In preparation for the coming Luddite revolution, I am training myself as a mentat.

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Ideas On What To Do On A Geek Date

Date/Time Permalink: 01/21/12 02:54:05 pm
Category: Geek Culture

The Long-Winded Preamble On Why I'm Writing This

You can skip this and get right to the Geek Date Ideas.

None of us ever get famous for what we want to be famous for...

I spend five years of my life pounding on desks until they break, trying to preach core messages and truths - they get ignored. But I post some silly little bit of frippery just to lighten the mood for a minute? That gets the world's attention, and I'll never live it down. Oy vey, ye web schlemiels, vy you are so exasperating, you drive me to Yiddish?

Over five years ago, I posted One for the ladies: How to date a geek guy? Not even in the top 90% of my most thoughtful work. Well, somehow, through extended linking and Google-bombing, I have accidentally become the Internet's expert on geek dating. That damn post gets more hits than everything else in this blog put together.

But, uh, folks? I've now been happily married for 18+ years. So I'm a little bit out of the loop on the dating thing by now, OK? I still remember something about fork etiquette at a restaurant and that you're not supposed to initiate bondage play on the first date, but otherwise, were I (Heavens forbid!!!) single at this moment, I would either have to remain a bachelor for the rest of my existence or auction myself off on eBay (winning bid $1.50? WTF?).

OK, so, finally, at goddamn last, I can tell you that I get some 50 search hits per week for "geek date ideas". Google keeps sendin' 'em and there ain't no geek date ideas here. So what'cha gonna do? You gonna post a list o' geek date ideas, so people at least have some page to land on and at least they got something for the hit, right? You see how nice I am? No wonder I've stayed married 18 years!

Geek Date Ideas

Go to a museum

Number one recommendation, without a doubt. None of us ever get out to museums as often as we'd like, and then as soon as you're in the door you're all "this is nice, we should do this more often." Science museums are the best, because they're geared towards kids with lots of hands-on stuff to play with. If you both have to drag each other away from playing with the exhibits, get married immediately. At the gift shop at the end, you can buy each other Mensa-level wooden puzzles and those stinky rubber lizards. If there's no science museum, well, art ones are nice too. Most geeks at least have some appreciation of history, so a historic museum is fun too.

Or the zoo

Second to museums for high-brow amusement is the zoo. What geek doesn't like animals? Zoos make fun dates because it's something different you haven't done in a while, it's kinda science-y, you can each fawn over your favorite exotic animal (every time I have visited the zoo, all the reptiles act like they want to follow me home), and in case you have some romantic aspirations for later in the evening, the occasional humping wallaby pair will be more than happy to provide some inspiration.

Plain old day at the library

What with Kindle books and the Internet in every home, libraries are almost becoming nostalgic. But geeks, by definition, cram books, so you'll both have something to talk about. Note, I didn't say you each had to check out a stack. Just browse for fun. Find out if you read the same authors. Better yet, check out one book for each other that the other must read.

Attend a convention

Any convention centered around any interest or hobby you both share will do. It doesn't have to be a Trekcon or comic books. Coin and stamp collector's conventions are a perfectly geeky pursuit, I assure you.

Shop in the Bohemian district

Quaint little bookshops with hard-to-find titles, vintage clothing stores with outrageous outfits, thrift stores filled with goofy junk, antique stores with a basement full of fascinating treasures, music stores that cater to your bizarre tastes, and so on. Every major city has that one "village" neighborhood. And of course, lunch or dinner at that ridiculously tiny cafe where all the hipsters hang out and grumble over coffee that's strong enough to dissolve lead.

(Bad) Movie night at your place

Forget the movie theater, unless it happens to be showing a major sci-fi or superhero flick, and even then... Nope, rent a stack of flicks for home over popcorn, but it can be either time-worn geek classics that you can relive together, or really awful, obscure, off-beat genre titles you've never heard of. A Z-list horror movie that's more fun to make fun of than it is to watch works wonders here.

Hiking (picnic optional)

Got some woods and a trail? It's been noted many times that when geeks do practice athletic pursuits, it's usually non-competitive things like surfing, mountain climbing, and so on. A hike in the woods, with perhaps a cooler with a hand-packed lunch, sounds so refreshing right now, doesn't it?

