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October 25, 2010 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm sure you remember the time-travelling hipster photographed in 1940, and discovered in April of this year (MeFi). Well now there's been a new time traveler sighting - in the film "The Circus", by Charlie Chaplin a woman appears to walk by the camera talking on a cellphone. In 1928.

The linked clip is pretty long - cut to the chase here.

Does anyone want to go look at pictures of the Time Travelers convention (MeFi) and see if anyone has snuck in yet?
posted by dirtdirt (135 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
What good would a cellphone do her without a tower to connect to? Unless...

Note to self: add cell phone base station to time machine
posted by jedicus at 11:59 AM on October 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


It would seem rather pointless to be talking on a cell phone in 1928 - no infrastructure would be available to our time traveller to carry the signal. Unless the signal can also travel through time.

I wonder what kind of monthly rate she pays for that.


that being said, I have no idea what the woman is doing
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:59 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


That seems more like someone going "ooh, my head" to me...
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on October 25, 2010


What's even more incredible is the zebra standing there the entire time.
posted by theodolite at 12:00 PM on October 25, 2010 [43 favorites]


That must be some other meaning of 'cut to the chase' I was previously unaware of.
posted by unSane at 12:00 PM on October 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


SIGH


*Goes to add YET ANOTHER question to the User Manuel*

This is why we can't have nice devices.
posted by The Whelk at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Click the link, not the inline play, wiseguy.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2010


An attempt at debunking although I don't find the ear trumpet very compelling. I think it's more likely she's keeping her hair from blowing or shielding her face from the sun.

In any case, as the link notes, what infrastructure for cells is she exploiting? Although I guess if we have time travel we can also have time comm.
posted by DU at 12:02 PM on October 25, 2010


I'm pretty sure that this is an early developmental version of the Carol Burnett ear tug message to her Grandmother. Actually, that could be Carol Burnett's grandmother sending a message to her then unborn Granddaughter. Which is sort of like a cell phone call.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:02 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are the roaming charges when you travel through time?
posted by Joe Beese at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


She's deaf. It's an ear horn.

At least, that's one of many possible explanations that don't violate Occam's razor.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I came in here to make the same infrastructure comment everyone is already making.

Also, that's a really long intro. Sorry dude who made the video, but no one really cares about who you are and what movies you've made. :(
posted by ODiV at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


*Goes to add YET ANOTHER question to the User Manuel*

But, what about José?
posted by ericb at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Maybe she's trying to hide her ear from the camera. Because it's a robot ear. Because she's FROM THE FUTURE.
posted by theodolite at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2010 [20 favorites]



At least, that's one of many possible explanations that don't violate Occam's razor.


Party Pooper.
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2010


It's not obvious to me that she's holding anything at all or talking. So, androgynous elder in 1928 holding hand strangely = ALL KNOWN PHYSICS ARE WRONG?
posted by cmoj at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's true. When I poop, parties come out.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:05 PM on October 25, 2010 [33 favorites]


I would assume that if future humanity is developed enough to send old women back to visit a fair, then they're probably developed enough to transmit communication data through time as well. Maybe it's a direct line walkie-talkie to another time traveler.
posted by codacorolla at 12:06 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Your plumbing bills must be incredible.
posted by The Whelk at 12:06 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


No infrastructure? OK - it's a walkie-talkie.








Spock has the other one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:07 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Guys, cellphones can totally work across time. You just need to point a sonic screwdriver at them for a few seconds.
posted by maqsarian at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2010 [21 favorites]


I'm reserving judgment until Miko looks at it.
posted by HopperFan at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, people in the future will have the technology to develop time travel, to communicate either back through time or between time travelers with no cellular infrastructure...but they're still using candybar phones?

Nobody could shrink that Nokia down to the size of an earpiece? Or make it look like something temporally appropriate? They're just going to have people wandering around through ancient Egypt or Salem circa 1600 using push to talk?
posted by PlusDistance at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's not obvious to me that she's holding anything at all or talking.

It's pretty obvious she's talking. But I don't think she's holding anything. In fact, it seems pretty clear that she is trying to mime the act of talking on a cellphone, without actually having a cellphone to speak on. I hypothesize that, rather than being a time traveler from the future, she is actual a time-traveling native of 1928, who has at least managed to observe the future, and thought it would be really funny to pretend to talk on a cellphone in a movie just to fuck with us.
posted by enn at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2010 [48 favorites]


As long as she's not talking while driving her horseless carriage, I'm ok with it.
posted by bondcliff at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2010 [21 favorites]


What's even more incredible is the zebra standing there the entire time.

