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I went to see “Looper” today.  It’s been billed as “this decade’s The Matrix”.  Well… no.  But The Matrix was a very hard act to follow, so perhaps we’ll let it off.

Joe is a Looper – an assassin with an easy job.  At pre-determined times people are sent back in time, bound and disguised, and he kills them.  Apparently it’s hard to hide the bodies in the future.

The looper’s contract continues until they close the loop – which means the person they have just killed is themselves.  They get a huge payout and spend the next thirty years doing whatever they want.  Predictably, when Joe’s turn to close the loop comes, there are a few problems – such as the other end of the loop being Bruce Willis.

It’s not just he wants to live, of course, he has a plan.  The loops are all being closed by the new boss in town, the Rainmaker.  Old-Joe wants to kill the Rainmaker as a child and therefore stop himself being sent back to die.

I won’t tell you what happened – but I will say that there were explosions (one of my two favourite things about Hollywood films), and a lot of people died.  But since Bruce Willis was involved you probably guessed both of those.

There are a few things which puzzled me about the film.  One was the French.  Young Joe was learning French, he said because he was planning on going to France after he closed the loop and retired.  In the scenes we saw from Old Joe’s life, not once was he actually in France, but he said he never regretted learning French.  Not sure what that was all about.

The other thing was the set-up that the bad guys used.  Killing the assassins I can understand, since the whole thing is highly illegal.  But why have them kill themselves?  Set it up so that they worked for a certain number of kills or a time limit, or just until they earned enough.  Then, later, send them back to be killed by somebody else.  They wouldn’t know ahead of time that they would be going to die, and there wouldn’t be the hesitation problem that allowed Old Joe to escape in the first place.

Still, it was a good couple of hours fun.

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Which way do you gesture when talking about the future?  Or the past?  Unconscious gestures can reveal the way people think about time.

The New Scientist reports that a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea has a time stream that follows the course of the nearby river.  The past is downhill, at the mouth of the river, and the future is uphill, at the source.

When they talk about time, they always gesture in those directions, no matter which direction they are facing.  When they’re inside and can’t see the river, the door represents the past.

Researchers are thinking that this is because when they moved to the region they came from the sea, so the mouth of the river is where they have been.

They aren’t the only tribe to have time going in interesting directions.  There is an aboriginal community in Australia whose time flows east to west, and a tribe in the Andes whose time flows front to back – with the unseen future behind them.

Gestures aren’t the only thing that shows how we think about time.  Phrases in our language are also important.  Going forward and back in time spring to mind.  Perhaps that’s why Back to the Future was a good choice for a film title – it defied our expectations slightly and made us curious.

The next time you are building a world, or a new people, consider how they think about time.  Which way will they be gesturing when they talk?  What phrases will find their way into their language?

What gestures and phrases might develop for a group of time travellers?

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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