Lies About Books: Romeo And/Or Juliet

In the month of June, I had the privilege of attending the book launch for Romeo And/Or Juliet, by the illustrious and towering Ryan North. As I followed that attendance up with actually reading the book, it seems only fit to lie about it now in review form.

Ever an innovator in the field of non-fiction literature, North follows up To Be Or Not To Be, the first chooseable-path philosophy text, with Romeo And/Or Juliet, the first choose-your-own-path biography. The form suits the content aptly: so little is known about the subject that even the most appropriate name for use in the title is best left up to the reader’s discretion.

The figure who is the central topic of the book was a controversial figure in Shakespearean times. Shrouded in myth and contradictory rumour, even the pronouns are subject to the reader’s choice, for reasons which will become apparent.

What is known for certain about Romeo and/or Juliet, as North establishes, is as follows: the individual either was born or died in Italy, but spent considerable time in England, and served for a period of several years, give or take a few, in the same acting troupe as William Shakespeare. It is also believed by most scholars that the subject experienced gender dysphoria sometime between the teen years and middle age, and selected a new name accordingly.

However, this is where the difficulty – and the element of the reader’s choice – comes in. So little is known for certain that no one can say with exactitude whether an individual assigned male and born as Romeo later changed her name to Juliet, or whether the child assigned female and born as Juliet later changed his name to Romeo – or whether she lived and died as Juliet but disguised herself as a man to act in England, or whether he was Romeo all his life, but flirted with the idea of being Juliet merely to escape his debtors.

Thus, rather than show bias toward one historian’s account over another, Ryan North cleverly presents all versions of events as equally true in this ingenious volume, allowing readers to determine for themselves the possible events of the character’s life – and then to read it again, for a different historical reconstruction.

All in all, Romeo And/Or Juliet is a fascinating read, both for the unique object it is, and for the inspiring life story it recounts. I recommend it highly to any fans of historical debate, choosing the gender of the main character in the book one is reading, and infinitely-nested chooseable-path adventure books. Another genius book from Ryan North!

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Why People Sleep

Hello and welcome to another week of calumnies and lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question which was recommended to Factually Deficient by one Vlppf on twitter. The question was:

Why do people sleep?

The fascinating thing about this question is that while almost all humans sleep, precious few are actually aware of the reasons behind why they do – making this a question uniquely of interest to so many people.

The first thing to know is that time travel is possible and frequently accomplished – necessary, even. However, in order to avoid paradoxes, anomalies, and other troublesome time-travel-related scenarios, it was imperative that incidents of time travel remain isolated, without memory or consideration of them leaking into our linear lives.

This problem gave the world’s thinkers serious thought in 1632 (incidentally – but not coincidentally, for reasons which will soon become apparent – the first year in which sleep was recorded to have taken place). At last, they arrived at a solution.

The solution was multifaceted:

  1. First, time travel excursions should not be taken in linear manner, but rather, successive trips would be to random assortments of past and future, deliberately shuffled out of any meaningful order.
  2. No more than half the world could be travelling at a time, to avoid overcrowding.
  3. Precautions had to be taken to avoid memory of these excursions, even with the logical chronology of them scrambled.

Sleep was invented to unite all these aspects of the time travel solution. Because day and night come to the different hemispheres of the globe at different times, no more than half the world’s population could be expected to be asleep at any given time. And the concept of dreaming was invented to ensure that the rare few who could even remember what took place while they were asleep would not consciously attempt to ascribe meaning to their disjointed memories of the excursion, but would rather disregard them as the random musings of a subconscious mind.

In short, people sleep in order to deceive themselves – to hide the truth that they are really spending their hours of darkness travelling through time.

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Disclaimer: The above blog post is extremely untrue. Sleep has been known to exist earlier than 1632.

Black and White

Hello and welcome back to another week of fun-filled fibs, falsehoods, and fabrications here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed here in the comments by Tohrinha. Tohrinha asked:

Why are old television shows in black and white?

Tohrinha is observing a phenomenon whereby the older a television show, the higher the likelihood that it is presented in greyscale, without any other colours of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The reason for this is simple: unlike most objects, which travel linearly forward through time, pigment is naturally fixed in time. In its untouched state, pigment – colours – are visible only at their exact moment of creation; and they will exist eternally at that moment, and be visible at no other. We fight this process by fusing the pigments to the items we wish to colour, thereby lending the linear chronology of the object to the pigment, as we lend the visual aspect of the pigment to the object. A symbiotic relationship.

However, the bonds of this relationship are not indefinitely sustainable. As time passes, the “glue” which holds the pigment to the object it colours grows weaker, until finally the pigment returns to its original fixed point in time. Thus, as television shows grow older, their pigments begin to return to their points of origin, leaving the television program in only shades of black and white.

This phenomenon is not restricted to television; the same principle is at work when colours of a poster on a wall begin to fade, when a person’s hair shades to white or gray, and when pale spots (often white) start appearing on elderly bread, cheese, and other food items. In all these cases, the object (or person) has aged to the point that the bonds tying it to its pigment have eroded, the pigment beginning to revert to its initial timeless state.

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Disclaimer: The above blog post is certifiably false. Not all pigments are resistant to travelling linearly forward in time.