Be honest: How many of you even noticed the gorilla that walks through.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:10 PM on October 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


Goddamn it, she is going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE for not killing Hitler. Jesus, people, how difficult can it be? The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler! It says so right on the box!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:11 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Spock has the other one.

So is that Bones or Kirk in drag?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:11 PM on October 25, 2010


On the close-up shot you can see her fingers working up under her hat. I'd say she was either scratching, or her hair was falling down and she was trying to get it back up again.
posted by frobozz at 12:11 PM on October 25, 2010


It's not obvious to me that she's holding anything at all or talking. So, androgynous elder in 1928 holding hand strangely = ALL KNOWN PHYSICS ARE WRONG?

You'd be shocked at what a certain LOLCAT image from your time did to our comparative theology in the year 2893. Almost a billion died in the aftermath. "Play them off" is a death sentence for entire nations.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [17 favorites]


"Can you hear me then?"
posted by xedrik at 12:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [43 favorites]


Goddamn it, she is going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE for not killing Hitler. Jesus, people, how difficult can it be? The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler! It says so right on the box!

Be careful now. She was in a Chaplin movie. That's a mistake you don't want to make.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


"It's not an AM/FM radio, 'cuz obviously it's 1928"

Can he hear himself?
posted by mazola at 12:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is a time traveler. It is my grandmother looking exactly like she did walking towards the church for a wedding in an early home movie (mid 50's).
I know it is her by those big-ass feet and funky shoes.
And that hat.
posted by readery at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Goddamn it, she is going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE for not killing Hitler. Jesus, people, how difficult can it be? The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler! It says so right on the box!

Problem is, it supports an entire Hitler-Killing industry now.
posted by The Whelk at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2010


So the only explanation for holding your hand near your face and talking is that you're talking on a cell phone?

Then there are a lot of hobos today with invisible cell phones.
posted by Davenhill at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


At least, that's one of many possible explanations that don't violate Occam's razor.

Why does this Occam guy get credit for the concept of "the thing that makes the most sense is also the most likely?"

Flarbuse's Razor

The largest thing is usually the biggest.

When presented with two options, people tend to choose the one that will avert their death.

Unexpected discoveries in science are usually the work of a faith-testing god.
posted by flarbuse at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Okay, my serious answer is that she had her hair in the coiled-over-the-ear style then called "telephones" (a la Princess Leia, it was very popular then), using a pad to fill it out (called a "rat", ew), and the coil came undone and the pad was coming out.

Also, yeah, that that guy is self-important.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, it could be a mobile phone, there was a big bubble in the business in the 1920s and lots of prototypes, because people, rightly, figured it would be a great idea that would make them rich. No one cracked the tech, people lost a lot of money on mobile phone stocks, and interest in the idea cooled. Mind you, she's probably just scratching her ear.
posted by johnny novak at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, how'd you like my hat?
posted by From Bklyn at 12:17 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


but they're still using candybar phones?

Well, yes, but they're actual edible candybars that can be used as phones. In the future, even the candybars will have telephonic functionality.
posted by The World Famous at 12:17 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cell phone, schmell phone. She's obviously holding a Federation communicator, trying to arrange for a beaming-up point.

As usual, Star Fleet seems to think the Prime Directive gives them the right to wander around in "costumes"* during their suspiciously frequent missions involving time travel, never thinking they might get caught on film or video. Just because it's Earth doesn't mean you get to mess with the early 20th Century!

I have half a mind to contact the TCLU** and lodge a complaint.


* There's a reason Star Fleet officers are known throughout the quadrant as Drama Queens... not to mention them railroading holodecks onto all ships. :P
** Temporal Civil Liberties Union
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the moving mouth was something along the lines of 'OH HOLY CRAP MY HAIR IS COMING OUT WHY DID I EVER LET ETHEL CONVINCE ME TO FIX MY HAIR IN THESE STUPID TELEPHONES ANYWAY TWENTY-THREE SKIDDOO I'LL TELL THE WORLD HOT-CHA-CHA!'
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


No cell towers? Come on, hasn't anyone seen Doctor Who? All you have to do is point a sonic screwdriver at the phone, it beeps a few times, and then the phone works without towers.
posted by XMLicious at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hypothesize that, rather than being a time traveler from the future, she is actual a time-traveling native of 1928, who has at least managed to observe the future, and thought it would be really funny to pretend to talk on a cellphone in a movie just to fuck with us.

Close, but at the same time, way off. She's actually a time traveller from the year 10,000 who's trying to fit in with the natives from 1928 by miming that she's using early 21st century technology.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 12:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Then there are a lot of hobos today with invisible cell phones.

