Finally, An Opportunity to Find Out If Stomachers Are Better Than Diets!

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nationn' topic

I'm going to lay it out for you — straight. We're doing a show on time travel. That's right, time travel, folks. (See above for more explanation). Ashley, intrepid producer that she is, called an assortment of famous people, and asked them this: "If you had a time machine, what period would you like to visit?"

I'm pretty sure there were a few people/publicists (not quite the same thing, you know), who thought we were crank calling them. But darn it all, we've got them for you — everyone from Miss Manners to Joseph Ellis — and they're going to let you in on their secret wishes for time travel.

But now, on to the important part — ME. My secret wish is to go back to the early sixteenth century, and just hang with Queen Anne — Boleyn. Actually, hang might be literal — I suppose I just want to see the court of Henry VIII right as he broke with Rome. I am addicted to the various fictionalized versions of the story (bless Philippa Gregory), and I am dying to see what a stomacher does for my figure. I'm including in here a clip from my favorite film version of the famous story, Anne of a Thousand Days. You can see Genevieve Bujold kicking royal butt about a day before she's beheaded. Awesome, right?



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I'd like to hear and record J.S. Bach's keyboard playing.

Sent by Aaron Brown | 3:14 PM | 3-11-2008

I would go back to the theater that Abe Lincoln was at and try to save his life.

Sent by Melanie | 3:16 PM | 3-11-2008

Because I am addicted to genealogy research, I wouls like to go back to 1890 and meet my great-grandparents. While I was at it, I would try to save the 1890 census from being lost to a fire in Washington DC.

Sent by Marsha Hosfeld, Rockford IL | 3:18 PM | 3-11-2008

I've said for a long time that i'd like to go back and visit Euclid & teach him calculus & Quantum Stochastics. The reason being, I think his influence on rational thought (specifically the fallacies surrounding linear causality, especially in regards to Roman,English & modern law) unduly shapes our definition of rationality, in that we tend to posit a linear cause to a discrete event, neither one of which is really real.

Sent by Dale Orkus | 3:18 PM | 3-11-2008

I have always wanted to go back and see how things looked before humans showed up. Like a number of places along the Snake River where waterfalls have been altered by hydro plants. Also, watching things like the Lake Bonneville Flood is intriguing.

And of course, dinosaurs.

Sent by Travis | 3:20 PM | 3-11-2008

As a musician, I've often found myself idly pondering what it would be like to travel back to London or San Francisco in 1966, knowing what I know about music today, and plant myself in the music scene of that time. Would people be impressed or repelled? Would they think I'm crazy when I'd tell them that the Beatles' best days were still to come? I wonder.

Sent by Glen Garcia | 3:20 PM | 3-11-2008

I am a genealogist/librarian and from working with people on a daily basis who study history and especially their ancestors, I believe most people, if asked, would chose to go back to see or talk with some one they knew or are descendant from. Or they would chose to go back to an earlier time in their own lives.

Time travel to "famous" events or notable times is fodder for the theoretical or for talking heads, but the rest of us would chose to travel back very much in the way we live our lives today - not to the extraordinary but to the ordinary

Sent by Holly Sammons | 3:22 PM | 3-11-2008

How about time travel a la Dicken's "A Christmas Story" where you could watch different times without participating?

Sent by Renee | 3:23 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to be in Bethlehem on the night of Jesus' birth. I would want to see the star and possibly "hear the angels sing" to the shepherds.

Sent by Cheryl Roddy | 3:23 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to attend the premiere of Hamlet.

Sent by janet | 3:24 PM | 3-11-2008

I would like to go back to the birth of my daughter (she's only 5 months old!). I don't remember much of it and wish I did, so I'd like to revisit that moment.

Sent by Sheri | 3:25 PM | 3-11-2008

I want to see why the person decided that artichokes were edible and why serve it with hollindaise!

Sent by Cynthia | 3:25 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to be there as Ernest Shackleton walked into Stromness (after crossing South Georgia, a feat not repeated until 1955) to tell the story of the loss of Endurance.

Sent by Ian Brosnan | 3:26 PM | 3-11-2008

I want to go back and visit myself. I would try to give some advise to a younger me. Such as warnings about relationships, career tips, and perhaps map out my college years a bit better. I really would not want to change much outside myself, so I hope the butterfly effect is not going to be much of an issue.

Or maybe I would just go back to a nice summer day that keeps knocking around my head.

Sent by Jess | 3:26 PM | 3-11-2008

I would wait patiently in a car in the parking lot behind the fence adjacent to the "grassy knoll" at Dealy Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and settle once and for all (for myself, anyway) if there was indeed a "second gunman" positioned there.

Sent by Mark O'Dell | 3:27 PM | 3-11-2008

I logged on to suggest saving Lincoln's life as did Melanie, or even better to travel to the book depository and prevent Kennedy's assasination.

