Pluperfect PDA Meme
October 28, 2010
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Last September, I stumbled upon evidence of what appears to be time travel… in the cover photograph on a French edition of Chester Himes’ crime novel All Shot Up. In the photo, which dates from 1971 or earlier, a woman appears to be using a smartphone or PDA. I shared this find with HiLobrow readers, and Boing Boing picked it up. Then artist Alex Varanese referenced the discovery (one could argue) in a clever conceptual art project. Had PLUPERFECT PDA become a meme? Not quite. Not yet, anyway.
Since then, I’ve come across a couple of other examples of “Pluperfect PDAs,” one from the 1931 movie Platinum Blonde, and the other from the 1944 movie Laura. OK, these latter finds aren’t quite as compelling as the first one. I was inclined to drop the topic.
But now comes news that Irish filmmaker George Clarke has discovered a woman (or man in drag) who appears to be talking to her cell phone in 1928 footage of people lining up for the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s movie The Circus. Video below:
Clarke discusses his discovery with NEWS.com.au’s readers in a post today. Excerpt:
Matt – “No cell towers means no phones….idiots!”
George Clarke – “Well, the no cell towers theory lets me see how small-minded a lot of people can be in relation to the subject. The fact that the video is focusing on what could be a time traveller, should instantly point out that if that someone had the technology and ability to do so, then they would also have the technology to communicate without the needs we have today for mobile networks.”
Les – “if you could time travel, why would waste your time at a Charlie Chaplin premiere?”
George Clarke – “Who says the person in question went back to see the Chaplin premiere? How about, the person went back to an earlier period and got stuck there or was in town doing something else and just happened to stroll on by?”
Alf – “I own the same box set he shows in the clip. I have watched the extra’s portion of The Circus and regret to advise the lady isn’t there. It seems the lady was added by computer graphic imagery by someone in 2010 and agree with the comment that this was done as publicity to promote the filmmaker. Please note if you look at the supposed lady on mobile phone, you can see through her. Her image on film has a slight ghostly effect. She was added into the film.”
George Clarke – “Alf obviously has a different version of the release. The extra feature in question is the 1928 Hollywood Premiere. It’s on my DVD and a number of others from those who have contacted me. In fact, one of those other people put the full six-minute premiere footage on Youtube available through my account as a favourite. I can assure you that I didn’t personally add anything – if I did, why would I hold up the cover, point out the DVD label and urge people to get their own? As for the guys that released the film, I honestly wouldn’t think they would go to so much trouble for a two-second clip. So as for the ghostly effect – well, I can only say it strengthens the mystery of the visitor.”
Houston, we have achieved meme status. Really. Standing by for further instructions.
PS: 1928 is earlier than any of my discoveries…. but the earliest Pluperfect PDA yet was pointed out by a Boing Boing reader. It’s a statue of Apollo taking a photo with his mobile phone.
I also like the notion — suggested by an io9 reader — that the guy at bottom left in this famous photo of LBJ swearing in after Kennedy’s assassination is holding a Nintendo Game Boy. Though, to my eyes, it’s obviously Mattel’s 1977 electronic Football game.
And I dig the Time-Traveling Hipster Meme, too.
PPS: The Weekly World News clipping below, which points out a cell phone visible in a 1918 newspaper photo, appeared in our friend Luc Sante’s book Evidence.
MORE FURSHLUGGINER THEORIES BY JOSH GLENN: TAKING THE MICKEY (series) | KLAATU YOU (series intro) | We Are Iron Man! | And We Lived Beneath the Waves | Is It A Chamber Pot? | I’d Like to Force the World to Sing | The Argonaut Folly | The Perfect Flâneur | The Twentieth Day of January | The Dark Side of Scrabble | The YHWH Virus | Boston (Stalker) Rock | The Sweetest Hangover | The Vibe of Dr. Strange | CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (series intro) | Tyger! Tyger! | Star Wars Semiotics | The Original Stooge | Fake Authenticity | Camp, Kitsch & Cheese | Stallone vs. Eros | The UNCLE Hypothesis | Icon Game | Meet the Semionauts | The Abductive Method | Semionauts at Work | Origin of the Pogo | The Black Iron Prison | Blue Krishma! | Big Mal Lives! | Schmoozitsu | You Down with VCP? | Calvin Peeing Meme | Daniel Clowes: Against Groovy | The Zine Revolution (series) | Best Adventure Novels (series) | Debating in a Vacuum (notes on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad) | Pluperfect PDA (series) | Double Exposure (series) | Fitting Shoes (series) | Cthulhuwatch (series) | Shocking Blocking (series) | Quatschwatch (series)
READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE
What do you think?
If it is a time traveler she is being awfully conspicuous about it, don’t you think? In the video, the woman’s behavior is so glaringly anachronistic it is hard to believe that nobody would have noticed it, not to mention the device itself.
They say that we can’t see things that we’re not conditioned to see — this is how magicians pull off their stunts, for example. Also, as I recall from my bank-robbing days, nothing is more conspicuous than someone trying to act inconspicuous. Put those two truisms together and maybe you get an explanation?
Too bad the film is silent or you could hear the woman shouting, “What? What?!? Goddamn AT&T dropped the call again!”
I paid careful attention to that clip and the woman is not carrying a phone.
1) The fingers are not as the gentleman is describing. She is not holding a phone unless her index and middle fingers are curved over the top instead of the side like her other two fingers.
2) Near the point of the crossfade, it’s clear seeing her fingers move. She’s scratching her head and talking. Or adjusting the hair in her hat or something. Not a timetraveller.
Still a hilarious meme, though.
This idea sounds similar to the Farnsworth communication device used on Warehouse 13:
It’s like a steampunk cell phone.
Could she be reenacting the recurring Chaplin bit in which he pretends to be talking on the phone? He would pull random objects out of his pocket and just start talking into them, in order to confuse people I guess. She could be talking into a cigarette case just for laughs. Her demeanor when she turns towards the camera seems like someone playing a joke, you know? All that said, I think it’s a time traveler.
To my eye the woman looks perfectly solid up until the film-makers do a gradual cross fade which begins just after she pauses to concentrate on her conversation. The image which shows through her is the beginnings of the subsequent sequence.
Thanks, io9 and Boing Boing, for pointing out this item. Viva el PLUPERFECT PDA meme!
It is obvious this woman is a time-traveler from 1998 she is using one of those clunky candy bar phones from Nokia.
I love the term “Pluperfect” PDA. How did you come up with this term? Did you recall it from a Latin class? It fits!
Yep, the author graduated from Boston Latin School…
Thanks Xeni Jardin for trying to get others to adopt the phrase PLUPERFECT PDA.
The cell phone was added to that graphic. The pic is of a 1920s crime scene of a dead man found in a garbage can. Go on pinterest and search for “crime scene photos” and the original pic will show WITHOUT the cell phone so conveniently placed beside the “space tube” that is a metal garbage can. Nice try tho.
Kid tries to take photo of woman with laptop camera, woman covers lens (110 BC)
Pamela Des Barres clutching her bosom and an iPod — in the late 1960s!
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