Hobos are always early adopters. That's because they don't play by the Man's rules, see?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


CLEARLY, she's just the Doctor's new companion. Do you see that police box in the background?
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


For me she looks like any of a million people walking behind the local newscaster during a remote shot. I can see her friends and family sitting at home watching The Circus on DVD (or whatever technology), talking to her on her phone and she is saying, "Oh, well, you know, it's pretty nice. The food is great and there are so many stars at night, but it smells pretty bad most places and these clothes are very scratchy. What? I'm in the frame now? Hee hee! Hi!"

There's a whole cottage industry connected to the planting of travelers in historic documentation for vacation snapshots, and most of the time that parallel universe is dismantled before it can be discovered.

And, really: the phone works across time. It doesn't need there to be temporally local relays, you sillies.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2010


Goddamn it, she is going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE for not killing Hitler. Jesus, people, how difficult can it be? The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler! It says so right on the box!

That's just what future-Rommel's Fourth Reich wants you to believe.

If time travel exists, then wouldn't it be a safe assumption that everything in history is the least-worst option that time traveling interference could manage?

Which is why I believe the conclusive evidence that time travel is impossible is David Hasselhof.
posted by Davenhill at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


All you people talking about cellphones - you're not THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX.

Obviously there are no cellphone towers or anything like that, so a cellphone would be quite pointless. It's obviously not a cellphone - it's some sort of proprietary communication device used by the cabal that has infiltrated the space time continuum.
posted by kbanas at 12:24 PM on October 25, 2010


sidhedevil: The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler!

Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:27 PM on October 25, 2010 [26 favorites]


Possible explanations:

1. Time traveller talking on a cellphone
2. Camera shy woman wandering past the camera
3. The ghost of Edna Ambridge who died in 1854 as a result of being shot through the ear by a rabid zebra
4. Uncharismatic amateur film maker with no awareness of the need to self-edit attempting to drive traffic to his own website by dragging out an uninteresting manufactured controversy
5. All of the above

Occam's razor says these are all equally likely.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 12:27 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's pretty clear that something's going on (though not of course a cell-phone).

None of the explanations take into account the fact that even back then movies had directors who were pretty attentive to such details, and this is pretty glaring, someone walks through the scene obviously covering their face.

It is inconceivable that a truly great and detail-oriented director like Chaplin would allow such an accident into one of his scenes. If Chaplin intended to have an ear-trumpet in the scene, you'd see it clearly, and the character would obviously use it as such. If a woman's hair were blowing in her face, he'd re-shoot the scene.

It's clearly an inside joke of some type. Someone I saw a rumour that this was a man who lost a bet and was forced to do the scene in drag - I'm sure it's something like that.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:29 PM on October 25, 2010


All those photos of me in the '80s with embarassing hair and clothing? I was a time traveler from the future and our historic records had an inaccurate description of what would be stylish in 1988. Whenever I was mocked by schoolmates, I wanted so badly to tell them to blame the group of anthropologists who dressed me in preparation for time travel. But I couldn't tell them for fear of causing what we, in the future, called a "time paradox."

Also, the future I was traveling from was 1993, so when I returned each evening to report to my superiors in the future, they always made fun of me for not having a goatee.
posted by The World Famous at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Chaplin was a noted documentarian.

His footage of a dignified, mustachioed hobo in a derby hat and with a walking stick continues to form the basis of much of what we know about life and in particular baby-cart races in the year 1915.

His expose Modern Times was even more serious, containing as it does some absolutely striking footage of an industrial accident, one involving a man with a mustache being enmeshed within the gears of a large machine.

Those who decry his work as too arid, too solemn, too relentlessly focused on simple fact-- a kind of protracted assault on the imagination-- have only to remember that he was, first and foremost, a journalist, which was why his death covering the war in the Belgian Congo should have come as no surprise to anyone.

Put simply, Chaplin was the first true videographer, in the modern sense-- a man who believed the filmed fact of actual events spoke more deeply than humor, art, or poetry ever could; a man who left comedy, fancy, the surreal, and the absurd to other and lesser men.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:32 PM on October 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


None of the explanations take into account the fact that even back then movies had directors who were pretty attentive to such details

Your explanation is not taking into account the fact that directors fuck shit up all the time, even today when they can view rushes immediately; back in the day, it took a while to develop film and film was goddamned expensive. Reshooting a scene because some lady's hair was coming down didn't make economic sense even if it made artistic sense.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:32 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]




CLEARLY, she's just the Doctor's new companion. Do you see that police box in the background?


