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The Unbroken Line of Fathers

An idea for a movie, similar to Charles and Ray Eames', "Powers of Ten", depicting your paternal genealogy back 2 million years
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Start with the premise that you have some capability beyond this reality. You are going to personally meet each of your ancestors--your father's line, father's father's father's....etc....back to the best available evidence for the first appearance of an early human.

Each ancestor will appear before you as he appeared one year before the birth of his son, also your ancestor. He will speak for 30 seconds, a brief synopsis of the important things in his life. He'll be wearing his finest, and perhaps carrying objects most important to him in his life's work at that time.

You begin with your own father, as he was one year before you were born. You see and hear him say whatever has meaning for him at that time. He is wearing his finest and makes mention of his purpose in life. On to his father. Same presentation. You notice the change in fashion and manner of speaking, and you might have known your grandfather, so it is a welcome visit from someone now departed. On to his father. The changes in speech and clothing become even more apparent. It is a delight to meet someone you never met in life and who you heard so much about from your father and grandfather. On to his father. Now you are about one hundred years into the past. Still, the clothing, lifes work and speech are pretty close to the present.

So as you go back, generation by generation, certain milestones are noted: first literate ancestor, first wearer of eyeglasses, first to wear factory-woven clothing. After the first 40 or so fathers, it becomes apparent that each preceeding ancestor is basically about the same as his son, in speech and attire. In fact, the movie pulls away from the individual cameos to reveal a football stadium filled with paternal ancestors to give you the big picture--how the vast majority of those present are wearing animal skins and carrying spears. They are filing past the interviewer, one by one, and are seated in an upward spiral through the stadium seats, from most recent on the bottom row to oldest, somewhere on the uppermost row in a corner. The milestones for the assembled ancestors are indicated in the crowd from a distance--first farmer, first to have a tame dog--to the first ancestor to speak a language (that guy on the uppermost row, in the corner).

The movie could then superimpose a hypothetical extension of the stadium were it to also house all your paternal ancestors, going all the way back to the first anthropoid ape ancestor, about 20 million years ago.

The idea is to get a feeling for the scale of our journey from the plains of Africa to the present. The historical record is merely a blip on the path back to our origins.

The movie could then follow the best conjectures or future development, based on natural rates of change in species and one that explores how genetic tinkering might quickly alter the human form--for better or worse.

Such a movie could depict female lineage equally well and could possibly include both. But the point of using one or the other would be to note sex-linked heritage (paternal lineage all have the same Y chromosome; maternal lineage have the same mitochondrial DNA).

entremanure, May 28 2002

Buttock Massage http://www.halfbake...a/Buttock_20Massage
For the discerning cinema-goer (and blissmiss). [DrBob, May 28 2002]

Powers of Ten http://www.powersof10.com/
The official website for Charles and Ray Eames film. [entremanure, May 29 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Read this http://www.theatlan...s/2002/05/olson.htm
[mrthingy, May 29 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Java Powers of Ten http://micro.magnet...opticsu/powersof10/
Not the original film, but a passable reproduction [francois, Jun 11 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

10 Adams and 18 Eves http://www.ramsdale.org/dna7.htm
A New York Times article discussing the topic [francois, Jun 11 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       Hoo-hoo! Yes, indeed! But for the purpose of the movie, things would be idealized in the depictions. The narrator probably should make mention of the reality of cuckholdry (spl.?) through the ages--that the father depicted is not necessarily the man who raised the son. There is an interesting website about Screamin' Jay Hawkins on that note.
entremanure, May 28 2002

       Sure, why not. Good choice for the host and narrator for the reference to the "Back to the Future" movies that most are familiar with.
entremanure, May 28 2002

       Swift did some of this, I believe, in 'Gulliver's travels'.
neelandan, May 28 2002

       I'm an Australian Unabubba, and I know exactly who my father is. My Dad told me.
thelumberjack, May 28 2002

       Excellent idea for a movie. I'd pay to see it. Mind you, my Grandpa on my Dad's side is adopted, so it would really only be about the length of a trailer, unless the movie somehow managed to find my genetic great grandfather instead of Great Grandpa Tampolini.
thelumberjack, May 28 2002

       [entremanure] I haven't seen the "Powers of Ten" movie that you allude to, but I think the basic imagery your idea presents is hugely affecting, sort of like a particulary good Father's Day commercial from the Hallmark Card people. I'm not sure you've got enough in there for a movie, but you've got a very good short subject.   

