Pondering the palimpsest and panoply of the planet.

Archive for the tag “Arthur C. Clarke”

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Revisited in 2011

My experience with Atari 2600 has taught me how to deal with these things.

This evening, asteroid YU55 will pass by Earth, coming so close as to actually cross into the Moon’s orbit. I have seen the asteroid described as “the size of an aircraft carrier” (why not “the size of an average Wal-Mart”?). This event (which apparently presents no danger to life on Earth) is really quite amazing, in my opinion. It lets us imagine the type of mass extinction-level event that killed the dinosaurs and paved the way for the gradual rise of the mammals (including primates like you!). It is also a reminder of how tenuous life can be on a lonely little planet–we don’t even need anything from outer space to threaten us; we continue to do that to our own planet ourselves from within, even though it is the only one we have.

Frame from the Prelude to Melancholia

Also slightly disconcerting is how reminiscent this situation is to that in the film Melancholia, which I only viewed two weeks ago. [Disclaimer: I must say that I never imagined that I would ever again have any recourse to watch a Lars von Trier film after struggling through his previous horrifying fraud of an “art film”, but the lure of yet another treatment of an apocalyptic scenario was too strong to resist–the genre is somewhat of a delectatio morosa (or, perhaps, a gusto picaresco) for me.] The film, in any case, was so visually stunning and emotionally jarring that I felt that it at least warrants mentioning in reference to something. The maelstrom of the Richard Wagner soundtrack added to its intensity as well. I am not sure whether this film would be helpful or harmful for a person struggling through depression or related issues, so I best leave my tentative recommendation to those who consider themselves to be in possession of a robust state of mind.  Read more…

Also Sprach Zarathustra…

Grasping for inspiration, I decided it would be neither too presumptuous nor too passé to thrust my first website upon the world with the same gusto as the Kubrick/Clarke scientifically-fictional masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. This familiar theme by Richard Strauss was itself inspired by the eponymous and epic philosophical masterpiece of Nietzsche, a treatise that discussed concepts such as ‘eternal return’, the ‘death of God’, and the Übermensch. In addition, this refrain is used by the football team of the University of South Carolina, my first alma mater, at the opening of each contest (at least as recently as 2003, the last time I was present to experience it). I will hope such mock-profound themes and vague connections will lend an auspicious beginning to my own website.

In a somewhat less auspicious light, let me transition to some brief musings on the only important historical ‘news’ of today (besides the opening of this website):

Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. This is one of those deaths that feels important to people from all walks of life because of the stature and fame of the person. Unlike such cases as princess Diana or Michael Jackson, however, Steve Jobs was not a political figure or artist/entertainer (the types that usually seem to warrant this rare reverence of their passing)– he was an innovator of technology. I am currently writing and surfing on my MacBook, listening to iTunes, and, earlier this morning, I took a walk up Monte Berico listening to my iPod. Steve Jobs had a vision (perhaps not unique, but successful in any case) of bringing computers to the houses, and pockets, of normal people, and knowledge, freedom, and happiness has no doubt followed in the wake of his aesthetically-pleasing products.

Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Yes, that Tomas Tranströmer, the same one you remember reading in middle school, writing an essay about in your freshman English course, and hearing pop culture references about in your daily life [sarcasm alert]. Another big win for the Swedish Academy (by the way, as you probably remember from his famous autobiography, Tomas Tranströmer is Swedish). Seriously, does anyone take the Swedish Academy seriously? I was somewhat encouraged by Mario Vargas-Llosa’s prize last year, seeing it as a (small) step in the right direction (I can’t nitpick too much about how Carlos Fuentes was more deserving; at least MVL is a famous, influential, and talented writer). I was also moderately excited about the mere possibility of someone like Bob Dylan actually bringing home the bacon (a bit sanguine, I know). Of course, the ‘Academy’ would much rather not ruffle too many feathers and pick the ‘safe’ choice of another unknown, boring, and inaccessible ‘poet’. It has been 30 years since the Swedish Academy awarded the prize to a Swede (ever since two members of the Academy awarded themselves a shared prize!), and it seems like they couldn’t stop themselves from scratching that itch once more (“it’s been 30 years!  we can’t wait any longer to reward another Swede!”). For every Hemingway (say what you want about his style, personality, whatever… he deserved his prize), there are 10 Elfriede Jelineks, Herta Müllers, Selma Lagerlöfs, and Frans Eemil Sillanpääs (I’ll stop before I run out of umlauten). Let me put some names out there and let’s see if you can find a connection between them: Lev Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Emile Zola, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, August Strindberg, Marcel Proust, Henry James, James Joyce, W.H. Auden, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Graham Greene, Arthur Miller, Milan Kundera, and Salman Rushdie. If you guessed, “All were eligible for the Nobel Prize, but none of them received it,” you are correct! There have been 16 winners from Scandinavian countries, and yet the only two such writers that almost anyone has heard of (Ibsen and Strindberg) did not win. The Prize is so Euro-centric that even the permanent secretary of the Academy has openly stated that, “Europe is still the center of the literary world” (you have to appreciate his use of the word ‘still’). He also stated, “the US is too isolated, too insular [those two words are essentially pure synonyms, right?]. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature”. As we all know, no one has contributed more to this ‘big international dialogue’ than Mr. Tranströmer, a man who has apparently lived his entire life in Stockholm, and who did not even have a Wikipedia page until today! One has to admire Jean-Paul Sartre, the only winner to voluntarily decline the award, even if he still characterized it, perhaps too diplomatically, as an “honorable institution”.

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