Great, now I want a series where the Doctor picks up a fluttery Marget Dumont-esque companion.
posted by The Whelk at 12:33 PM on October 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


Woman holds hand to side of face in old film therefore the laws of physics and basic common sense are overturned.

callously he tears the veils from the eyes of the assembled throngs who, up to this post, were absolutely certain that the lady in the video is a time traveler talking on a cell phone

the many, many souls who seriously believed that
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:34 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


When ginger people go bald, it's a blessing.
posted by the cuban at 12:35 PM on October 25, 2010


The weirdest thing is how after she (he?) tromps in, turns and spots the camera she just dissolves -- probably back to the time from when he came!
posted by mazola at 12:35 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you can't get a TARDIS, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.

I like the way you think, The Whelk.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:35 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler! It says so right on the box!


If you could go back, and the timelines diverge when you kill Hitler, I could see a time-machine company that would think it altruistic to have as many dead-before-he-can-do-harm Hitler timelines as possible, so they make killing Hitler a tutorial program when you first get the time machine.

And you would have no worries about refunds or complaints about your time machine you sold them, because having killed Hitler, they're in another timeline and they can't get back to you for a refund.
posted by chambers at 12:35 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


For me, it's an assistant-director type. He is dressed in drag because they lack an extra. He appears a lot in Chaplin's backgrounds, so he doesn't want to appear as himself so doesn't expose his face. Additionally, he hides his face because as an assistant-director type, he needs to tell people where to go.

My guess at what he is saying "Charlie, the shoes are killing me"
posted by rakish_yet_centered at 12:38 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


None of the explanations take into account the fact that even back then movies had directors who were pretty attentive to such details, and this is pretty glaring, someone walks through the scene obviously covering their face.

In understood that this was basically newsreel footage.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:43 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's deaf. It's an ear horn.

At least, that's one of many possible explanations that don't violate Occam's razor.


Yeah, right... And why wouldn't our time traveller have brought a modern, mostly invisible, hearing aid back with her instead of lugging around that big ear horn? Explain that, sir!
posted by Cironian at 12:44 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Normally, I'd wish the guy would just stop talking, but his accent was just so pretty! Speak to me more, Irishman!
posted by ChuraChura at 12:45 PM on October 25, 2010


"I'm over here by the zebra. I'm wearing a hat."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:50 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Goddamn it, she is going to be in SO MUCH TROUBLE for not killing Hitler. Jesus, people, how difficult can it be? The first thing you do when you get a time machine is to kill Hitler!

If she were a Genre Savvy time traveller, she would undoubtedly be familiar with all the Time Travel tropes, most importantly this one.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:51 PM on October 25, 2010


One woman. One headache. The Internet. Put them together and it spells


PARANOIA II: THE BEANPLATENING

Opens everywhere 82 years ago.
posted by grubi at 12:52 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


er, someWHERE I saw a rumour...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:53 PM on October 25, 2010


In L.A., crazy people walking down the street and talking to themselves weren't invented until after 1928?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:57 PM on October 25, 2010


The first comment on Youtube pretty much sums it up. People see what they expect/want to see, so therefor, it's a cellphone and she (but looks like a man to me) is talking. Looks like the person is scratching their head and saying "did they say 2rd street at 3pm, or 3rd street at 2pm?"
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:02 PM on October 25, 2010


Saw it again. I still don't buy "they didn't see this till the rushes". The character walks through the scene in a weird way... and then stops and turns, still with the face covered, as if to call attention, and says something (you can see the mouth move in the close-up).

It's amazing what you miss when you're directing, I've done it myself, but if someone loses focus and starts wandering around a scene, it's pretty obvious. Particularly, directing interstitial crowd scenes is fairly easy - your task is just to make sure that people walk through the scene and don't call attention to themselves - that they don't do exactly this. You're looking for this, someone scratching their butt or dropping something or hiding their face... and in this case, the actor actually speaks, just in case if you didn't notice the hand over the face!

As an actor, I can't imagine speaking with my hand over my mouth like that.

Looking at the scene again, how very big her feet are, how she walks, the face, I really do think it's a guy in drag and at the end he turns and says something like "Are you happy now?"
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:03 PM on October 25, 2010


Speaking of Doctor Who, if you are familiar with the Eighth Doctor novels (and the post-TV Seventh ones as well), you know that it is a trope within them the Doctor and non-televisual companions (because they more often than not don't have an actually well defined television background) mention having gone to/trying to get to some specific vague historical event that no one would probably try to go to if they had a time machine, except for the author of the novel who has that one particular interest that needs to be mentioned. (It's like fanwank but more masturbatory.)