Sent by John Gordon | 3:27 PM | 3-11-2008

I would like to travel back to the founding of the United States to settle once and for all the "Christian Nation" debate.

Sent by Justina | 3:28 PM | 3-11-2008

I would like to travel back to meet my father, who passed away when I was 6 years old

Sent by Darelynn | 3:29 PM | 3-11-2008

Assuming we are only going back in time here, I'd like to go back around 13000 years to see what caused the younger Dryas. This is a period of recurrent glaciation that some content was caused by a meteor strike.

Sent by North Lilly | 3:30 PM | 3-11-2008

Something I never understood about time travel is that if go back in time just 6 months, the Earth would be on the other side of the sun! A simple but important oversight for the time traveler...

Sent by Adam | 3:31 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd visit many places... First, i'd go back to Great Britain in the mid 1960s in order to make it big playing the music that i love (Prog i.e. Rush, King Crimson, etc.). i'd become a Bass legand like the late Jaco Pastorius has.

2nd, I would visit the mid 1980's and hopefully prevent the chain reactions that would lead to the fall of the USSR.

3rdly i would visit s50, 100, 200 amd 1000 yrs into the future to see where we're going and look beyond my years.

and finally, i would retire sometime in the mid Jurassic/cretaceous period and build a lil' hut near an ancient beach.

Sent by Ed Guzman | 3:31 PM | 3-11-2008

Is there a METAphysical aspect to time travel? In other words, my very active imagination can take me anywhere!

Sent by Mary | 3:32 PM | 3-11-2008

Someone has already written that story about going to see Isaac Newton and bringing him a modern pocket calculator to help him with his numbers. As I recall, in the story Newton decided he awas in league with the devil and beat him up..

Sent by James Stewart | 3:32 PM | 3-11-2008

Mozart, of course. No one before or since like him. He created art that truely defies description. If any creation of humankind has acheived immortality it is to be found in Mozart's music. The operas are works of ineffable transendental genius. Let's go back and help him live to a ripe old age.

Sent by Mike | 3:33 PM | 3-11-2008

When thinking about this topic, I am always struck by what exactly is going on today. In one hundred years, what will folks want to know about us? What was it like to witness the birth of the internet? What was it like to live in the time when fossil fuels ran out? Or some other questions that we are totally unaware.

Sent by Adam Welch | 3:34 PM | 3-11-2008

I live in China and listen to you on streaming from Colorado Public Radio... I would like to go back in Chinese history to the Tang Dynasty when China flowered... or travel the Silk Road then or I would like to go forward and see what happens to with all the pollution problems in China, if the government ever made the industries clean up their toxic messes.

Sent by Carole Morris | 3:36 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to go to India in 2500 BC to become a disciple of the Buddha. I'd like to be present on Vulture Peak Mountain when he first taught about emptiness, interdependence and egolessness.

I've been to north India and made a pilgrimage to the places where he taught and to Bodhgaya, where he attained Enlightenment. I would love to be there when he was there with his many, many followers, to meet him and learn directly from him.

Sent by Tana Lehr | 3:37 PM | 3-11-2008

Did Richard III really kill those princes? Was he a hunchback? This inquiring mind wants to know!

Sent by Arden | 3:38 PM | 3-11-2008

I never heard anyone talk about the place I'd want to go.

The Library at Alexandria, beore the Roman invasion.

Sent by Richard | 3:41 PM | 3-11-2008

I would like to ask the founding fathers what they think of some of the consequences of their decisions, or what they really meant by some of the things they wrote or said.

Sent by Tim | 3:44 PM | 3-11-2008

Definitely in Tenochtitlan 1519-1521. Would love to see how the Aztecs lived, how their incredibly clean spacious city operated and the encounter between Cortez and Moctezuma.

Sent by Susan Tattershall | 3:44 PM | 3-11-2008

Interesting that guest Neil deGrasse Tyson imagined taking a modern graphing calculator back in time to Isaac Newton. That's pretty much the scenario in the 1979 short story "Newton's Gift," by Paul Nahin. A mathematician with access to a time machine wonders what Newton could achieved if he'd been spared the drudgery of doing all his calculations on paper, so he gives Sir Isaac an advanced calculator. Only one small problem--Newton sees the glowing red LEDs of the display and decides that the machine must be an instrument of the devil, a suspicion that is confirmed when the hapless mathematician punches in a complex problem whose solution is, of course, "666." Newton, horrified, gives up science and devotes himself to years of theological study--the very "waste" of Newton's talent that the mathematician had decried before starting his journey.

Sent by Marty | 3:45 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd take an environmental suit and a mass spectrometer and travel back about 2.7 years ago to figure out the origins of life - whether or not there were really self-replicating macromolecules.

