Good morning. I'm Dr. Martiana Westingless.
Welcome to 2702's 691st annual Intergalactic Historical Anthropology Symposium. Today's presentations include a seminar on "Interspecies Speed Dating," a photo tour of Dr. Who's brain (yes, he was a real man despite the rumors you might have heard) and a biopic titled "Darth Vader: Was He Simply Misunderstood?" Pet owners, the lunch session is "Housebreaking Your Tribble Kitten."
We begin, though, with my latest cultural research on Earth, a quarter-size planet in sector 59946.88421.6 known by indigenous occupants as the Big Blue Ball, Third Rock and Mother. The life forms on this odd orb are as lively and intemperate as the place itself.
In order to befriend modern earthlings during my year spent there researching their forebears, I originally assumed the appearances of idolized female humans known as Britney, Lindsay and Paris, thinking I could curry special favor by passing myself off as the gods of old. It worked—for a while. But life soon became too dramatic and I spent so much time in and out of prison, night clubs and something called rehab that my studies were impeded. So I opted for the bio-shell of a 5-D movie reviewer and no one ever bothered me or took special notice of me again.
To ensure I studied only Earth's most relevant and formative historical data, I narrowed much of my exploration to its inhabitants' primary mode of communication and information gathering: the Internet. Humans' attraction to it seems to be a codependent quirk that's linked to DNA structure; this race relies heavily on it to this day. In the era humans now fondly refer to the Emergence, it was a fledgling technology, and its future ramifications were little understood by those who participated in it. Included under the umbrella of the Internet were such phenomena as "social networking sites" and a video-themed community called "YouTube." Most earthlings believe that one Al Gore first invented the Internet, incidentally, but I found no firm data to support this notion.
I also studied visual and aural devices called television and radio, as well as moving pictures, or movies as they were eventually called. Hollywood, an especially venerated location, seems to have been central to their existence. It was there that I first appeared in the form of the god Lindsay.
Now please direct your attention to the holo-chamber to better experience my preliminary findings about humankind on Earth, circa 2010, organized by category.
Life: Many caretakers of baby humans shared every detail and photo of new life forms' development through an Internet-based construct called Facebook. Even bodily fluid excretions (necessary for humans to survive, but exceeding primitive and, er, gross) were sometimes mentioned in so-called "status updates." If these little humans had understood what their owners and masters—called parents—were doing, they would have taken legal action, I'm sure. Apparently, however, this material made good "parental leverage" during what was known as the "teen years."
It was at infancy that females first began to insult males, as confirmed by products containing messages such as "Girls Rule, Boys Drool." This attitude was fostered well into adulthood, demonstrated in various "situation comedies" on television and the Internet. Males, for their part, seemed helpless in the face of this matriarchal mindset. Were they to retaliate in kind, world war would surely have ensued. At the very least the men responsible would have been forever relegated to sleeping on couches.
Oddly, humans weren't always allowed to live after they were conceived. By that I mean this species sometimes killed its own. Terminations of animals such as dogs or dolphins, however, were discouraged by the elite of the society.
Religion: Rectangles and spheres were crucial symbols of humans' worship. While earthlings gazed lovingly into oblong appliances, the images displayed on them frequently involved spheres. Billions of humans planetwide would join in communal worship, cheering the movement of the balls within the boxes. It's indicated by records that time would literally stand still during these rituals, proved by the giant clocks hanging in the center of the arenas as well as the written opinions of the females who seemed powerless—in this instance—to even be heard by their mates while "the game was on." That incongruity may well be attributable to the remote controls the males would clutch in their hands and use to ward them off.
Intoxication by way of distilled spirits or fermented grains was integral to these religious ceremonies, it seems. (See "Appendix A: Rappers and Alcohol Commercials" in your handouts for further documentation.)
Love: The ancient vernacular is not entirely clear when it comes to fully defining the difference between the words sex and love. Neither is it clear to me, even after studying this element of human history longer than any other, whether these concepts meant everything or nothing to humans. Dating was part of the process, it seems, but that activity didn't even happen face-to-face all of the time. Sometimes it seems as if these people would actually date the Internet itself. Apparently, typing was an erotic pastime for many. But their sexuality wasn't merely textual. YouTube, for example, became a veritable breeding ground for videos of naked, often intoxicated humans, leading me to favor the theory that sex and love were tied to human religious practices in some way.
Monogamy seems to have been discouraged—as observed from virtually all of the era's movies, television shows and classroom texts.
Identity: These life forms had no idea who they were. Musicians often yelled at audiences, begging for answers to their existence. (See "Appendix B: The Rise of Angst in Rock 'n' Roll.") Earth scientists believed humans evolved over billions of years, transforming from simple cell structure to animal to human. But in practice, few humans lived their lives as though that were true. A good thing, actually, since an active faith in "natural selection" would have, according to my studies, triggered global destabilization as every human focused solely on his or her own interests. I can tell you, based largely on the fact that humans still exist seven centuries later, that this was not the case. Self-sacrifice and compassion were indeed fully visible at this stage of their progress.
This doesn't mean, though, that most of them refused to let outside forces define them. And whole industries sprang up around the idea of telling people how to think and feel—including the already mentioned Hollywood celebrities and websites such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan or Men's Health.
Two footnotes to this section: One, many humans believed that they were fantastic singers, dancers and actors. (See "Appendix C: American Idol and Other Delusions.") And two, I now suspect that I am not the first alien to infiltrate earthlings. During the 20th and 21st centuries, it is very possible that popular humans identified as Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Sacha Baron Cohen and Johnny Depp were actually extraterrestrials doing similar research to mine.
Garments: As seen on infomercials during this age, blankets with arms, derriere-enhancing underwear and plastic bumps for women's hair were all the rage. More relevant, perhaps, was the fact that women's necklines and hemlines were constantly be redesigned to show off what were thought of as special segments of their bodies to the men. Men, meanwhile, wore pants "on the ground," in their sometimes peculiar vernacular.
Identity, interestingly, was connected to clothing for these beings—and it was reinforced by Hollywood, where "red carpet" exhibitions ruled and spectators bickered for years over what famous humans wore. This species pitted person against person to determine who wore the same outfit best. And if two females ever showed up at the same social gathering dressed exactly alike, one of them was usually forced to leave in disgrace.
Humor: Humans were easily entertained. Even falling and requiring medical attention was considered hilarious. Videos of hand-drawn and then animated rodents, sleepwalking or skateboarding dogs, a feline breed known as LOLcats doing virtually anything, spaced-out children and obese adults got countless online visits from hordes of entertainment junkies. (A crass and oversimplified assessment, to be sure, but strangely appropriate here.) Words that were used to describe such earthling comedy: random, juvenile, fascinating train-wreck.
Communication: IF HUMANS FEEL SOMETHING STRONGLY THEY TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS AND USE EXCESSIVE PUNCTUATION!!!!! And little of the preserved written material I found followed the known grammatical or spelling guides of the day. Typically, humans would post their comments liberally on the Internet with no forethought or analysis. If they felt something, they wrote something. Thus, the concept of absolute truth in this society was nearly nonexistent by 2003 and was barely even missed by 2012. Information was infinite. The logical organization and verification of that information was utterly lost.
Final Analysis: Though their world underwent an informational growth spurt around the year 2010, changing more in a decade or two than it had for centuries earlier, humans were rarely amazed by it or reflective about it. They allowed the influence of entertainment and the grip of technological devices to consume them. Seven hundred years later, I've seen the full result of that.
Thank you for your attention. And now a short break for those of you who need to retrieve your tribbles for the luncheon seminar.