Re: CULTURE/SPACE: Tom Hanks on "2001"

Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 05:58:02 MST

[Once again catching up on backed-up correspondenceā€¦]

Damien wrote about how his brilliant pantomime, and then in a message dated
1/14/01 10:43:26 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

> It's really not what you'd call a "fast" movie, y'know. 2001 dates from a
> time when movies were much, much more slower-paced. That sequence at the
> end alone... trying to watch "2001" after "The Matrix" is like trying to
> watch "Psycho" after "Hellraiser II". You sit there and just marvel at
> the idea that this was once cutting-edge; that people could think of the
> movie as being anything but homey, wholesome, and relaxing. You do it for
> the historical value and to just appreciate how different things must have
> been a couple of generations ago. If 2001 were released today, it would
> flop. How can you demand of my generation that they watch it?

I confess that this comment from you, Eliezer, set my teeth on edge. I used
to joke that I was unable to carry on a conversation with someone born after
Apollo 11 because I lacked sufficient common cultural referents. This
stopped being funny this year when my in-coming class of newly-minted
associate attorneys turned out to be born after *Apollo 17*, i.e. after the
LAST human walked on the moon.

The underlying issue is important for extropians because we're interested in
the phenomena of accelerating scientific, technological and cultural change.
It has been said that transhumanists in general and extropians in particular
are neophiles, and this is true, up to a point. But there's an important
converse to our neophilia and that is that the faster things change, the
harder we have to work to mine and refine what's good in our cultural past,
because the risk of losing something of value grows with the pace of

You think "2001" is a "slow" film? Try watching Kubrick's unsung
masterpiece, "Barry Lyndon"! (My take on the movie when I first saw it some
25 years ago: "How people would have made movies in the 18th Century if
they'd had the technology.") That "2001" would be a flop if it were released
today is not necessarily a GOOD thing. Some things - say, telling a story
that encompasses the sweep of 4 million years of deep time - can't be done
quickly, or at least not done well. Imagine trying to tell the story of
"2001" MTV-style. Now consider whether we should uncritically embrace every
cultural change, when it may carry with it the inevitable loss of artistic
vocabulary to express important ideas. Consider taking a pit stop during the
race into the future to stop and smell some roses from ages gone by.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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