Gaming night

Can be video games, but really, you both play video games all the time or you wouldn't be here, right? So match wits over a chess board, have a spicy game of Monopoly where the loser can do special favors to pay off their debt, or drag out the poly-hexy-dodacahera-gonal dice for an old-fashioned dungeon romp.

Hang out and work on a project together

Can be your latest, mad-science, Mentos-and-Coke-powered robot kit or an all-night web design session... that doesn't sound romantic until you consider that you can snuggle together with laptops checking modules in and out of Git. Or whatever - who says a geek project can't be needlepoint, or reupholstering an ottoman, or planting zucchini? Just remember, anybody can be pleasant on a dinner-and-a-movie date, but a couple that can get a website launched without killing each other is truly compatible.

Pull off a social engineering hack together

Oooooh! For the daring geek couple. Infiltrate a culture neither of you belong in and see if you can con the members into accepting you as native. Confuse the devil out of a random passerby by both pretending to know them from way back. Go to the local jail and visit one random prisoner, whoever's name you can guess first. Show up at a sporting event and pretend to be press, see who you can get to grant you an interview. Go door to door witnessing for Cthulhu. Pretend to be time travelers and run up to people on the street asking them what year it is. You get the idea.

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How I Got Too Comfortable With the Dark Ages

Date/Time Permalink: 12/10/11 03:13:08 pm
Category: Geek Culture

You know what? I've quit worrying about saving the world, and I can't tell you how much better I've felt ever since.

I've just been revisiting a favorite classic blog post, over at Larry Sanger's place. Sanger is one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, and is therefore in a great position to keep his finger on the pulse of Internet culture.

Sanger asked last summer, Is there a new geek anti-intellectualism? and rocked the blogosphere with the controversy it sparked. So much so that it triggered an avalanche of replies, for which he made a separate post just to deal with. You'll find both posts well-worth your time, and now that it's almost winter break, this is a great time to ruminate upon the idea.

Of course, the part of the replies which harmonizes the most with me is #4:

"The people you’re describing are not true geeks; they are the digerati, or hipsters, or leftist academics who were already anti-intellectual and then started doing geek stuff."

Yeah, actually, they don't even do geek stuff. What has happened is that the word "geek" has been bastardized and taken over by the fools, exactly as has happened with oh-so-many of the words before it. Or as this off-topic review of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World puts it...

"People say it's become cool to be a geek. That's not true. People have just started applying the word geek to cool people. Hipsters aren't geeks and geeks aren't rock musicians and rock musicians aren't old school gamers and aging gamers don't like musicals."

The masses do not want dictionary definitions, they want to "belong" - and they will hotly claim to be every noun at the same time, even the contradictory ones, because Humpty-Dumpty's philosophy of making words mean whatever you want them to mean has replaced dictionaries.

Welcome to Professor Dumpty's University. There are no subjects, there are no lectures, there are no tests, ignorant is the new learned, and you all get an A+.

Me, I've done thought these points through years ago. Intellectuals might as well be dodo birds. The renaissance is dead in the Western world; we are the dinosaurs, we are irrelevant, our knowledge is no longer wanted, and the sooner we die out, as far as Western society is concerned, the better. There is no ecological niche left for us to evolve into.

In the original European Dark Ages, monks, under the guise of the church, preserved the light of learning through generations until the world was once again ready to read, and this is what we must do now. Forget screaming your sense against the tide of crap. Waste of time. Build a treasure chest of learning for future generations to discover and marvel over, when civilization has swung back towards enlightenment again.

This doesn't mean the hackers lost. There is no "winning" or "losing" here. You just can't speed up evolution, that's all. Humans have yet too much animal nature to civilize themselves into a learning-positive, progressive society. Just leave a monolith behind for the eventual chance that they ever will, and move on.

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God, I Hope Webcomics Don't Go the Way of Print Comics

Date/Time Permalink: 07/14/10 01:18:56 pm
Category: Geek Culture

Before I get to the point, let me just say that I've been AWOL from the blog lately because of the usual excuse of huge piles of paid work to catch up on. I'll return to you shortly.

Anyway, I ran across a story where - sit down for this one - Comic artist Alan Moore himself is having some regrets about the way fans take his work.

