Happy Birthday, HAL

by Karen Jaehne
We're all being summoned to celebrate the 30th birthday of the master, the almighty, mythical know-it-all machine of 2001, A Space Odyssey. Alright. I don't mind. Happy Birthday, HAL. If you trust anyone over 30.

Excuse me, HAL, but you make me yell. Your name, HAL, is so loud. Louder even than Wagner. Think of it, HAL - your tasteful reticence gets lost in cyberspace.

Now somebody like e.e. cummings turned out to be smarter than you by keeping it low, keeping it down, keeping it cool. Roger Ebert first reviewed you with a quote from e.e. cummings (that was back before Ebert was one of two thumbs). To wit, cummings said he'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. Heavy. That's real "Thus Spake Zarathustra" kinda stuff, HAL, but did you think of it? No, it took the guy in lower case letters.

Face it, HAL, you're not a poet. But I know what you are. Don't I, HAL? Mmm-hmmm. You sense my anger? Yes, you would. Wait a minute, don't go telling me I'm wrong, just because I'm off on your birthday. So what if your b-day was January 15? After all, I can be excused, because I'm not supposed to know anything about you. But I know you're dirty little secret, HAL. I know what you are, HAL.

You're a SHRINK, HAL. I figured that out the first time I heard you say, "Dave, I wouldn't do that." That voice. Just like a shrink. Like when they sit back in the shadows listening to you and occasionally blurt out a knowing "ah-hah." So insinuating, so chilling, so artificially intelligent. Maybe we have a chicken-and-egg problem here, HAL. Which came first, HAL or the artificially intelligent noises of psychiatry?

And that advice! You're always keeping us down, HAL. Telling us what not to do, HAL. Get beyond Freud, HAL. Try being life-affirming. Try telling us what TO DO for a change. Oh, but that wouldn't be proper shrinking now, would it HAL?

As I talk about it, HAL, I think I'm going to do something! I think I'm on the verge of ACTION. Oops, sorry, didn't mean to yell. But you, HAL, are too old for me.

I think I'm going to switch shrinks. I met this analyst at Cannes last year. Dr. Flickheimer? Dr. Flickheimer understands a whole lotta stuff. And he doesn't tell us not to unplug him. What's that you're saying, HAL? You wouldn't do that if you were me? Well, you're not me, HAL.

And you know what else I'm going to do, HAL? I'm going to start spelling my name in small letters. - karen jaehne

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