A great, belated way to commence the new year: the second evening of Two Thousand and Thirteen, I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at a multiplex in Robinson Township—a sprawling tribute to rampant, franchised capitalism near the Pittsburgh airport. I had seen Kubrick’s flick many times on my analogue television (yes, I still own an analogue television, a Dawn-of-Mannish device that continues to pulverize my brain quite nicely) and once years ago via a scratchy celluloid print in a microscopic theater, but this time, I eyeballed 2001‘s restored, giant-sized digital version, sort of like—no, definitely like—eyeballing that film for the first time. The sharp image revealed countless details I’d never noticed, from humans in the neon pink window of a spaceship to tiny black IBM tags on viewscreens. (Yeah, yeah—the letters in HAL trail those in IBM one space behind, though Kubrick denied he’d intended this.) The mid-Sixties future—amoebic-orgy chairs! grasshopper-like space helmets! bureaucratic paperwork!—has gained even more retro cachet decades later.
And for the first time, I reacted emotionally to the film. During the sequence where the shuttlecraft soars toward the space station as The Blue Danube plays, I got a little teary-eyed. I now thought the sequence epitomized America’s bygone can-do optimism, as in an eagerness to discover, to invent, to journey into the unknown.
Last year, I dated an East-German woman who remarked that various European countries and corporations had embarked upon expensive, advanced solar-energy projects, far outpacing my country, the United States of America, in this field. She added that America has lost its interest in scientific research, a contention to which I agreed and still agree. America has always had an anti-intellectual streak, but now the streak has grown two-thousand-and-one-times wider than the black monolith pawed by the lanky hominids. Does anyone want to dare encourage creative thinking in a nation where a substantial portion of the populace not only disbelieves in global warming (the atmospheric phenomenon necessitating solar energy) but thinks we never evolved from those hominids, that some deity created man—and the planet Earth, and the entire universe—in six days six thousand years ago? What major technological innovations have we created over the past decade besides drone warfare?
Speaking of warfare, for my entire life, my country has slaughtered non-Caucasians almost nonstop in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Libya, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen…the list continues to grow. Liquidation doesn’t come cheap; if you want your drones to vaporize children, you might have to raise taxes on the wealthy. Ha ha, just kidding—the wealthy own our politicians, after all. Far more likely, the military will avoid tumbling off the fiscal cliff by convincing Democrats and Republicans to inflict pain upon the disadvantaged. A bipartisan deal—every respectable Washingtonian loves cooperation, not that either plutocratic party needs much convincing to indulge in free-market, trickle-down, orgiastic fantasies. Thus, say goodbye to education or Social Security…or the non-militaristic parts of NASA.
Yes, I know about the military’s influence over the space program (spy satellites, laser weapons, et cetera). And yes, I know America had ratcheted up its Vietnamese slaughter by the time of 2001‘s release in 1968, but my country also had the Apollo program—money better spent on social programs in both cases, one could argue, plus we had wanted to travel to the moon in the first place to score a Cold-War victory over the Russkies, but…for once in our history, we considered it great public-relations to stress brain-power. Today, every normal American knows terrorists and/or atheists like thinking.
Copyright © 2013 by David V. Matthews