause an infinity loop, but the point is only that preventing the trip to the past will prevent the changes to the past just as surely as traveling to the past to do so would.) At the same time, we are mistaken to think of “not traveling to the past” as inaction. It is much more properly different action, and different action becomes a different cause that has a different effect. Further, since the effect B which is the cause of the effect C is itself the effect of A, if A is undone–if Traveler does not go to the past–then B is also undone–Traveler does not interfere with Burglar–and C is in turn undone–Grandfather is not killed.
But we return to what it is that Burglar experiences when his stray bullet kills Grandfather, theoretically undoing the existence of Traveler.
I admit that it is plausible that this event will cause time to unravel entirely, and the universe will cease to exist. I think, though, that this is a bit extreme, and further it seems to require that the universe “knows” that history has changed in an irreconcilable way. I don’t think the universe can know anything of the sort–for the universe, despite the fact that someone arrived from the future and became a new cause, this is the first time through these events, and as far as the universe “knows” (if it can be said to “know” anything in any sense), this is the history that exists. It does not “know” that the man who just died is the grandfather, and thus the necessary cause of the life, of the Traveler who incidentally caused his death. It has to “discover” that by playing through the events which follow.
There is thus an interweaving of two histories, in a sense. Traveler comes from a universe in which Grandfather had a child. The history of the universe is being rewritten, event by event, cause by cause, moment by moment, but it has not been rewritten yet. Since under replacement theory there is ultimately only one history of the universe, each moment that is created erases and replaces the moment that was the same time in the other history. That means the cause of Traveler’s presence in the past, cause A, has not yet been erased, and so Traveler still exists in the past even while his history is being erased and rewritten.
Ultimately the moment comes when cause A needs to happen in order for effect B, in the past, to be supported. If we had an N-jump, that would happen. To use our example modified, there was no Burglar, Traveler successfully collected the toy and stored it in a place where he could recover it in the future, and returned to the future without significantly altering the past. Thus as the moment of his departure approaches he is the same person planning the same trip, and at the right moment he does so, cause A creating effect B, his arrival in the past. This creates a stable history, and we have a sort of diverging hiccough: because traveler leaves for the past on schedule, time continues into the future based on the history Traveler created and now confirmed.
However, with Burglar in the mix, we know that Grandfather died and Traveler was never born. That means cause A never happens, and effect B never happens–we already know what happens if no time traveler arrives from the future, because that was the original history. Burglar passes through the house unmolested, Grandfather survives to sire Father who sires Traveler. That results in Traveler making the trip, creating the other history.
In no history does anyone simply disappear. In no history does something inexplicably change without cause. The difference between the original history and the altered history is that in the altered history someone arrives from the future and introduces causes that create a different set of events leading to its own undoing, while in the original history no one arrives from the future and so events follow the undisturbed path of events to the moment when someone decides to change them.
I should note that in all of this we experience the changes at the speed of time. There is a sense in which at the instant Grandfather dies, Traveler ceases ever to have existed–but that only happens because of the intervening causes and effects which fail to bring him to life. We experience those events at the speed of time; using time travel we presumably could skip ahead to the outcomes in the future. That, though, means that in some sense all of those events happen instantaneously–and as I have suggested in The Spreadsheet Illustration, it can be understood as all happening simultaneously–it is Einstein who said that time exists so that everything would not happen at once, but if the nature of time is such that time travel is possible, the reality is that everything does happen “at once”, and time exists so that we can experience the causal chains in the order in which events cause each other. So in that sense the moment Burglar kills Grandfather, Traveler ceases to exist, but his non-existence can only be discovered by following the causal chain to the moment when he fails to arrive in the past.
I hope this clarifies the problem and the solution. I should mention that we previously addressed the matter in relation to a supposed “multiverse” solution in web log post #81: The Grandfather Paradox Problem just over a year ago.
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This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #197, on the subject of Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums.
Once upon a time, what now seems a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there were forums at Gaming Outpost.
Well, there were forums almost everywhere, but the ones at Gaming Outpost were significant, big deal forums in the gaming world for a while, and then not so much but still important to me and to many of those who read my work and played Multiverser. They were probably then the most reliable way to reach me, and there were plenty of discussions, not to mention quite a few games played, on those forums.
Then they crashed, and all of that was lost.
I can’t promise that this won’t happen to these new forums, but we’re going to make an effort, with the help of our Patreon and PayPal.me supporters, to keep them up and running, and to pay attention to what is posted here.
I arranged the forums in alphabetical order; I was going to arrange them in reverse alphabetical order, because I have always hated being the last in line for everything, but as I installed them the software put the next one on top, and although I could see how to resequence them, I realized that that would put Bible and Theology on the bottom, and while I’m not a stickler for silly formalities I could see that some people would object to that, more so than anyone would object to any other forum being at the bottom. It is probably appropriate that it is on top. The forum categories correspond roughly to the web log main topics, with a few tweaks and additions.
