First, I am going to resolve one of the great crises of faith facing our nation during this time, and I am going to do it by stating a simple, obvious truth:
My grandparents picked up arms to defend this country; I picked up the remote control and a bag of jelly beans. A couple of bags of jelly beans. I’ve done a deep dive into movies I haven’t seen in years, giving me strange insight into the passage of time. Ghostbusters is no fun anymore; too painfully misogynistic. Out of Africa is better than it was when I was 19.
2001 : A Space Odyssey is still a work of staggering genius that is also boring as shit. It’s so much easier to shift around the film’s timeline today, no pained hissing of tape through hard plastic wheels as you fast-forward and rewind so you can pass on the 20 minute psychedelic color show and catch the exact moment Bowman finds, at the end of the star chamber, himself, as an old man.
It was a good watch to capture the mood of quarantine: creepy, dark, contained. Everyone in that movie is on the precipice, their toes hanging over the stars, ready to tip over into … whatever it is we’re all tipping into.
The plot picks up near the end of the second hour, when two astronauts are traveling to Jupiter aboard Discovery, a spaceship whose systems are run by a sentient computer named “HAL.” The movie ends with HAL disconnected, and Discovery powered down, left to float in orbit around Jupiter. The sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact is about the return to Jupiter, to the frozen, orbiting Discovery, to the story of nine years ago — to interpret the past and find the way forward.
After reactivating HAL aboard Discovery, the computer’s creator, Dr. Chandra, must teach it to speak again.
He types six words for HAL to practice saying: “Hello,” “Doctor,” “Name,” “Continue,” “Yesterday,” “Tomorrow.”
And so, like HAL, I test my voice, stretch it across the distance of the years and abyss, and begin again the work I love, of expressing the inexpressible.
HELLO Hello, readers. I’ve missed you.
DOCTOR Oh, the doctors. The nurses. The truck drivers, the grocery workers, the postal workers. Their courage, and their fear, and their devotion.
NAME I am Elizabeth Bigelow Soutter. I was named for my great-grandmother, so that fifty years after the end of her life, her name is still being said.
CONTINUE Day-by-day, jelly bean by jelly bean.
YESTERDAY Whatever life was like before quarantine, it’s over. Now we’re orbiting, with time to watch the stars, and the colors, and the great expanse of existence, and to consider our place in it. Or to just go ahead and Tina Fey sheetcake it.
TOMORROW … will come, the New Life, the After.
Something wonderful is going to happen.
And it just might be Johnny Exotic getting a reality TV show from inside prison. You guys. He’s in a cage. Like an animal. AND NO FREAKING JELLY BEANS, ASSHOLE.