Saturday, February 04, 2012

Stanley Kubrick and the Reality Stargate, Revisited

Jay Weidner made quite a splash with his documentary Kubrick's Odyssey, in which he argued that Stanley Kubrick was shanghaied by NASA to help create a cinematic and photographic simulation of the Apollo missions for public consumption.

Weidner argues that 2001: A Space Odyssey was essentially Kubrick's R&D project for a much bigger-budget production set to be filmed within the gates of Nellis AFB's Area 51 and that his wildly unfaithful adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Shining was his cinematic mea culpa, confessing to the con.

Contrary to what some have assumed, Weidner is not arguing that the NASA did not land men on the Moon, but that the Apollo missions were a cover for a secret space program. Having reviewed a lot of Apollo skeptics' arguments I have to say I find them all pretty compelling on one level; the footage and the photos are problematic, to say the very least.

The Establishment's response to Weidner and the more radical skeptics who insist that human spacecraft have never left low-earth orbit has been weak; the usual mix of of outrage, dismissal and ridicule. I found it particularly rich that The New York Times lambasted Weidner for his conspiracy theorizing, given that their own conspiracy theorizing helped start the Iraq War.

But looking at the Apollo hardware I can't shake the feeling it's all Hollywood. I can't imagine three adult men spending any amount of time in that flimsy looking stuff, never mind all the life-support gear and moon buggies and all of the rest of it.

And given the highly specialized and regimented nature of a giant bureaucracy like NASA, the only people who needed to be in on the scam would be the high echelon in Mission Control and the astronauts themselves.

We all know there is a secret space program; the only question is how deep it all goes. My assumption has always been that there were two missions, showtime with the Apollo and a real mission, using much more serious military hardware that's a lot bigger, heavier and much less telegenic. I doubt very much that the real mission involved much golf playing or picture taking.

One of the most dangerous myths of our time is that the government can't keep secrets. The whole notion that the government can't keep secrets is a comforting conceit for delusional folks who still believe we live in an open society. Having grown up with a grandfather who worked as an engineer for MITRE I know that the government can in fact keep secrets, and has a whole kitbag of punishments for people who can't.

Besides, a lot of people seem to feel that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent deaths of other astronauts and NASA personnel was a pretty good motivator for any potential whistleblowers to keep their concerns to themselves.


But there is a major stumbling block for Apollo skeptics; this was during the Cold War. The Russians and the Chinese were watching NASA's every move, and had the expertise, the technology and most certainly the motivation to call bullshit on any chicanery.

I have no doubt that every intelligence agency in the world was poring over every frame of imagery being released from these missions, since the idea of establishing missile bases on the Moon had a lot of currency at the time.

Exposing a faked Moonshot would be a propaganda coup like no other, especially given the fact that all of this was going on during the height of an extremely unpopular war that was in danger of making the USA an international pariah. Add the assassinations, the race riots and the general civil unrest, and a scandal over a faked Apollo mission might well have been a tipping point for a revolution in this country.

And yet, most people who aren't totally beholden to whatever received authority wants them to think (meaning non-skepdicks) can at least look at all of the evidence gathered by the Apollo debunkers and think there might something to it all, right? If that's so, then what would have motivated the Soviets et al to go along with the charade?

To try to answer that question, I want to return to 2001: A Space Odyssey and share with you again my interpretation of what Kubrick is putting onscreen. I realize there has been a parade of writers telling us what Kubrick was "really trying to say" in the film. But as before I'm going to stick as close as I can to the actual narrative of the film itself, since what's actually onscreen is a lot more subversive than any symbolic rendering of the text.

Well, with one major exception, that is. And that's where we'll start.


Weidner's thesis is that Kubrick's technical acumen in dealing with military hardware in his 1964 antiwar satire Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb first brought him to NASA's attention. From a review by Andrew Griffin:
Dr. Strangelove, notes Weidner, “made fun of the Pentagon, the generals and their various war plans” and while this irritated the Defense Department, they were more amazed that Kubrick had pieced together what a B-52 looked like on the inside by looking at pictures in military magazines.

Because the U.S. Government, through NASA, was hellbent to get a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960’s, as President Kennedy had promised, and because they wanted to prove to the Soviet Union that the U.S. was going to win the space race, they had to have some insurance – a way to prove, at least to the public and the world – that the U.S. had the technology and wherewithal to get to the Moon.