I long wished for a place to discuss time travel and time travel movies, and that’s there now. I don’t expect most of the discussions will wind up here, but perhaps at least some will, and that will make it worthwhile. I’ve also made a home for discussions of the Christian Gamers Guild Faith and Gaming series, and for the upcoming (this December) Faith in Play and RPG-ology series there. There are music and ministry sections, space for logic problems discussions, law and politics pages, space for games, and a place to discuss my books, if anyone is interested in any of those topics.
I have also added a Multiverser game play forum. I have in the past been overwhelmed by the number of players who wanted to play, even with my rule that I would only post one time per day to any game thread and expected players to observe the same courtesy (except for obvious correction posts). Please do not presume that because you want to play Multiverser you can just start a thread and I’ll pick up your game. I will give first priority to people who have played the game with me before, whether live or online, picking up where we were; I will also open the door on an individual basis to people who have wanted to play for a long time but for various reasons have not been able to do so (such as Andrew in South Africa). Beyond that, well, talk to me and I’ll see what kind of time I have–after all, I have no idea how many of my previous players will return, or how much work it’s going to be to get back up to speed on their long-interrupted games.
My thanks to Kyler and Nikolaj, who have already helped me track down some of the bugs and fix them. I’m told that if you are not registered, the link on the top left corner of the page will work, but the one on the top right corner will not–unfortunately, I can neither see either link while logged into the site, nor find how to fix a lot of those problems. But I am working on it, and there is a forum specifically for contacting me about problems, and a link to my Facebook page if you can’t even get as far as that.
I look forward to seeing you.
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This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #169, on the subject of Do Web Logs Lower the Bar?.
I noticed something.
I don’t know whether any of you noticed it, and there is an aspect to it that causes me to hope you did not, to suspect some of you did, and to think that I ought not be calling it to the attention of the rest. But it is worth recognizing, I suppose, even if it is at my own expense to some degree.
What I noticed was that some of the web log posts I publish are not up the the same standard I would expect of my web pages.
Certainly it is the case that some of the web log subjects are what might be called transient. I was quite surprised to see in my stats recently that someone visited the page that covered the 2015 election results for New Jersey. I’m thinking it must have been a mistake. Yet at the time it was important information, even if in another year it won’t even tell you who is in the Assembly, because we’ll have had another election.
It is also the case that being an eclectic sort of web log it is going to have pages that do not appeal to everyone–indeed, probably there are no pages that appeal to everyone. I recently lost one of my Patreon supporters, and that saddens me, but he was the only person contributing as a time travel fan, and was not contributing enough to pay for one DVD per year; I’m sure he is disappointed that I haven’t done more time travel pages, but there has not been that much available to me and the budget has been particularly tight. With pages about law, politics, music, Bible, games, logic problems, and other miscellany, there will certainly be pages that any particular reader would not read. Yet that has always been true of the web site, and although the web log is not quite as conveniently divided into sections it does have navigation aids to help people find what they want.
What I mean, though, is that I don’t seem to apply the same standard to web log pages as I would to web pages.
I suppose that’s to be expected. As I think about it, I recognize that I put a lot more time and thought into articles I am writing for e-zines and web sites that are not my own. I expect more of myself, hold myself to a higher standard, when I am writing such pieces. For one thing, I can’t go back and edit them later–which on my own site I will only do for obvious errors, never for content. For another, something of mine published by someone else should represent the best that I can offer, both for my own reputation and for that of the publisher. If you’re reading my work at RPGNet, or the Christian Gamers Guild, or The Learning Fountain, or any of the many other sites for which I’ve written over the decades, you might not know any more about me than what you find there.
It’s also the case that, frankly, anyone can set up his own web site, fairly cheaply and easily, write his own articles, and publish them for the world to ignore. There is a limited number of opportunities for someone to write for someone else’s site, and to be asked to do so, or permitted to do so, is something of a recognition above the ordinary.
Of course, there are even fewer opportunities to write for print, and fewer now than there once were. Not that you can’t publish your own printed books and comics and magazines, but that those that exist are selective in what they will print, and so the bar is higher.
The web log system makes it quicker and easier to write and publish something. I suspect that there are many bloggers out there who open the software, start typing what they want to say, and hit publish, as if it were an e-mail. I maintain a higher standard than that–all of my web log posts are composed offline, and with the only exceptions being the “breaking news” sort (like the aforementioned election results page) they all get held at least overnight, usually several days, reread and edited and tweaked until I am happy with them. (As I write this, there are two web log posts awaiting publication which have been pending for two days, and I will review this one several times over the time that they go to press.) But even so, the standard of what I will publish as a web log post is considerably lower than that which I will publish as a web page.
In that sense, the web log becomes more like diary, something in which you compose your thoughts and then ignore them–except that this diary is open to the world. I think–I hope–all bloggers put more thought and care into their web log posts than they do into forum conversations and Tweets and Facebook posts. However, while I have read some web log posts that were excellent, I have also read a few that caused me to wonder whether the author was thinking. I try to keep some standard here, but I admit that sometimes I wonder whether I posted something because I thought it was worth posting or because I wanted to keep the blog living and active.
In any case, if you read something here and wonder why I bothered to post it, perhaps now you have a better idea of that.
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A generalist: learning less and less about more and more, one day to know nothing about everything.