(It's sort of like when the 10th Doctor and Rose try to go to see Elvis in Season 2/28 but end up in London -- but even more made of fail.)

Anyway, that's what I thought when I saw this originally -- that the Doctor was traveling with some film buff, and at least that was a character trait they could do something with.

And then reading this I was glad that MetaFilter somehow went down this road in a similar way without me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Remember the state of dental medicine in 1928? I didn't think so. Chances are a lot of people were walking around with a toothache clutching their jaw or holding a compress to it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:18 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would like to mention the DC limited series "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League", in which several characters end up mistakenly imprisoned in Hell, and manage to get a strong enough carrier signal (in Hell) to call for help. Not strictly relevant, I suppose, but there are only so many occasions on which one is called on to top the idea of cell phone usage in 1928.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:18 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we enhance that? Yeah, that part. What is she -- her lips are moving, see that? Can we enhance her lips? Now can we match that against FBI lip patterns? Right, get that started, thanks.

OK, now zoom out, pan right a bit. I feel like we're missing something, aren't we? What is the significance...? Is she saying "ZEBRA?" Oh, LIEUTENANT LOOK AT THIS SHE IS SAYING ZEBRA
posted by circular at 1:24 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Remember the state of dental medicine in 1928?

Of course. Still gives me nightmares.


Are you under the impression that we are the time travelers?
posted by grubi at 1:29 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is inconceivable that a truly great and detail-oriented director like Chaplin would allow such an accident into one of his scenes.

I am a huge Chaplin fan. My father is a world-renowned Chaplin authority (a bunch of books, etc.) and I spent my childhood watching his films. He was a great artists, but we was also really sloppy. He didn't care all that much about continuity and other details. He DID care deeply about performances, but not so much about random extras and the like.

There are many, many mistakes that come to mind, but the one that I always think of first is the scene in which a young woman visits him in "Monsieur Verdoux." He takes her coat from her and hangs it up on the coat rack. In the scene before -- before he's even met her -- you can see her coat already on the rack.

That sort of mistake happens in pretty much every film in all time periods. But it's not the case that Chaplin's films were especially rigorous in terms of rooting out continuity errors and other glitches.
posted by grumblebee at 1:33 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


She's not holding a rectangular or square object. Look at her hand - the top two fingers and thumb are stretched outward, like she's holding something round, then those fingers flex as she turns, implying that the object (if there is one) is soft. I think Sidhedevil may be right about the hair bun. Or maybe the woman is just crazy.

The hipster from 1940 thread is much more interesting, especially since he may have appeared in two photographs stored in different collections. And I somehow missed it the first time around. Or maybe the thread didn't exist the first time around???
posted by Kevin Street at 1:33 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mom, come back from 1928! Dad's stopped drinking--for real this time!
posted by goatdog at 1:33 PM on October 25, 2010


I want to believe.
posted by crunchland at 1:42 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The hipster from 1940 thread is much more interestingi>

Sunglasses, skinny guys, sweaters, t-shirts and loosely structured hair were all common in the 1940s. How does this guy qualify as a hipster?

posted by Faze at 1:43 PM on October 25, 2010


But if time travel is possible (setting aside the problem of how it could be physically accomplished), then you never know... It would almost certainly be self consistent, which means no paradoxes, the past is immutable, or if there are apparent paradoxes, they're small ones that ultimately change nothing. Maybe this lady is chattering away on her cell phone because she knows that it doesn't matter if anyone catches her. She even turns to the camera and cracks a joke, aware that people on the Internet will be watching her eighty-three years later, but they won't believe the truth, and everything will still progress into the future as it should.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:50 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


she is actual a time-traveling native of 1928, who has at least managed to observe the future, and thought it would be really funny to pretend to talk on a cellphone in a movie just to fuck with us.

You know, I bet you get a free time-travel hitchhiker's pass for pulling this.
posted by Mike Mongo at 1:50 PM on October 25, 2010


We are all time travellers. We just do it in real-time.*

----
*Paraphrased from Carl Sagan. Sagan on time travel here.
posted by mazola at 1:51 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, hey, by the way: you are all going to see Back to the Future tonight, right? 25th anniversary, big screen showing.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:54 PM on October 25, 2010


It is inconceivable that a truly great and detail-oriented director like Chaplin would allow such an accident into one of his scenes.

As pointed out by Astro Zombie above, this is newsreel footage of the premiere, not footage from the film. It was not filmed by Chaplin. There was no director per se. This is candid footage of premiere attendees walking past a static camera.
posted by anazgnos at 1:54 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


None of the explanations take into account the fact that even back then movies had directors who were pretty attentive to such details, and this is pretty glaring, someone walks through the scene obviously covering their face.

It is inconceivable that a truly great and detail-oriented director like Chaplin would allow such an accident into one of his scenes.


The footage is, as stated repeatedly in the Youtube video and in this thread, not from the movie itself but footage of people arriving at the premiere.

I didn't like it, but at least I understood it,
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:56 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Remember the state of dental medicine in 1928? I didn't think so. Chances are a lot of people were walking around with a toothache clutching their jaw or holding a compress to it.

I was just going to say this. If it isn't a lady holding her hair as it falls out, as sidhedevil says, then it's probably someone with a horrible toothache. Ever had one of those, where your whole jaw or maxilla is just throbbing in pain? It's instinctual to press your hand against it to try and dull the pain. And 1928 is not exactly known for modern dental care--in fact, I would imagine it was pretty medieval back then.

Though I still prefer the idea that it's the Doctor's companion requesting a pickup, because that means that the Doctor is real and I could possibly end up time travelling AND hooking up with either Matt Smith or David Tennant. A boy can dream, right?
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2010


On replay, it does look like she's holding something, but perhaps it's a salve or poultice for a toothache or boil or something?
posted by 1000monkeys at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2010


Actually, this is a time traveler from the past. From a painting. With a message! And ice skates. And a tinfoil hat...
posted by chavenet at 2:06 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like maybe if you can send stuff through timespace you can also pin it in timespace. You have stealth-capable monoliths orbiting Earth through all known periods that Earth has existed and is habitable. Your comm. devices sync up to these permalinked monoliths, and it ensures a constant communication network that routes messages to geographically and temporally distant devices.
posted by codacorolla at 2:14 PM on October 25, 2010


Ah, I didn't get that this was supposedly "real-world" footage... the video was far too long to watch all of, I just looked at that key moment a few times.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:25 PM on October 25, 2010


In the spirit of pure speculation, how likely is it that time travelers could operate a clandestine cell phone network in 1928? Cell phones (our phones, that is) are low powered transmitters in the Ultra High Frequency band, which is what, 800 MHz and up? Radio is below that, and according to wikipedia, the first UHF TV station didn't start broadcasting until 1949. So maybe it's possible that someone else could use that bandwidth at a time when it was otherwise empty, especially if they were using low powered, short range equipment.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:27 PM on October 25, 2010


In the spirit of pure speculation, how likely is it that time travelers could operate a clandestine cell phone network in 1928? Cell phones (our phones, that is) are low powered transmitters in the Ultra High Frequency band, which is what, 800 MHz and up? Radio is below that, and according to wikipedia, the first UHF TV station didn't start broadcasting until 1949. So maybe it's possible that someone else could use that bandwidth at a time when it was otherwise empty, especially if they were using low powered, short range equipment.

Maybe every large, phallic structure ever built was simply the work of a time travelling agent provocateur to construct a cellular communication network for other travelers.

"Hey Alec, you ever thought about building a tower like this"

"I dunno man, that kinda looks like a dick."

"Come onnnnnnnnnnn!"

"Well... alright. What's that funny glass board you keep tapping?"

"Uhhh, Don't worry about it."
posted by codacorolla at 2:32 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, I think I have this sorted: if that lady was really from the future, why isn't she in color?
posted by Davenhill at 2:37 PM on October 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


We're so conditioned to interpret particular ways of holding one's self as meaning something that's relevant to our time and technology that we can't fathom what walking down the street, holding a cupped hand close to one's ear could possibly mean other than talking on a cell phone.

In 1928, that would simply read as someone walking along the street with a hand close to an ear. Since this woman was doing something utterly innocuous (it looks like she's adjusting her hairstyle to me), it wasn't seen as anything out of the ordinary.

In a way, it's as if someone in a movie from 1950 was pointing at stains on a cutting board and we all thought, "OMG! They had iPads back then! TIME TRAVEL!"
posted by xingcat at 2:41 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe the zebra is a cunningly disguised Delorean.
posted by idiomatika at 2:43 PM on October 25, 2010


By the way, I assume she's chewing gum, not talking. Just putting that out there.
posted by davejay at 2:46 PM on October 25, 2010


Well, yeah. It could be the most logical and likely solution, but what fun is that?
posted by Kevin Street at 2:48 PM on October 25, 2010


The sad thing is she can probably run Flash.
posted by doublehappy at 2:50 PM on October 25, 2010


I'm pretty sure that the woman is Edith Keeler in the time line in which Kirk saves her and also leaves behind his communicator.
posted by amethysts at 3:21 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool! This guy may've indeed discovered early footage of a person using a compact, electric-powered personal listening device, one that was also based on early telephone engineering: a portable electric-powered "hearing instrument." Yup, a hearing aid.