It gives us all a shiver. Here you're trying to do light entertainment, and the next thing you know people are running around in your character's mask and living their whole lives by it. He must feel at times like he's created a monster. With what sanity he has left (being Alan Moore, after all), he's recanting in the face of the Internet Rage Machine which has taken his work too seriously and out of step with what he intended.

I've seen it happen with manga, too. Graphic novels, manga, all manner of fiction has that lunatic fringe. For every thousand fans who read Catcher in the Rye and grin "cool yarn," there's a psychopath who stands on a bloody sidewalk reading it after shooting John Lennon.

[ Update 12-15-10: A Florida man shoots up a school after drawing a big "V" inside a circle on the wall. His Facebook page has more imagery from V for Vendetta. My, sometimes it's spooky just how well I can call 'em, isn't it? ]

This is the darker side of what TVTropes calls serious business.

Now, I know my own silly little webcomic is taken lightly. By everybody. I hope. I have more planned, beyond the end of Doomed to Obscurity. Some of it will be dramatic instead of funny. But through it all, if I catch anybody taking any of it the least little bit seriously, I'm going to be first in line to picket my own creation.

For that matter, sometimes just the business of writing a blog leans too far into serious territory. Hey, let me remind all of you, even when I rant and rave, my tongue is firmly in my cheek the whole time. I'm just one in a sea of bloggers, I'm just another big mouth shooting off tech punditry, I'm not going to change the world, my work is not to be carved in stone. When I go over the top, I'm doing so on purpose, just to clown it up. It's a blog, it's supposed to be ranty and fevered! That's how I see this media form. Granted, computers and software and computing freedom are serious subjects. I realize that too. But I try to keep a balance. That's why I retired from "Linux Advocacy," because if you're turning into a missionary, you're doing it wrong.

Will webcomics ever go the way of print comics? Will we some day encounter mobs wearing Dinosaur Comics masks and posing like the frames? Will webcomics someday have a Golden Age and a Silver Age and lots of zealots having life-and-death flame wars over which was better? Will troubled teens be caught trying to imitate Ctrl Alt Del?

And which medium will we all have to run to after that?

wood nymph from MakeHuman and Inkscape

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A Walk On The Stupid Side: How Does The Other Half Live?

Date/Time Permalink: 04/22/10 10:42:22 pm
Category: Geek Culture

Playing a bit of web ouija, in which I willfully allowed the mouse pointer to take me wherever it wanted to go, I ended up indulging some of the most ignorant minds one could fear to exist. Really, I know I can't be alone in this. When you know even a little bit about a topic like technology, and encounter people like these, it must feel like visiting a tribe of cannibals in deepest unexplored jungle. You just listen to the people with the bones in their nose rant about the volcano gods, and nod dumbly and get away as fast as you can.

I'm doing this to brace myself. My middle-school-age daughter this year starts a computer class in school, and I'm just dreading the first encounter with the staff. I know ten ways she could get to be tomorrow morning's news headline already, just by opening her mouth in front of the wrong closed mind. I haven't met the teacher yet. I actually expect a person with a bone in their nose who worships volcano gods. I'm at a loss for what to tell my kid. Should she mention that she's learned a little Python programming? If the teacher knows what that is, she might get extra approval. If I'm dealing with a bone-nose, she might end up in Guantanamo Bay in the "dangerous hacker" section next to Terry Childs. Are they going to quarantine her at Mercy Medical Center if she says she has Linux?

Keep your nerd rage in check and visit the tribe of savages. It appears to be a news item about teen hacking, kind of like teen sexting without the sex. It starts with a YouTube clip of 1995's Hackers, the most ignorant film ever made in history (including Reefer Madness). It regurgitates some percentages at random about this and that, like a mother bird coughing up half-digested news article for her chicks.

Then it gets preachy. "That proves, yet again, how little of an influence parents monitoring things they fear or don’t understand have at all on their children." Look who's talking. Mr. Sean Yeaton, if you're reading this (or perhaps your nurse is reading it to you), may I just say that I just hope you're on drugs, because it galls me that anybody could be that retarded while sober.

Wait, what's that you say? You can't take such a tabloid so seriously? Well, then it links to... WebWiseKids.org, where wisdom begins with you (no it doesn't, it begins with "w").

