The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We're Still Standing

Film versus reality.

Here's something from the archives, an essay I wrote seven yeas ago on the occasion of the arrival of the year 2001:

There should be nothing surprising about the fact that the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" seems to keep popping up on television, somewhere on some channel, at least once a week. I mean, if this, the year 2001 is not the year to overplay it, then what is?

It would be much easier to take, however, if the movie weren't such a damn bore. Let's be honest, there is nowhere near sufficient plot to the story to justify a full-length feature. A half-hour episode of the Twilight Zone would have sufficed. The movie's sole saving grace is the cosmic beauty of the special effects, which are no doubt best viewed under the influence of pot or LSD, and were probably purposely intended to be seen in an altered state (this is, after all, a 60's movie).

Stoner sensibilities alone could've justified the stupefyingly slow pace of the film, the banal dialogue and the famously unsatisfying conclusion, which aims to be mysterious but ends up merely annoying. "I sat through all that crap for a ending I can't even understand?" is a pretty common reaction. I like the response of witty person who told a reporter who asked him upon leaving the theatre what he thought the mysterious monolith was and replied, "A giant chunk of hashish."

Yet there is at least one perspective to viewing the film that still holds some interest. That is to marvel at how the people of the 1960's imagined we would be living today. In some respects they gave us way too much credit. For example, the film imagines that in 2001 space travel would be as commonplace as airplane flights. Actually, we just this year had our first paying passenger in space, and at $20 million dollars a ticket, I don't expect to see many more anytime soon.

But at least we have better fashion sense than the 60's predicted. The makers of 2001 foresaw us walking around in these tight leotard type things all the time. It isn't hard to figure out why such attire never evolved into a fashion trend in real life. To wear skin-tight leotards and not look ridiculous you've got to be in near perfect shape, and while it may be 2001, flab has not been eliminated. They also showed us using telephones where you can see the person you're talking to. I've heard the arrival of such an invention heralded my entire life, and even seen pictures of prototypes, but never have I actually encountered one in anyone's home.

So I guess in some respects we never really lived up to what the 60's thought we would be, but then maybe they just weren't looking ahead to the right things. In the 1960's we were in the midst of the Cold War, with nuclear annihilation at any moment a distinct possibility. It is no small matter that we made it to 2001 without anything like that occurring. Of course aside from that singular accomplishment, much of the 20th century was a non-stop horror show of stupidity, cruelty and folly, with every mistake imaginable being made and with most of them being made more than once.

Just the same, here we are, a year past the end of the century, and frankly things are really not half bad. Yes, the Middle East is a hotbed of violence, Africa is a nightmare of poverty and AIDS while China, representing a quarter of humanity, suffers under socialist oppression. But for most of us human beings floating along on our funky spaceship Earth, things have really never been better. Never have so many, had so much, for doing so little. Never have we had so many toys. Never have we had so much to eat, so much so that today more people are dying from the complications of being overweight than from starvation.

No, 2001 didn't turn out to be the space odyssey the flower power generation expected of us, but it has been an odyssey just the same. A little grittier, a little less glamorous and a lot more down to earth than hoped for, but it IS 2001, and we ARE still here, and continuing to move forward in our awkward, stumbling way. On the whole, it looks like everything might turn out alright, and for that the 60's could be proud of us, and certainly we should be proud of ourselves.

I have an article in the Valley Advocate this week.

To read what I wrote click here.

I see that now that the students are gone they're doing some sidewalk work on the UMass campus.

In a victory for walkers, the University has been putting in sidewalks where people actually walk instead of using the inconvenient roundabout walkways currently in existence, which result in these unsightly paths all over campus.

It's a concept whose time has come - put the sidewalks where the people actually want to walk!

Blogger extraordinaire and Northampton sex symbol Paolo Mastrangelo has gotten a place in New York City! I'm gonna miss him, but I love seeing people's dreams come true! This song's for you, kid.


P.Mastrangelo said...

Tommy, thanks for the video! did you know that the second photo was a pic of my new residence? Or was that just a coincidence?

Phyl said...

I've never used pot, or any drug (not counting prescriptions!) But I feel, as you do, that marijuana should be legalized; I'd rather that my grandchildren smoked pot than to drink or get lung cancer from smoking.

I remember watching a special not long ago on Nova that had to do with genes and addictions. It was just as you presented it in the Advocate.

What a difficult road you have ahead of you! I wish you luck along your way to full recovery.

Anonymous said...


Saw your 'gateway' piece in the Valley Advocate yesterday. Great writing and excellent points.

Thanks for speaking out.

Take care,