By 1927, electric-powered ('carbon') hearing aids had been around for nearly three decades, available in all sorts of form factors from many different manufacturers, including Siemens, still one of the biggest manufacturers of hearing aids.

The devices were basically a small box with an acoustic-to-electric transducer (aka, a microphone) that converted analog sound into an electrical signal, amplified the signal, and transmitted it to an earpiece. Volume was controlled by supplying more or less current to the microphone. The devices were powered by a 3-volt or 6-volt battery that packed enough juice to assist a person with up to moderate hearing loss. Those with severe hearing loss would have to wait until 1936--the year that vacuum tube technology was first introduced to portable hearing devices (pics here).

More cool pictures of early hearing aids, including a beautiful device by French Electric (c. 1930) housed in a camera-style case.

As for the person "talking" into the device, I propose that the clueless salesperson at Bronson & Son's Hearing Instruments & Fireplace Screens couldn't find the volume control on the device and--eager to assist the young lady wearing the nearly-revealing shirtwaist and slightly above-ankle gown-- shuffled the woman to the register and referred her to the "on-street quick start placard," which was not, in fact, posted on the corner of 5th and Main--a gripe captured on film by Chaplin himself and broadcast (sans audio) on the YouTube of the day, the 5c theater. Technology evolves, but some things never change.
posted by prinado at 3:36 PM on October 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Interesting, but these models seem to date from the 1940s.

These were available in that timeframe.

[on preview: sux to be me!]
posted by mazola at 3:37 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


When this footage was originally shot, the lady in question wasn't even there. For a period of time, people who watched this footage never thought about what the lady was holding near her ear or why she was talking, because she wasn't filmed. It was later, AFTER she went back in time she ended up appearing in the footage. Because she is now in the footage, it means that she went back in time after the footage was shot, but before our time now. If she had gone back in time after now, then we wouldn't be able to see her, because it wouldn't affect our time. So this proves that time travel has already been invented and individuals are traveling through it and altering our previous futures.

JCVD SAVE US!!!
posted by bionic.junkie at 3:43 PM on October 25, 2010


Given the timeframe, the possibilities narrow to this, this, or this.

Alternate hypothesis: the person is a time traveler originally from 1930-1950.
posted by mazola at 3:47 PM on October 25, 2010


She's on her way to visit the kaan-saaf-wallah who is an attraction at the circus.
"Roll up, roll up - Seeing is believing! Be amazed as the gentleman from the orient spoons giant lumps of wax from your ears".
posted by unliteral at 3:58 PM on October 25, 2010


A portable radio is not inconceivable for the time period. "Armstrong married Sarnoff's secretary, Marion MacInnis, in December 1922. He gave Marion the world's first portable radio as a wedding gift."

Found roundabout via some random guy's wiki.
posted by SpaceBass at 4:51 PM on October 25, 2010


1) She's blocking her face from the sunlight, which is pretty bright.
2) She's holding onto her hat. Well, sort of, she doesn't actually touch the brim, but maybe it was windy and she was expecting a gust to knock it off.
3) She's a little dingy and she just simply puts her hand up to her head.
4) She's obviously dingy because she's talking to herself.
5) Then again it's Los Angeles--maybe she was an actor, rehearsing lines.
6) She's got a hearing aid of some kind.

There's probably a lot more possibilities I'm not thinking of. Nice troll, though. I should start combing through the Prelinger Archives for more time travelers. This is so lame it makes the hipster guy look downright mysterious.
posted by zardoz at 4:56 PM on October 25, 2010


a woman (or a man in drag?)
in nineteen twenty eight
walked right past a zebra, and,
it was to be her fate
to be caught on newsreel footage
and decades later seen
by three hundred thousand people
on their computer screens

a fellow, see, from Ireland
he speculated that
this woman held a cell phone
beneath her frumpy hat
and smart, this Irish fellow,
at least that's what I'd say
to publiciize his film career
in the modern viral way.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:23 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The next six people behind her are carrying the batteries.
posted by unSane at 6:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The other thing that might explain her odd grip (i.e. the lower fingers not being even with the upper ones) is pretty explainable by looking at any old lady, perhaps your dear old Gran herself: she's holding a hankie in the bottom part of her hand while adjusting her hair or hat or whatever. Therefore, her grip is tighter on the ring and pinky finger, where she is holding the hankie, and looser in the index and middle finger which is not gripping anything, but rather adjusting her hair/hat, holding her face, whatever.
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:53 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Steve Jobs is from 1928!