"Web Wise Kids is proud to be working with the Department of Justice to implement Project Safe Childhood... Web Wise Kids is honored to have been selected as one of only five organizations nationwide who will receive Federal funding to assist the Justice Department..."

Our troubles begin when we notice that the whole site appears to have been written by the same driveling moron who reported on teen hacking.

Let's see here. There's the Microsoft-sponsored "safer web surfing tips," being sure to imply that any software not made by Microsoft is slimy and evil. In the Parent's FAQ page, there's advice for checking up on your kids using AOL, Internet Explorer, or hitting something called a "Start" button.

"It is also a good idea to check the Recycle Bin on your computer to see if your children have discarded anything that you need to know about."

...because clicking "empty recycling bin" is simply beyond anybody but us wisdomy parent people.

And oh goody! It has one of those "glossaries" with code acronyms in a top-20 list. (Acronyms are scary! It's how teens sext! We should outlaw acronyms, call the FBI!) I always love reading these, because there's almost never anything used by actual people. It's like the jargon lists the vice squad puts together, sourced from - duh! - people who had fun feeding a load of bull to the clueless vice guy. In this list, how many acronyms have you actually seen in real life? Or as close to real life as 4chan gets? The source defensively threw a few right ones in there.

The amazing thing is that they get anything right at all. I've got to admit, I've told my own kids pretty much these rules for online safety. More or less. Just without trying to sound like an iCarly extra or anything. But before you start to perk up and think they're merely ill-informed people with good intentions, you stumble on AirDogs, with the bold headline "PIRACY... BULLYING... ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING..." Oh, these things must be all the same. When you're pirating Lady Gaga, that's just like you were bullying Universal Music Group. Hey, wait a minute, I thought this was about keeping kids safe?

This outfit, according to its own website, is sponsored by BofA, Wells Fargo, Toyota, Verizon, and other brand names, and is community partners with law enforcement and various associations and organizations. Your tax dollars, and your future government policy, at work. You know those bad decisions the US Congress will be making ten years from now and we'll all be blogging about? They're going to come from something they half-read and half-comprehended from sources like this, and of course, from the film Hackers.

Where could anybody start with this? What could you fix? How could you fix it? It's like a cargo cult where they get so much wrong but wear snappy uniforms that look just like the Army's, and when you try to tell them they're getting it wrong, they'll go change into nurse's uniforms instead.

This is why I don't give a damn anymore. I no longer want to try to fix it. It's too big a job for one person. All I do is coach my own kids, and hope that the bone-noses pick somebody else to sacrifice to the volcano gods today.

INB4 "Haw haw, he doesn't even know what a Start button is!"

we don't need no education

Update 5/17/10: Worse is the way these handy lists of "code" words get repeated over and over all over the web. Latest example here. Oh, the sensational drama!

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Got Some Luddite Mail Today

Date/Time Permalink: 02/11/10 03:31:37 pm
Category: Geek Culture

postcard from National Institute on Media and the Family

Funny coincidence: When I am confronted with massive ignorance, I, too, find that it enhances my aggressive thoughts and behaviors, and also increases my body's heart rate, adrenaline, and blood pressure. Where's my advocacy group?

Here's the home page of National Institute on Media and the Family, and the Wikipedia article tells you what's really going on. Minneapolis psychologist Dr. David Walsh, founder of the institute, seems like he's eager to fill Jack Thompson's shoes. You know, because we really, really needed another one of those!

By the way, I still haven't seen a serious study conducted into history's oldest "violent" video game. Wake up, sheeple!

PS - I've never seen that font before, but I think it's called "Homeless Guy Writing on Cardboard With a Marker."

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Ubuntu fans...

Date/Time Permalink: 01/29/10 04:15:57 pm
Category: Geek Culture

Ubuntu motivational poster

Source is apparently the Linux Caffe in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. What, did you think something that cool happens in the United States? Silly, silly!

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The Century Did, Too, Begin In 2000!

Date/Time Permalink: 12/21/09 10:47:27 am
Category: Geek Culture

A comment on my last post about the decade of the 00s got a face-palm out of me. See, if the century didn't start until 2001, then neither did the decade, and so we have only nine years passed...

