Patsy Porco

Martian Magic

In Humor, Technology on August 22, 2015 at 5:42 pm

martian dollWhen I was in elementary school, my fifth-grade teacher, Mr.(Kenneth) Sheinen, held up a clear, plastic, Bic ballpoint pen and asked the class to explain to a Martian, in writing, what it was, and what it was used for. He told us that we had to consider that the Martian had just landed on Earth and everything on our planet was foreign to him (of course it was a him; it was 1970, and times weren’t yet a-changin’* in Northeast Philadelphia).

Mr. Sheinen wanted us to describe every aspect of the pen: what it was made of, what filled the clear tube inside the pen, what the pointed tip of the pen did, how the caps were used and why, etc.

At the time, I remember thinking that, to a Martian, a ballpoint pen would appear to be magical. While we knew that they had cool stuff, like spaceships, antennas, bulging eyes, and green skin, they certainly didn’t have ballpoint pens. After all, who would want to write in Martian?

Looking back, I’m sure that Mr. Sheinen gave us this complicated project just to get some quiet time. Or, maybe he actually wanted to learn about Bic pens, his being a Martian and all.

This got me to thinking about what we perceive as magic. If I happened to time-travel from the 1700s into today’s world, I would be ready to burn everyone as witches. How could I, as an 18th-century person, not think that computers, cell phones, GPS, television, radio, streaming video and audio, Skype, and on and on, weren’t magic, and probably black magic? So much of what we use and create is invisible.

Centuries from now, when our civilization is excavated by archaeologists, what will they make of all the flat black boxes of varying sizes that they find in every house, and next to every skeleton? They won’t know about the satellites we relied on to make them work, or the electricity we used to power them. It would be fun to hear them speculate about their use.

Every thousand years or so, civiizations and their secrets disappear. That’s why I don’t understand why we marvel at the building of pyramids and the other wonders of our world. Everyone has seen drawings of the building of the pyramids, and they always include ropes hoisting slaves up each level to continue the job of building. Why? If we’ve harnessed the invisible powers of magnetism, electricity, sound, space, etc., for our needs, why do we not consider that Egyptians might have used the power of the mind, the body, or something else?

It does seem that once certain secrets of the universe have been discovered and utilized by a civilization, that society’s days are numbered. And once it’s gone, most of its knowledge is erased. The next group starts from scratch, just like poor Sisyphus, the Corinthian king who was doomed to rolling a huge boulder up a hill, watching it roll down again, and beginning again, forever.

This reminds me of Mr. Sheinen’s essay. Every time we handed our composition in to him, he said that it wouldn’t make sense to a Martian, so we started over. I hope that he finally learned how to use his Bic pen.

Bic pen

*The Times They Are a-Changin’, a song by Bob Dylan, 1964

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Food, Road Trips & Notes from the Non-Profit Underground

Dispatches from the Asylum

“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” ― Douglas Adams

Chomp Chomp

Food & Dining


Cooking and More


It contains the world best places and things.


Dabbles in writing, loves music and nature. Sierra Leonean

Amber & Corde

A journey of expanding my dog's world

Frank Solanki

If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Elan Mudrow

The Ridges of Intertextuallity

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf


This site a journey through 2014 - Body and Soul

Leonard's Lines

A world without humor just isn't funny.


The Cricket Pages

Ben's Bitter Blog

"We make bitter better."


What they never taught me in teacher school.




World through my lens

Happiness Between Tails by da-AL

Arts + Cooking + Dancing + Joy + Writing + Tales + Tails


Sabbles woz 'ere

Life In Our Little LA Garden

Spending time in our urban oasis planting seeds and talking about it

Waking Muses

A Creative Writing Project

The Shameful Sheep

shit storms, shame, and stories that make you cringe

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

Mara Eastern

I hope to be hysterically hilarious. But maybe I'm just hysterical.


In the sea of dreams.

Bluestem Pond

Diary of the creation of Bluestem Pond Farm


52 weeks. 52 pies.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

New York Sports Roundup

A fine site


Nancy Roman


A little about everything, a lot about nothing.

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: