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Reality Lags Behind a Little

   Well here we are, 2011.

     My brother and I got a stereo for Christmas when we were kids and the first record I bought was the soundtrack of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. I bought the soundtrack mainly for Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” because as it turns out, the rest of the album pretty much grated on the nerves. It went better with the movie. And I loved the movie!

     I didn’t get it, but I loved it.

     At the time I figured that maybe I didn’t get it because I was only 12 years old. But no, I’m still not a hundred percent clear on it today, and I’ve seen it five or six times. And I read the book. Does Keir Dullea turn into Space Baby? Is he a giant fetus that’s bigger than Jupiter? For what? And can’t they see this with a telescope from Earth?

     Okay, so then what happens? The sequel reveals that he turns into an old Dave Bowman and shows up on his wife’s TV. She thinks he died on the Jupiter mission ten years ago, but no, there he is. And he tells her something wonderful is going to happen. Yeah…and then what? He became like…the boss of Jupiter?

     No matter what your interpretation of the movie, the fact remains that it’s 2011 so where are all the Pan Am space planes taking people into orbit at the big Space Station? We don’t even have Pan Am anymore. I know we have a space station, but it’s not like the one in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. That’s a better one. In that one they had big windows and a commons area with all the amenities. Like picture phones. Okay, so it was a Bell Telephone picture phone, but still.

     And that space station was BIG! The real space station is six guys who need haircuts freezing their butts off while they float around in juice cans.

     That was the most obvious difference between the movie and real-life. The movie space station had gravity! Not everywhere, but on the parts where there was no gravity, they had velcro shoes. In the real space station they’re still in zero-g, floating around in their jumpsuits licking Lobster Fra Diavolo pellets. 

     But there’s another difference. The “2001” Space Station had restaurants. In the real-life space station, no frills is an understatement though they like to pretend that they’re enjoying all these comforts of home. Fancy sounding names for food that basically hasn’t changed too much since Alan Shepard squeezed beef paste out of a tube in the 60’s.

     “All these spacewalks sure make an astronaut thirsty Yuri.”
     “Agreed. More filtered urine Jeem?”
     “Is it still warm?”
     “You bet a farm Jeem!”

     And what about the computer? In “2001”, you had HAL 9000. It was artificial intelligence. It could converse. Today our advanced voice recognition comes to us in the ultimate in laziness…the voice command television remote control. Because man can’t even bother to lift even ONE finger to change the channel in the 21st century. 

     Though HAL was perfect except for the fact that it was willing to kill the humans because it had to complete the mission, today’s technology is not perfect. Our voice recognition software is only sufficiently developed that TV remotes still sometimes misinterpret words and they couldn’t possibly sing “Bicycle Built for Two”.

     It’s all a little disappointing, isn’t it? That’s because technology never keeps pace with science fiction. Remember “Time Tunnel”? You can still catch it on TV Land. That show was on TV in 1966. It was about a new experimental time travel machine. An advanced design of the far reaching future…1968!
     “Lost in Space” with the Jupiter 2 and Robot takes place in the year 1999. And speaking of 1999, remember “Space:1999” with my favorite actor, Martin Landau and his lovely wife, Barbara Bain? Moon bases and all that stuff…and that was supposed to be twelve years ago?

     One more thing I didn’t understand about “2001: A Space Odyssey” was the big black monolith. It was a transmitter, I know. But it transmitted only once, and that was a single ear-piercing electronic shriek. Reminds me of Joy Behar.

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