That’s where Kubrick comes in. Impressed with his work on Dr. Strangelove, Weidner speculates that Kubrick made a deal with the U.S. Government to fake the Apollo Moon landings – with Apollo 11 ultimately being the first one to land in July 1969.
Weidner himself argued in 2009 that JFK's race to the moon was inspired less by Sputnik and more by shall we say more exotic technology:
Soon after seeing the flying saucer technology JFK made his famous speech asking NASA to land a man on the moon before the decade was out. Many insiders believed that this was a ploy by JFK to get NASA and the secret government to release their saucer technologies.

Since it was obvious to everyone that standard rocket technology could not get man to the moon and back, JFK may have thought that NASA would be forced to release the knowledge of the flying saucers in order to get to the moon by the end of the 1960's. JFK's ploy was therefore intended to free this advanced technology from the insidious hands of the shadow government.
Adding yet another log into our wacked-out conspiracy theories undergirded by inconvenient facts bonfire, I'll point to this 2011 bombshell.
Was JFK killed because of his interest in aliens? Secret memo shows president demanded UFO files 10 days before death

An uncovered letter written by John F Kennedy to the head of the CIA shows that the president demanded to be shown highly confidential documents about UFOs 10 days before his assassination.

The secret memo is one of two letters written by JFK asking for information about the paranormal on November 12 1963, which have been released by the CIA for the first time.Author William Lester said the CIA released the documents to him under the Freedom of Information Act after he made a request while researching his new book 'A Celebration of Freedom: JFK and the New Frontier.'
Now Weidner argues that Kubrick was essentially given the keys to the candy store when he made 2001: A Space Odyssey. His writing partner was of course Arthur C. Clarke, (original author of the story the film was ostensibly based on) who was plugged into all kinds of spooky networks- science, military, intelligence, you name it. Weidner also claims that Kubrick and Clarke were given access to the NASA inner circle-- including the Paperclip boys-- and told all kinds of interesting stories.

I would argue-- and argue quite strongly-- that Kubrick's primary interest in the making of this film was telling tales out of school as cleverly as he could about all of the juicy UFO and 'ET' stories he was told. Not much of a stretch given the film's plot, but as I explained on Mike Clelland's Hidden Experience podcast some time ago, there's a major piece of the puzzle people are overlooking.

Anyone who studies parapolitics for any period of time becomes familiar with the various methods and techniques used to deal with an exposed secret in a broadband media environment. Disinfo, misinfo, red herrings, water-muddying, shills, ridicule, intimidation, denial, misdirection and so on and so forth are used to create such an atmosphere of total confusion that most people find it to be too much trouble to sort through the rubble to get to the truth.

And so it's been with the UFO issue. Most people assume that it all popped in 1947 with Kenneth Arnold, but in fact UFOs and all of the attendant phenomena have been a constant feature of the human condition as far as back as you can go in the historical record, and much before that besides.

Even so, the alleged crash at Roswell is a particularly contentious episode in modern UFO lore.
I've heard all of the pros and cons, the debunkings and the responses, the backs and the forths. I've heard all of the theories about Project Mogul (and before that Skyhook before someone realized Skyhook didn't exist at the time), but the plain fact of the matter is that I simply don't find them convincing, given what we know about the military's frenzied response to the original incident.

And as I've written here, if there was a crash of an exotic craft (as regular readers know I do not subscribe to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, rather a variation on the ultraterrestrial hypothesis I call the Elusive Companion Hypothesis) it might go a long way not only in explaining all of the extraordinary lengths the military has gone to to deny the whole thing ever happened, but also the sudden and unprecedented explosion in sophisticated electronic technology we saw in the postwar era.

Let's save the arguments about the reality or unreality of Roswell for later, because as with everything we discuss here, I'm more interested in what people believe is true than what may actually be true (which is subjective, after all).

What really interests me here is the possibility that Kubrick and Clarke may well have been told by their sources that yes, one fine morning a flying saucer did indeed crash in the desert sands of Corona, NM and was taken to the Roswell Army Air Base, where it was taken up the chain of command and back-engineered by America's finest black project boys.

The gimcracks and doodads that the fellas at Nellis and Skunkworks were able to figure out gave Uncle Sam a huge boost in the struggle against godless Communism, in fact quite a few of the goodies they were able to work out are being used as we speak by the NASA boys and ain't that just something?

Well, that's all fine and good, but do we see any evidence for it in the film itself? Let's go to the tape.

