Where’s She Hiding the Flux Capacitor?

Must be a Roman’ SIM card…amirite?

This has to be the weakest attempt at viral self-promotion I have ever seen (if you’re using Chrome the embedding doesn’t work – see the Youtube video itself instead). The daftie narrating the video (complete with full name and plenty of face-time) shows a clip from a 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie showing a woman walking in the background with her hand held up to the side of her head. She also appears to speak at one point.

It’s a textbook argument from incredulity. Because “nobody can give [him] an explanation”, he’s decided that the woman (or is it a man – nothing like insulting long-dead strangers) is a time traveller. Here’s his intro to the video;

“This short film is about a piece of footage I (George Clarke) found behind the scenes in Charlie Chaplins film ‘The Circus’. Attending the premiere at Manns Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA – the scene shows a large woman dressed in black with a hat hiding most of her face, with what can only be described as a mobile phone device – talking as she walks alone.

I have studied this film for over a year now – showing it to over 100 people and at a film festival, yet no-one can give any explanation as to what she is doing.

My only theory – as well as many others – is simple… a time traveler on a mobile phone. See for yourself and feel free to leave a comment on your own explanation or thoughts about it.”

Leaving aside that by his own admission, this was a DVD special feature – not some lost piece of film he “found”, there is so much wrong with this conclusion that I barely know where to start. The sheer stupidity of the claim, plus the fact that he has short films to promote, makes me hope that this really is just a cynical piece of marketing. I do wonder though that he hasn’t convinced himself on some level that he really believes it. The phrase on the header of the page;

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’

…is pretty frightening. Imagination is vital in my opinion, but knowledge is sacred.

I’ll just list a few of the reasons why this video is BS:

  • How would a mobile or any other type of wireless communications device FUNCTION in a past where no network infrastructure (or orbiting satellite) exists?
  • Why would an otherwise flawlessly period-clad ‘time traveller’ draw attention to his/her self by speaking into an obviously out-of-place device?
  • Why does the gentleman in front of her not react to this behaviour?
  • If we assume from the woman’s dress that she’s intending to blend in, why would she make her anachronistic phonecall whilst walking down a street, oblivious to the bloody great old school film crew across the way? Why walk though the middle of a movie premiere?
  • Why would they make use of a hand-held phone? Why not a hands-free set or Bluetooth headset?
  • The mobile phone he describes is an object of the first decade of the 21st century. As time travel has yet to be invented or even theorised, we have to assume that a time traveller is from the far future. Why the hell would they be using a device like that? There is no reason to suspect that communications devices will remain in the format, size, and mode of operation of an iPhone. If anything we’ve seen them grow in size in the last five years.

So, if it’s not a cellphone, why would an old woman be holding any palm-sized device to her head (if, indeed, she’s holding anything)? One excellent suggestion from the Youtube comments is this little beauty. Exactly the sort of item that this guy discounted out of hand in his video – an ear trumpet. But not the stereotypical ‘Allo Allo’ musical-instrument shaped ear trumpet, but a more high-tech and portable device. There are many other possibilities, but this is the most elegant solution. And it doesn’t necessitate the abandonment of science as we know it.

Some commenters on Youtube have objected that one would not talk into what is effectively a hearing aid. One obvious, obvious answer, You Tubes, is that she’s talking to someone out of shot. The very fact that she’s using the aid suggests that she’s trying to hear something further away. Or perhaps she’s just mumbling to herself? Or, since we’ve already accused her of looking like a man, could she not be a bit of a mentalist?

Even if this really were ‘unexplainable’ – why on earth jump to the conclusion that we’re watching a time traveller? It’s utterly unsupportable and runs counter to everything we know about history and science. But it does get you a lot of hits on your Youtube channel, and a lot of visits to your website where you are coincidentally pimping your own filmmaking efforts.