I can't believe I'm still arguing this stuff ten years later.

This is the difference between objective truth and subjective truth. It is also the difference between programmer brain and muggle brain. In objective truth, we cannot make an entire Earth's trip around the sun disappear. In programmer brain, the number zero is an actual number.

Now, granted, the Gregorian and Julian calendar do not use the year zero. Our Gregorian year goes "3 BC, 2 BC, 1 BC, 1 AD, 2 AD, 3 AD." But the year zero happened anyway, whether we count it or not! The failure of Pope Gregory XIII and Julius Caesar to count the zero years does not constitute an obligation on my part to go along humoring the years with a special counting system.

To be perfectly correct? There should have been two year zeros! Since we're counting negative back from, and positive forward from, the birth of Christ, there should be both a year 0 BC and a year 0 AD. Here is a timeline done in six-month increments so we don't miss the zeros:

  • January 1, year 1 BC - It is now 24 months until the birth of Christ. (year -2)
  • June 1, year 1 BC - It is now 18 months until the birth of Christ. (year -1.5)
  • January 1, year 0 BC - It is now 12 months until the birth of Christ. (year -1)
  • June 1, year 0 BC - It is now 6 months until the birth of Christ. Mary is entering her second trimester. (year -0.6)
  • Event mark (consider it January 1st, 0 AD) - Christ is born. (year 0)
  • June 1, year 0 AD - Christ is now 6 months old. (year 0.6)
  • January 1, year 1 AD - Christ is now 12 months old. (year 1)
  • June 1, year 1 AD - Christ is now 18 months old. (year 1.6)
  • January 1, year 2 AD - Christ is now 24 months old. (year 2)

So, a mistake was already made centuries ago (in 1582, to be exact), which the entire world adopted. No matter which position you argue for, you can't be right. Not without changing the year. Now, if everybody in the whole world (or at least the part which uses these calendars) agrees to start counting the years correctly, I'll link elbows and go along with you all. But for now, we're stuck with it.

Since we are now stuck with calling the year what it is (2009 as I write, when, counting the year zero, this would actually be 2008, and both year zeroes, this would be 2007), my way (and many other people's way as well) is to consider 1 BC as actually being year 0 BC/AD, so that the century ends on December 31st, 1999 and a new one begins on January 1st, 2000. It isn't my fault that we have two centuries back there which had 99 years each.

So this is how I (and most people) cope, by reckoning the beginning and ending of decades and centuries the normal way. That's why Time magazine is calling it a decade over at the end of this month, and also why I'm calling December 31st, 2009 the last day of the 00s decade.

Really, people who are pedantically insisting that decades, centuries, and millenniums end with a {1,10,100} are just sticking to an ancient error. The date doesn't count anything - it is just a label, the way we "count" floors in a building or chapters in a book. So we can arbitrarily group any ten years into a decade that we want to - the decade of the "00s" includes years 2000-2009, so there! People who insist on treating our current year as if it counted something are doing the equivalent of measuring a line with a micrometer when it's already been cut with an ax. Furthermore, the exact pinpoint date of events of Biblical times are actually lost in history, since modern math concepts didn't even exist then, so we're all arguing about a blob of jello anyway.

Stop it already!

Update 6/15/10: Since it's been brought up: Positive and negative zero in programming.

An ad on a bus

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The Internet Has Sucky Taste in Films

Date/Time Permalink: 12/10/09 01:01:52 pm
Category: Geek Culture

I've been noticing a trend in films discussed online in the past few years. The more the social web hypes a film, the less I'm going to like it. You might see it as hype backlash. I'm definitely keeping my head while all about me are losing theirs.

With 300, I basically watched it for the memes. Now I know what "This is SPARTAAAAA!" is all about. Big deal. It's OK for extra-cheesy entertainment, but it's the kind of film where I own the DVD and only watched it twice - the second time just to mock it.

