Thus the name

thus the name

When I created this blog three years ago, the name “Futureworld” came to me right away. I had a dim realization that the title wouldn’t be as meaningful to others as it was to me, but that didn’t matter very much: it was my brand-new beautiful little baby blog, and I was determined to call it whatever I pleased.

But my thoughts ran something like this:

I was born in July 1957, just a few months before the official beginning of the Space Age. My childhood was full of astronauts and science fiction. Soon, we thought, we’d be living in an unimaginably advanced world; no one would suffer or be hungry, and everyone would have a flying car, and everything would be utterly futuristic and wonderful.

Well, you know what? Some of that stuff came true. The Internet is still a miracle to those of us who remember the primitive 1950s and 1960s. Partner and I comment almost daily on the fact that we can pick up a mobile device at a moment’s notice and summon up the weather report, or the news, or the cast of a 1944 movie, or Skype someone on another continent, or do any number of other bizarrely futuristic things.

So: Partner and I are living in the “future” that we were promised back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Except that we’re not. People are still stupid and retrograde. There are still politicians who want to restrict voting rights and immigration. Just like the 1920s and 1930s! The world is still at war. Just as in 500 BCE!

That’s what I meant by “Futureworld.” Here we are, in 2013, and we should be living on space stations and speaking Esperanto, but in many ways we’re still primitives, attacking and killing one another over trifles.

Ah me. The farther we go into the future, the more firmly we remain stuck in the past.

In Tony Kushner’s play “Angels in America,” there’s a scene in which two ghosts – a medieval one and a 17th-century one – appear in the 1980s to speak to their descendant, a gay Manhattanite with AIDS. The medieval ancestor doesn’t like the 1980s, and leaves as quickly as he can. The other sighs and looks around himself. “The Twentieth Century,” he says sadly. “Oh dear. The world has gotten so terribly terribly old.”

Brother, was he right.

Movie review: “Lincoln”

This past weekend Partner and I saw Spielberg’s new movie, “Lincoln.” It’s very good – but then it’s bound to be: not only is it directed by Spielberg, it’s based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about the Lincoln administration, with a screenplay by Tony Kushner, writer of “Angels in America.”  The action covers the first few months of 1865: the Civil War, while still horribly bloody, is winding down, and the North is on the verge of winning. Lincoln is faced with a choice: accept the South’s peace overtures and allow them back into the Union as if nothing has happened, or ensure that the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery is passed first. If he doesn’t do the latter, the old South will insist on its slave-holding ways. If he refuses to talk peace with the South’s representatives, Congress will accuse him of holding the country hostage on behalf of the Abolitionist movement.

If this sounds dull, it’s not. Like all of Spielberg’s best movies, it seesaws between tension and calm. Its best scenes capture both: Lincoln’s ride through the battlefield after the battle of Petersburg, as he surveys the mounds of dead bodies, is captured in ominous silence.

The cast is terrific, led by Daniel Day-Lewis as a gritty folksy Lincoln, half Andy Griffith, half John the Baptist, pacing inexorably (and knowingly) toward his own death, and Sally Field as a plump frantic Mary Todd Lincoln, smarter and more subtle than any other portrayal of Mary I’ve ever seen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives us a young haunted Robert Lincoln; Tommy Lee Jones is Thaddeus Stevens, the Radical Republican eager to eviscerate the rebellious South; David Strathairn is a lean acute William Seward; James Cusack is a plump mustached “lobbyist” hired by Seward (and indirectly by Lincoln) to bring the House of Representatives around to Lincoln’s point of view.

The movie depicts the reelection of a popular president who is, nonetheless, abhorred by a significant chunk of the populace. This president is trying to put through a significant piece of legislation – not because it’s popular, but because it’s the right thing to do, and because if he doesn’t, he will have accomplished nothing to solve the country’s real problems. This president also faces an angry and contentious congress.

Sound familiar?

Go see this movie. It will give you something to think about.

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