Let's remember that Kubrick left us with the distinct impression in Dr. Strangelove that he didn't think much of the Military Industrial Complex. It's not much of a stretch--given the warlike behavior we see these apes engage in-- that these monkeys too are Kubrick's caustic allegory of Cold War-era America.

What's even more interesting to note here is that these apes-- jungle creatures, if I'm not mistaken-- are sitting out in the middle of the desert.

And lo and behold, they wake up one fine morning and discover alien technology in their midst.

The narrative has it that the Monolith is inspiring the protohominids to use bones as weapons-- tools-- which helps kickstart evolution. That is radical enough, and would be completely beyond the pale if our ape friend here was given to spray-on tans and excessive use of hair gel.

But I would argue that the bone here has a double meaning, and that Kubrick's jumpcuts with the Monolith are identifying the bone with the Monolith itself. That will be made clear in a moment, but let me spell it out for you in no uncertain terms.

The pile of bones the Moonwatcher is picking through symbolize this...

...and I will absolutely go to the mat on that one. The next sequence makes the connection absolutely clear...

...when Moonwatcher throws the bone into the air and it becomes what? A spaceship.

So "The Dawn of Man" sequence works on two separate levels. First, Kubrick is saying that human beings were engineered by an alien (or what we call "alien," it's actually anything but) technology.

Second, Kubrick was probably passing on the stories he heard, not only about Roswell but also apocryphal tales about German and Russian engineers reverse-engineering crashed UFOs and using them as the basis for the spacecraft that respectable scientists only a generation before thought were absolutely impossible.

Now, remember: I'm not saying those stories are necessarily true, I'm saying that Kubrick is retelling them in a very clever and allegorical fashion.

click to enlarge
The coup de gras is this parallelism: the apes fighting over the watering hole (representing the Cold War) and Heywood Floyd's chilly meeting with his Soviet counterparts in the Space Station lounge, the 21st Century "watering hole" (or Well, if you prefer).

The two allegories are linked by that bone/spaceship. The spectacle of apes screaming over a watering hole is transparently Kubrick's commentary on the Cold War; the scene in the "watering hole" on the station makes that inarguable.

What's more, Heywood Floyd and the Russians are discussing a possible outbreak at Clavius Base. "Clavius"is another clue, it sharing the same root word ("key") as "clavicle," or shoulder bone, and it was the use of bones as tools which got us up here in the first place.

And with the crashed saucer technology from Roswell the USA seems to have the upper hand, which of course it seemed to as the Space Race proceeded in the late 60s. And here's where the story moves into the second phase.

As I've said before, I see Heywood Floyd as a distinctly sinister character and I very much believe that Kubrick did as well. Kubrick was a rebel; though I don't believe the stories that Eyes Wide Shut got him killed (the 50 years of chainsmoking is a more likely culprit), I do believe that he did want to expose what he saw as the dehumanizing decadence of the ultrarich in that film (and it's not as if other films haven't covered similar ground, such as Story of O and Emmauelle).

After 2001, he made A Clockwork Orange, an anti-mind control tract, and subversive and anti-authoritarian themes were a constant throughout his work. In other words, Kubrick was one of us.

So it's interesting to me that Clarke saw Floyd as an idealized version of himself in 2010 and Kubrick clearly saw him as bagman, an bully and a hush-up artist. I believe the Clavius discovery is yet another allegory for the same event allegorized in "The Dawn of Man," which is more of a generic contact with a concrete alien technology.

In other words, Kubrick is messing with the chronology but it's all the same event he's telling us about. And in his talk at Clavius we hear Floyd spout the same lines included in the 1960 Brookings Institute on extraterrestrial contact at the same time not-so-subtly remind his disgruntled underlings they're to keep their god-damned mouths shut.

The cover story of a plague means that everyone is stuck there, and when asked how long the discovery will be kept quiet Floyd responds with typical bureaucratic aplomb. Of course, we learn later in the film that eighteen months after the discovery of the Monolith no one has told anyone anything, a situation that leads to the death of the crew sent out to discover the origin of a signal transmitted by the artifact.

So in the second part of the film we are clearly dealing with a government cover-up of the reality of alien contact. That's Heywood Floyd's role in all of this; to facilitate the cover-up.

None of this is discovered until the last surviving astronaut of the Jupiter mission dismantles the onboard AI and triggers a recorded message from Floyd revealing the true objective of his mission. I can't help but think of the Apollo One fire and all of the astronauts and NASA employees killed in freak accidents. Prophecy? Inside knowledge? Simple coincidence? All three?

