Back To 2001

Every once in a while I read about a museum exhibition that sounds so tantalizing it motivates a desire to take a trip just to see it.  So it is with an exhibit that is opening this weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York called Envisioning 2001:  Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey.

2001 - A Space Odyssey - 1968Of course, the exhibit is about 2001:  A Space Odyssey — a masterpiece that is now generally considered one of the greatest films ever made.  (The British Film Institute’s critics poll, for example, ranks the film as number 6 on the top 100 list of the greatest films of all time.)  Anyone who’s watched the movie — and if you haven’t, you really should — has been mesmerized by the story, the soundtrack, and the many memorable scenes.   From the early ape-like human ancestors stroking the colossal object and learning how to use bones as weapons, to the discovery of the object on the moon, to the docking of the shuttle and the space station set to the strains of The Blue Danube waltz, to the exploits of the murderous HAL computer on the voyage to Jupiter, to the final mystifying scenes with the Starchild and the Stargate, 2001 is a mind-blowing adventure and feast for the senses.  And as you watch, you wonder:  what in the world (or, more appropriately, beyond the world) is happening here?  It’s hard to believe that many critics at the time of its release panned the movie and didn’t recognize its epic scale and greatness — but often the influential scope of books, movies, artistic movements, music, and other creative endeavors aren’t fully appreciated until years later.

The new exhibit offers a peek at the models used in the film’s ground-breaking special effects, the ape costumes worn by actors, and the spacesuits designed for the Jupiter voyage, but the real focus is on digging into what Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke were trying to convey — and how they got there.  When you get a chance to look at how a classic was created, how can you resist?

In Search Of Solid Science Fiction

Lately I’ve been consciously trying to do more leisure reading.  Unfortunately, I’d gotten out of the habit, because when you spend your work day reading it’s not easy to come home and read some more for pleasure.  But I love books, and I’d rather nod off at night while reading than nod off while watching some mindless TV show.

I’m not very systematic about my reading choices.  Kish is; she peruses the New York Times book review and uses the excellent Columbus Public Library on-line resources to reserve books that look interesting.  I tend to focus on one genre — such as biographies, for example — and read books exclusively in that genre until I’m ready to move on to another one.

issac-asimov-predictionsSeveral months ago I asked Richard what he was reading, and he said he was in the middle of Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation trilogy, part of which I’d read in high school.  He recommended the series, so I picked it up . . . and enjoyed it immensely.  Since then I’ve read Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, as well as some other assorted Asimov and Heinlein efforts.  I’ve always liked science and science fiction — one of the first pieces I ever wrote on this blog was about The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, one of my all-time favorite books — and I’ve decided that I want to get a better grounding in what the science fiction genre has to offer, both in terms of the other authors, like Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke, who helped to create science fiction’s golden age, and the more recent writers who have been well-received by critics and readers alike.

I’ve taken to making internet searches for sci fi “best” lists, and on the basis of those searches I’ve just started John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and I’ve got Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon next in line. I’d be happy to get any other recommendations on worthwhile sci-fi that Webner House readers are willing to share.