A Story about Ken Kronberg

I wanted to share a vivid memory I have of Ken.

This took place when he was at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara. Ken and I went out to Isla Vista, the UCSB campus, to see "2001: A Space Odyssey." Ken had never seen it. (For this story, I'm assuming you have seen the film.)

At my insistence we sat down close in one of the very front rows. About half way through the first part, the part where it's all apes and bones, Ken leaned over and out of the side of his mouth said, "How long does it go on like this?" I realized that he had correctly grasped the pace and indirectness of the movie, so rather than say, "Oh, we'll get to outer space soon enough," I said, "The whole movie is like this."

There was a long silence next to me while the movie continued. After that, from time to time, always out of the side of his mouth, Ken muttered, "I'll get you for this. I don't know how but I'll get you." In the moment, I didn't feel threatened or even offended. I realized that he was not having a wonderful time but also that he was having sort of a good time complaining about it to me.

After the film ended and we were walking out I speculated on what the monolith in the movie, which shows up in each of the four segments, might represent. Ken thought about it and we bounced it back and forth a couple of times and then he was off and running! To my amazement and everlasting impression he went over the entire movie from beginning to end. He saw in each of the distinct parts a different directorial style, concluded that Kubrick had mimicked and then bested the other directors in how he constructed each part (I regret I can not recall a single one of those directors). His thoughts were original, intense and quite unexpected. Before the evening ended Ken declared, "I think I've just seen the greatest movie ever made."

This memory has stuck with me all this time because it embodied much of what Ken meant to me as a friend. He was intense, funny, ironic, insightful, passionate, bright and articulate and never afraid to follow his logic to see where it led. I valued that then and I value it now. That there are implicit risks in being that kind of person, we all know. It may be that his capacity to construct ornate explanations of complex phenomena led him astray. I don't know.

I am very sad that Ken is gone.

A Friend