Just got back from a short trip to Helsinki. The highlights were:
- Design District. Great clothing (think Taylor500's wardrobe / Brooklyn's Bird boutique, but better made, and shockingly affordable) and interior design stuff, although I have no appreciation for interior design.My idea of "chic"
- Kiasma modern art museum. They had a new art survey, international. I opened the place and found myself basically alone in the museum (it's a little past prime tourist season at this point). This is good because usually I get 150% distracted by other people's behavior in museums. My pet peeve is men who lecture their wives. I remember once when I was at the Louvre and some older, cologne-soaked asshole was telling his younger female companion that the Raft of the Medusa was people sailing away from Paris on the eve of the French revolution. GOOD ONE. Are you sure it's not Puerto Ricans sailing to Disney World on the eve of the Oscars?Pinocchio getting a manicure from Dorothy
- I saw a name plaque on an apartment door that said "SUCKSDORFF"!!! That is literally a Swedish family name. I spent 15 minutes yesterday laughing out loud while plugging in given names. Sven Sucksdorff. Bruni, if you need some fresh aliases for your credit cards/reservations, I highly recommend a research trip to Sweden.
But this wasn't what I was posting about (see title.) I want to talk about Michael Crichton.
I don't really read thrillers or anything. I've never read a book by Stephen King, Michael Crichton, or Mary Higgins Whatshertits. I'd rather not be on the edge of my seat, if I can avoid it. I'm sort of clumsy.
But I ran out of reading material and my cousin gave me a book called Timeline
, by Michael Crichton.
Critchton! Of Jurassic Park
, and Congo
. Ah, I was in good hands, sure to be entertained, titillated with science, crushed with humanity.
I settled into a comfy chair (a Toyota, in fact-- this was the drive to Helsinki) and got started.
Let me say right off the bat that Timeline
is a book of such surpassing bullshit that I got red marks on my forehead from hitting it so much. The part of the brain that feels embarrassment got STRAINED. It's like Sweet Valley High
meets the instruction booklet for a Cuisinart.
The plot is that a tech firm named ITC creates the technology to send people, through QUANTUM FOAM, back in time, not to some simplistic sense of time as progressing linearly, but to a parallel world in the "MULTIVERSE" that is identical to the past.Far more imoressive to me than QUANTUM FOAM is a cat that can use the horn.
Mostly you are made to gloss over the science but to be awed by academic credentials. The evil genius who runs the whole tech company is described like this:
After graduating summa cum laude in physics from Stanford at the age of eighteen, Doniger had gone to Fermilab, near Chicago. He quit after six months, telling the director that "particle physics is for jerkoffs."
I mean come on. So what happens is ITC sends a Yale medieval history professor back in time to the middle ages (don't ask why) and then his sexy young Yale graduate students back in time to fetch the professor. There's a problem there: SEXY YALE GRADUATE STUDENTS???"I'm in my fifteenth year studying Mongolian underpants from the 13th century."
Also, I have BEEN among grad students studying medieval history in central France, which is exactly where Doniger finds the Yale professor that he sends back in time. I'll tell ya exactly what we DIDN'T do:
The liquid crystal display showed an outline in bright green. Through the transparent display, they could see the ruins of the mill, with the green outline superimposed. This was the latest method for modeling archeological structures...
The computer was fed mapped coordinates from the ruin; using the GPS fixed tripod position, the image that came up on the screen was in exact perspective.
I mean come on. This is what grad students on medieval sites use:Using a series of identically spaced numbers, the polymer strip allowed the nubile, bikini-clad graduate students to assess the numerical atomic space between two points in units called "inches."
We had some fancy cameras, but we certainly didn't use a fucking liquid crystal mammogram machine to imagine buildings for us.
So what makes it all believable? The throwing around of fancy names.
Edward Johnston, Regius Professor of History at Yale, squinted as the helicopter thumped overhead....
It was easy...to become enamored of Edward Johnston. Tanned, with dark eyes and a sardonic manner, he often seemed more like Mephistopheles than a history professor.
Honestly, I didn't even get us into the grad students yet. Chris "eventually graduated fifth in his class. But in the process [of having an affair with an older married professor] he became conservative. Now at twenty-four, he...was reckless only with women."
Barf, right? Maybe I just don't understand. BUT WAIT. Check this out.
Chris goes back in time, through quantum foam, as we know, and his life is saved by a young village boy. Ooops but wait, much like like old professors, Yale grad students, and psysics prodigies, medieval boys turn out to be sexy: The boy's
black hat was thrown away, and golden hair tumbled down over her shoulders. She gave a little bow that turned into a curtsy... "I am called Claire."
...With that, Claire walked boldly up to Chris, put her hand around his neck and looked into his eyes. "I shall count every moment you are gone, and miss you with all my heart," she said softly, her eyes liquid. [I know, you feel your brain slowly retarding. Just wait.]
She brushed her lips lightly across his mouth [keep in mind this is in the presence of a royal medieval court] and stepped back, releasing him reluctantly, fingers trailing away from his neck.
Clearly if he went back in time and met a medieval lady, the lady would probably have a handlebar moustache and 4 brown teeth. And to pick at the lady, well that's rearranging deck chairs on the punctured dingy of this story, whose main device is a smokescreen of complicated scientific jargon ("We compress [a human being] using a lossless fractal agorithm") and fancy academic credentials (Yale should sue).
Crichton, come on now. Timeline
was a #1 Bestseller. America LOVED it. I don't understand. As if my love of foie gras and refusal to bathe hadn't already sealed the deal, I guess Michael Crichton finally proved me unamerican.
I think I'll change my name to Brigitta Sucksdorff.