With The Dork Dark Knight, there's no chance that I'd like it after the juggernaut of marketing saturation that it was. It was meh-OK. Yes, I know, a different interpretation of the Batman mythos. I'm bat-burned-out. Here, I'll say it: Heath Ledger did not make a better Joker than Jack Nicholson. Yes, I'm sorry he's dead and it's commendable that he did Brokeback Mountain. But there was no chance that the film could live up to the million squeeing fanbois having trembling, eye-rolling orgasms of catharsis over it. Fortunately we'll never have to deal with that again, because there's a whole generation there that has sworn that they will never watch a film again so as not to tarnish the everlasting memory of its perfect glory. That's nice. They'll look ridiculous with it tattooed on their forehead at age 40.

The Matrix films sucked. How anybody can be a geek and like that franchise is a loss for me to explain. The Matrix series was cheap fantasy done by people who were too ADD to pay attention long enough to get a story straight. I never managed to sit all the way through a Matrix film. People are reading deep meanings into a film that has no meaning. Kind of like with Tarot cards. Why, look at the pretty pictures; they must mean something!

So the other day... I caught Primer. Once.

Yes, I understood some of it - not all of it, of course. The reason it's hard to understand is not because it's brilliant, but rather because it's muddled and murky, perhaps deliberately so for the purpose of obfuscating what's going on. It's a good film, for its style. I found it interesting. I have actually worked with Argon, know that car batteries pump 12 volts, have built things out of microchips, and can follow a discussion about superconductivity as long as you go slow. You can't distract me with techno-babble.

But when I see everybody apologizing for it because it's so confusing and explaining what it really meant, I can't get past the simple flaw that it fails to tell the story. No, I don't watch a film so I can read a thesis to explain it later. Because I have a hard time accepting that the thesis is correct. How do we even know that this is about time travel at all? Maybe the box makes you hallucinate. You can draw all the charts and diagrams and infographics you want, but what you have is a bunch of Powerpoint slides explaining your theory. Which, if the film could tell the story on its own two feet, we wouldn't need.

And I'm talking as a David Lynch fan. There's more going on in Inland Empire than there is in Primer. There's more to a mindf*** than just being obscure.

Internet, we're through. I like you, but I'm not going to let you recommend any more films to me.

All you need is wuv wuv wuv

Update 8/24/10: I have recently applied this new policy to Inception. First I heard about it and I was curious. Then fanbois online starting creaming about it, and I got turned off. Then the film was hyped and astroturfed from end to end of social media and I got more turned off. Then the insect-minded fanbois can't shut up about it weeks later, and now... only now do I find out that it was directed by Christopher Nolan, the guy who cursed us with Dork Knight.

What is up with the fantards around this one director? Google "Christopher Nolan" along with "objectivist" and read the interesting results; he's hugely popular with Randroids. For reasons which I probably don't want to know.

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I'll Bet Richard Heene Has Seen 12 Monkeys!

Date/Time Permalink: 10/19/09 08:03:08 am
Category: Geek Culture

It's so weird, it had to have come from Colorado.

The Balloon Boy story seems to be tailor-made to snag the geek community's attention. It has all the elements of a Science Fiction movie: A couple that lives for the media, a "mad scientist" (authorities and most of the rest of us are only sure about the "mad" part), there's the flying-saucer-shaped balloon itself, yards of aluminum foil ("May I borrow your hat? I'm building something."), and then there's all that white-knuckle action with the Black Hawk and Kiowa helicopters chasing it.

Being the rabid Terry Gilliam fanboy that I am, as soon as I saw this story I immediately thought of the 1995 film 12 Monkeys. One of the subplots in the film involves the news covering a boy who is supposedly trapped in a well, causing various rescue efforts including lowering a monkey with a roast beef sandwich down the well to try to nourish the boy until he can be rescued. As in real life, the story causes a media frenzy on TV and the radio in the movie's universe.

When Bruce Willis (playing the time traveler from the future) hears the story, he dismisses it, saying that the story's a hoax and the boy's hiding in a barn. In fact, this subplot becomes a catalyst crucial to the plot later. When Madeline Stowe (playing Bruce's psychiatrist) sees the story unfold on TV just the way Bruce said it would, that becomes the moment when she first realizes that he was telling the truth about being from the future and not crazy.

And then with this movie keeping a sizable cult following through the years (like any Terry Gilliam movie), we have the Heeses some 14 years later pulling the same stunt, only with a balloon instead of a barn...

Jack Palance from Ripley's Believe It or Not

"Believe it... or not!"

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