Sent by Lou | 3:45 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to go back to 1865 2 hours prior to Lincoln going to Ford's theater. Either to warn him or to stop Booth

Sent by Jim B. | 3:45 PM | 3-11-2008

I would be interested in going back to the time the templar knights fortune mysteriously disapeared prior to the capture and torture of all orders of the order

Sent by miguel | 3:49 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to go back and sit in on meetings with Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis as they made plans for the expedition. I'd also like to sit in on Congress as Jefferson made his pitch for funding the adventure which came to about $2,500. I'd then like to be at the mouth of the Columbia River has the Corps of Discovery first saw the ocean and see what they did and how they celebrated.

Sent by T. R. Shaw | 4:05 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd go back to the battle of hastings in 1066; the intersection between the middle ages and the modern era--although my second choice would be the battle of salamis--the intersection between the ancient world and the modern

Sent by gary feest | 4:16 PM | 3-11-2008

As awesome as it would be to visit the past,I think I would rather see the future. I want to know what's in store for my children.Is it always going to be war,terror and chaos?Or is there a light at the end of all this?

Sent by chris | 4:21 PM | 3-11-2008

The host shouldn't have been so quick to cut off the caller who had a "comment related to a show that was on Fresh Air today." He was probably just going to say that we wanted to go back and examine the myths about religion in the lives the Founding Fathers, which was a topic on Fresh Air today.

Sent by Robin | 5:13 PM | 3-11-2008

I would go back to 0 B.C.E. to see if Jesus was the real deal.

Sent by Natasha | 5:23 PM | 3-11-2008

I would go back to Chicago in the summer of 1893. The World's Columbian Exposition would be in full working order, the world's first Farris Wheel would be spinning high in the sky, and thousands of exhibits would be showcasing the exotic wonders and the future of technology as the people of the late 19th century saw it. I was a great moment in the world of architectural and cultural history, I would love nothing more than to have witnessed it!

Sent by Allan Donnelly | 6:42 PM | 3-11-2008

I tend to look at questions differently. If time travel is possible in the distant future, where would a time traveler go? Are they present to witness great events? If you looked for them could you recognize them or would they try to blend in? It would be just as exciting for me to find someone in our time from the future as it would to go into the past.

Sent by harley | 7:00 PM | 3-11-2008

Rather than view 'important' moments in history, I would rather have 'mysteries' answered.
How were the pyramids in Egypt built?
How about the pyramids in Mesoamerica?
Perhaps even see the proper sequence of glyphs on the heiroglyphic staircase in Copan, Honduras.
Why stop there - Easter Island...
And the list goes on.

Sent by Cesar Matamoros II | 7:05 PM | 3-11-2008

I'd like to be back in 1960.

I hate the world we live in now because we are bombarded with commercials pressuring us into consumerism. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses next door, Americans feel they must keep up with Donald Trump.

I hate credit card debt, Hummers, blue and black things, and anything that begins with an I or an E.

I hate profanity, nudity, and stupid sexual innuendos that morons laugh at on commercial TV. I hate Martha, because you feel inadequate if your garden is not just like hers.

I hate political correctness, illegitimate births and giving away free medical care to people who don't even pay taxes.

I hate McMansions, developers and those who have ruined our landscape.

I hate sports, all sports. The average family pays hundreds of dollars for a day at the game while these drug-addicted wife/child/animal abusers are being paid millions to throw a ball.

I hate it that Mom and Pop are being run out of business by The Huge Chain Places. Small town identities are snuffed out by greed stemming from Chinese-produced cheap junk.

I hate that if you call a place for service on a product, someone has an India accent.

I hate it that people today cannot utter a sentence without saying " I mean, ya know, actually".

I hate it that young people do not know any verbs other than LIKE.

I would "like" (properly used) to go back to the 60s to go out to dinner, where I used to spend over a hundred dollars, and be able to smoke a cigarette, rather than being sent outside in rain, cold or wind while the restaurant owner has no say about his property rights. I would like to be a normal human being who knows what responsible drinking means, rather than staying home because Nazi-like police want to set up numerous DUI checkpoints.

I want to go back, and this country should too. It doesn't take a time machine, only common sense.

Sent by Natalie Reach | 9:21 PM | 3-11-2008

I was sad to hear how few the responses were for visiting a time preceding the extinction or imprisonment of species and landscape. How glorious to travel back to witness the migration of Bison on the North American continent. Sadly this possibility was removed less than two hundred years ago.

Sent by Brent Spink | 11:51 AM | 3-12-2008

I feel like I was born in the wrong era. As a person born in the late 80s, I deeply regret missing out on the counterculture movement of the 1960s. I would give anything to travel back in time to see Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and The Beatles perform live!

Sent by Christine | 5:47 PM | 3-13-2008

Hi Fred. Glad you enjoyed our segment about time travel. Author ZZ Packer joins us tomorrow in our letters segment to give us her answer. And we plan to make this a New Year's Eve staple. So stay tuned!

Sent by Ashley | 5:11 PM | 3-17-2008