But, really, these do seem like the best explanation.
posted by Mid at 7:45 PM on October 25, 2010


Viral marketing campaign?
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:53 PM on October 25, 2010


I know when I travel back to the 20s I bring my cell phone just in case I have an emergency and rather than be discrete about it I just conceal it in my hand and speak out loud as if to myself as if I'm crazy. Discretion and time travel are so fucking over rated.
posted by juiceCake at 9:07 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her roaming fees are going to be INSANE.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:57 AM on October 26, 2010


Ack, and I see that if I had only gone just a wee bit back in time, I'd know that that joke had already been made.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:58 AM on October 26, 2010


Sunglasses, skinny guys, sweaters, t-shirts and loosely structured hair were all common in the 1940s. How does this guy qualify as a hipster?

He's wearing a German t-shirt "ironically."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2010


Mystery solved:

1924 Siemens patent for a compact, pocket sized carbon microphone/amplifier device suitable for pocket instruments.

More ancient hearing devices.
posted by monospace at 11:16 AM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not to add credence to the ridiculous time travel theory, but if it were a hearing aid, why would she be bothering to listen to anything while she's walking alone down the street?
posted by crunchland at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


That probably is the REAL mystery.
posted by monospace at 11:53 AM on October 26, 2010


What's the secret to comedy?
posted by stavrogin at 8:47 AM on October 28, 2010


short ear horns.
posted by mecran01 at 8:47 AM on October 28, 2010


Identity of time traveler revealed in another Chaplin movie.
http://sandboxworld.com/charlie-chaplin-time-traveler-revealed/
posted by sandboxworld at 9:55 AM on October 28, 2010


I'm reserving judgment until Miko looks at it.

Ah, I finally came across this, and it fascinated me, too. I'm not convinced by ear trumpet or ear horn - most were large and very obvious, and also, you didn't cover them with your hand, or they wouldn't work.

I think "what is she holding" is the wrong question. Instead, I suggest asking "what is going on with her behavior?" She walks past the zebra, then turns and comes to a stop, and she's smiling and talking. So, if it were an ear horn, that's all well and good, but (a) you don't use an ear horn while just walking down the street - you use it to hear people talk when they're near you and (b) you don't talk back into an ear horn.

Since she's clearly talking, not listening, I think there's something else intended. In the days before cell technology, people talking to themselves were just presumed to be mentally ill or old and befuddled. Given her dress, I think that was the intent - she's supposed be a batty old lady so caught up in her own world or pretend conversations that she doesn't even notice the zebra or the circus. Is there any way to see the whole film? Does she reappear in the film? What happens after she stops next to the zebra- any additional context?
posted by Miko at 11:44 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


At this point, do we have any kind of secondary corroboration that this is really something you can see on that DVD?

It seems like everyone's so caught up in debunking this footage that no one's bothered to check and see if it's a real thing that exists. The most obvious answer is that it's all just a big ol' fake by the Irish filmmaker.
posted by ErikaB at 2:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it definite that the footage is really from 1928? What's the proof? It's not actually a clip from the film, right?

Or, what ErikaB said.
posted by amro at 2:29 PM on October 28, 2010


Charlie Chaplin Time Traveler? Here Are Some Possible Explanations.
posted by ericb at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2010


Yes, what ErikaB and amro said. The whole thing could be faked.
posted by deborah at 3:13 PM on October 28, 2010


From the '...Possible Explanations' article:
"Possible Explanation No. 6: The lady is the ultimate DVD Easter egg.

According to [George] Clarke, the footage of the walking, apparently talking woman was found in the special-features section on a DVD release of Chaplin's The Circus. One YouTuber suggested the shot could be the result of a post-production whiz having some fun.

No word back yet from Warner Home Video as to whether the footage, as presented in the YouTube clip, appears undoctored."
posted by ericb at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right, so E! hasn't actually looked at the DVD themselves, either. I mean, surely someone else has a copy of this DVD, and can check to see if this is even on it?

(That only proves that this clip is on that DVD, of course. It could still have been faked by Warner Home Video pranksters, but that seems unlikely.)
posted by ErikaB at 3:40 PM on October 28, 2010


The price for the box set has sky-rocketed on Amazon. According to this site, the box set described in the video was going for $64.94 on October 1, 2009. It's now up to $262, new.
posted by crunchland at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2010


Easter egg is a very viable theory.
posted by Miko at 5:47 AM on October 29, 2010


Hold it, never mind. It turns out that it's all the fault of Tom the Dancing Bug's Percival Dunwoody, Idiot Time-Traveler from 1909.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:15 PM on November 12, 2010


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