       If only you could figure out how to commercially individualize these projects: e.g.: Brit Jack Cromwell; Irish Michael Kilpatrick; Spaniard Juan del Flores; Israeli Avi Rentzler; Nigerian Shaka Kinte; Indian Raj Jodhpuhr; Chinese Xiao Den Lao; Japanese Niko Fukusaki, etc., then I suspect you'd be on to a genealogical gold mine. But, then , that would be movie magic, wouldn't it?
jurist, May 28 2002

       You would do well to work with Icelandic men on this, since they have patronymic names and astonishingly good genealogical records, going all the way back to the colonization of Iceland, about 1100 years ago. Of course, you'd be hearing from a lot of Magnus Magnussons and the like in the process.   

       It would be interesting to hear about what each man considered to be the most important event in his life to date, in addition to the most important things. Something of a brief populist history of the world should follow.   

       It would also be nice to go through this process once for each of the ten principal trunks of Y-chromosome ancestry, perhaps with ten different screens showing the faces of men for an inversely exponential length of time. As time went on, some of the screens would start to show the same men flickering past, until all the screens stopped on a single face.   

       And not to quibble too much, but your statement about the Y-chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve isn't entirely accurate; there are differences in the Y-chromosomes of paternal lineages, due to mutation, but we can trace the paternal lineages of all living people today to a single male ancestor, and likewise for the maternal lineage. This seems like a logical place to stop the regression, since we'd otherwise be obliged to go all the way back to the precambrian.
francois, May 28 2002

       For a lot of people, the language barrier would pop up fairly quickly. By the time I reached my great-great-grandfather, I'd have no idea what he'd be saying.
waugsqueke, May 28 2002

       Looking forward, this might make a good 10,000 year project. Pick 10 or so men and the same number of women then give them 30 minutes in front of a camera at some predetermined age. Do the same for their children, then their children, etc..
phoenix, May 28 2002

       UB, does your first annotation mean that 85-86% of Australians *don't* think they know who their father is?   

       jurist, you should see the "Powers of Ten" movie.   

       entremanure, croissant. Another reason to limit it to just paternal or just maternal lines to keep track of where you are. But considering the problems with looking at both parents at each step, with the exponential increase in individuals as you go back, it's interesting to recognize that at some point the number of new faces would actually start to decrease. This inflection point is interesting to me. It seems like it should be important somehow, or indicative of something, but I can't figure out what.
beauxeault, May 28 2002

       given that my dad would probably rabbit on for an hour, he never cared much for rules and the rest of the family over 2,000,000 years had 10 seconds each (with a procreating period - if that is correct terminology - of on average 20 years) I calculate that this movie is 279 hours long.
po, May 28 2002

       One area of half-bakedness in my postings is that I write first draft only--and it shows upon a later read-through. Any formal writing I do gets at least a third draft before leaving my hand. Thanks for the comments.   

       The intent was for a short-subject film similar to the example mentioned. Each ancestor would be followed only until little changed from one to the next--as indicated by the prevalence of spears and skins. At that point the focus would shift to the big picture, the shear numbers involved.   

       I agree that it would be best to track several cultures. The average Korean has documented lineage going back a thousand years or more also.   

       I did the math also, regarding the inflection point, where exponentially increasing numbers of ancestors reverses. When you think about it, it becomes clear that after a few generations back, the purely mathematical aspect of ancestry is increasingly modified by the limitations of geography and biology. Initially diverging lines will converge as you recede into time because they are likely following back to one or a few points of origin. People migrated in rather close-knit groups, too, thus limiting marriage partners to within a handful of families. There are probably multiple expansions and contractions as populations expand and contract.   

       francois I am intrigued by your reference to the "ten principal trunks of Y-chromosome ancestry". Can you provide a reference on this? I'd like to learn about this--had not heard of it before.   

       All kinds of interesting ties to history and other genealogical facts, figures and theories can be added to this film. It is likely that most people have an adopted ancestor, so a particular surname extending back a long way has some meaning but you have to make allowance for how imperfect and chaotic life is. Just learning as many surnnames as possible reveals a lot about your origins.
entremanure, May 29 2002

       Two links added.   

       To summarize the article, the 10 Adams are associated with human populations that can trace their paternal ancestry back through the Y-Chromosome to them. Everyone within the same Y-Chromosome group can trace his paternal ancestry back to one of these men.
francois, Jun 11 2002

       Turns out we're not all Jock Thomsons sons and daughters after all.
[ sctld ], Jun 11 2002


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