And of course, after the disastrous Jupiter mission, the film entirely changes track again.
Up until now we've been dealing with the nuts and bolts aspect of the UFO enigma, as well as the mysteries of Ancient Astronaut Theory. Whether or not you buy into my theory that "The Dawn of Man" is in fact about recovered saucer technology as well as AAT --and of course, I think you should-- we're still dealing with alien hardware (the Monolith) as all sorts of human spacecraft.

As we saw in the original installment, Kubrick not only takes through an "alien abduction," he takes us through the most mind-blowing, psychedelic, initiatory version of one ever depicted onscreen.

The Stargate is a completely internal journey. We hear a signal at the beginning of it all and then the light show begins. Certainly Kubrick would have been familiar with psychedelics at this point in time, and I'm reasonably certain that NASA and other agencies may well have been experimenting with them to test the endurance and mental toughness of the flyboys (never mind the darker corners of the trade like MK Ultra).

But certainly the identification with aliens was novel in the mid 1960s when this film was being produced.

Food of the Gods: note mushroom motifs during ascension to space

Novel in mainstream culture, at least. The Beatniks were magic mushroom enthusiasts, and pilgrimages to Mexico became popular stops on the circuit. Was Kubrick experienced? I really wouldn't be surprised. Neither would I be surprised if he hadn't some contact experiences himself.

Which brings us back to the white room. I made the connection in the previous installment and since then have been furiously looking for examples, though most of the ones I've found have been post-2001, like the Travis Walton case I mentioned in the first piece.

But as UFOs: The Psychic Dimension puts it, "Abductees typically find themselves in a strange, brightly-lit room, often filled with sophisticated equipment." The oddly-lit white room features in the Barney and Betty Hill incident from 1961, which wasn't published until 2001 was in production, but given the way the film was made, Kubrick could well have added the scene in to accommodate the new information.

But the Villas Boas abduction from the late 50s (also not published until 2001 was in production) also featured the oddly-lit "white room":
Now he found himself inside a small square room, bare of furnishings, brightly lit—"the same as broad daylight"—by recessed square lights in the smooth metallic walls. Suddenly an opening appeared, from the seamless wall, and Boas was led into another room. "The only furnishings visible was an oddly shaped table that stood at one side of the room surrounded by several backless swivel chairs (something like barstools). They were all made of the same white metal.
It should be noted that DMT trippers have also experienced the featureless white room as well.

I can't help but wonder how many tales Kubrick and Clarke might have heard from their sources that we will never know about, not only about crashed saucers and the rest of it but those mysterious, oddly-lit white rooms.

And finally, Bowman's trip through the Stargate and exit through the white room results in his apotheosis, of sorts. His exposure to the Monolith and the pure, undiluted experience of otherness results in NASA's and the Brooking Institute's worst nightmare; a new, evolved stage of humanity.

Let's review this step by step:

• An "alien" intelligence makes itself apparent to humanity.

• Those in power use this contact to their own advantage.

• The authorities then work to cover up knowledge of this intelligence.

• The cover up backfires and ends in disaster.

• The intelligence reaches out directly to humanity.

• Humanity's self image is destroyed because of this.

• Out of the ashes comes a new humanity.

Sounds pretty much like a Stanley Kubrick film, no?

So to answer the original question; why might the Soviets looked the other way at faked moon photos and footage. It may well be that they were partners in the secret space program, which had nothing to do with the Cold War and everything to do with figuring out what the hell those UFOs are and where they are coming from. Like, maybe the Moon, perhaps. That would be something of mutual interest to both parties, right?

Do you catch my drift here?

How much does 2001: A Space Odyssey have to do with was really going on on the Moon? Probably not much, outside of the cover-up. What exactly I don't know, but since this is the government and NASA, I'm sure something somewhere was being covered up. Did Stanley Kubrick fake the Moon footage and photos? We can only guess, but damn, those are some fine pictures for a bunch of flyboys with chest-mounted cameras to be taking. Then there's always this...

What I can say for sure is the more the scoffers scoff and ridicule and stomp and scream and refuse to actually engage the evidence at hand and present a compelling counterargument, and the longer we go without sending anyone back up there even with all of our ultra-roswellian computertech and the rest of it, the better people like Jay Weidner start to look.