Prisoners of the Atom

We wanted Pluto, We Got Plutocracy

Watching that 2001 promotional video was extremely poignant because it was yet another reminder of all the expectations we no longer have. 
In the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of people were employed- mostly in the state of California- in and around the space program. These were very good paying jobs that raised families in middle class comfort, creating a new gold rush to a new California dream.
Today, California leads America into a new feudal nightmare, a bifurcated garrison state in which a small cognitive elite sit atop a vast ocean of poverty. It's become so segregated by class that most upper class Californians have no idea their state is the poorest in the nation.
It all began to fall apart in the early 1970s, as the Apollo program ended and NASA's sights were set ever lower.  Thousands of jobs were lost, beginning a middle class exodus from California that continues to this day.
Apollo skeptics have gleefully pointed out the fact that every mission since the moon landings were low earth orbit shuttle missions, the proverbial walk around the block in outer space terms. 
But the incredible cost (and danger) of space in relation to benefit- and the bludgeoning recession and oil shocks of the 1970s- made the numbing yet practical (someone has to maintain all those spy satellites) shuttle program a gimme for Congress.
Now Internet billionaire Elon Musk is trying to rekindle the old rocket flames. His SpaceX startup has been making a fool of NASA and has become the hottest name in rocket technology. Others are following his lead, most notably Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos. 
Musk realizes that you have to do something with all that hardware so he proposes a Mars mission with all the Red Bull-fueled gumption of a Silicon Valley startup.
"I'm hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it's certainly possible for that to occur," he said. "But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary." 
He acknowledged that the company's plans were too long-term to attract many hedge fund managers, which makes it hard for SpaceX to go public anytime soon.

But there's a force not even a Valley whizkid can resist and that's the power of entropy. We are so used to rapid-fire technological and scientific progress, we're not going to know what to do now that the rate of progress is beginning to slow. 
Some believe we've picked all the low-hanging fruit, that all the big, flashy breakthroughs have been made and now humanity is like late-period REM or U2, continuing to record and tour long after the blockbusters have come and gone, watching the audience age, watching the returns diminish.
Kirby predicts Google, 1958
I recently read Jacques Vallee's memoirs of his time during the heady days of Silicon Valley and it was shocking to me how much of the great gizmos we see as novelties were all in prototype long before most of you were born. 
What is touted as the apple of the American economy these days? Well, there's Facebook, which is nothing more than a souped-up America Online, which itself was just a fancier version of the dial-up BBS systems in use since the 60s. 
We've all seen the videos from the 60s, showing off the prototypes of the Internet as we know it today. 40 years ago Silicon Valley was putting the basic architecture into place. What are they doing out there today? Besides creating hedge fund pirateware and Facebook games, I mean?
2015 looks nothing like I imagined it would when I was a kid. But we didn't realize that gravity, entropy--and rapacity-- would all get such a megaphone in the debate. 
Another Internet whiz kid, Peter Thiel, has diagnosed the problem- we have had great success in the world of electrons, not so much in the world of atoms.
"We live in a financial and capitalist age, not a scientific or technological age," investor Peter Thiel said at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando yesterday, echoing themes he has been talking about for several years now. 
In the 50s and 60s, science and technology meant not only computers, but also space, underwater cities, energy, nuclear power, etc. Now, he said, when we talk about technology, we pretty much just mean computer technology. 
He doesn't question that we're doing great things in the Internet and in mobile, and that's enough to dramatically improve business efficiency.  But he reiterated the subtitle manifesto of his Founder's Fund: "We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters." That's not meant as a critique of Twitter as a company, but "it's not clear it's enough to bring our civilization to the next level," he said.
This speaks to a theme I've been banging on all along. Just because something exists on paper, doesn't mean it exists off of it. Science fiction films conditioned us to expect a lot of great things that simply required expenditures of resources that simply made them untenable. Star Trek can't exist without energy and lightspeed travel that goes way beyond most physicist's speculations.
Air travel is nearly identical today as it was in the 1960s- in fact many 1960s airframes are still in use. Some cars drive themselves, some use electricity, but they don't fly. Hovercraft are not consumer products. Pops doesn't take the minicopter to work every day. There are some very interesting bullet and maglev trains out there, but that's old technology and most commuter trains still use diesel or electric engines.
Some of the futuristic technology that does make it to market fails simply because it offers an awkward consumer experience- Google Glass has been discontinued, for instance. Others- such as virtual reality- require such labor-intensive market prep that they become financially untenable.
You may have noticed you don't hear much about Transhumanism lately. Again, another case of concept failing when it came to the application stage. The Singularity may well come, but unless major breakthroughs are made, breakthroughs that require sums of money there's no evidence are being spent, it will come and go without us. 
Who really wants to go first when you think about, being carved up like a turkey in hopes of some promised digital immortality?
For the foreseeable future, we'll still be fragile bags of meat, subject to the same limitations- and not a few new ones- that our ancestors were. This probably helps to account for the continuing popularity of the superhero mythos, as well as the popularity of genres like urban fantasy, while science fiction itself recedes to a small and increasingly fractious priesthood. 
Hell, even the growing popularity of Gnosticism is a byproduct of the Atom's dictatorial rule. I mean, they called it first, didn't they?
How to deal with the tyranny of the Atom is going to be a major conundrum. It's going to take the best minds of the future to overcome, and it probably won't be an elective debate. I think circumstances will force us to confront these issues once and for all. We haven't changed our basic, workaday technology- not really- because it's been easier not to. 
That most likely will not be an option in the near future.

Telling Tales Out of School: Wavelength Revisited

In June of 2013 I wrote about Wavelength, a very strange and disturbing low-budget sci-fi feature, written and directed by China Syndrome screenwriter and longtime political activist Mike Gray and financed by Maurice Rosenfeld, the pioneer of the class-action lawsuit. Gray's resume was interesting to say the least, showing a serious interest in aviation and astronautics but also a commitment to causes like fighting drug laws, nuclear power and the death penalty.

I speculated that Gray may have had other things on his mind than mere entertainment with this film and a recent news story seems to confirm that suspicion.

Wavelength was seen by some as an ET clone but was actually produced before the Spielberg film was released and fits more into the 70s conspiracy genre. It also marked a strange detour for Gray, in which he later produced a TV series based on the John Carpenter film Starman (which borrowed special effects techniques Gray developed for Wavelength) and even worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a writer/producer during its troubled second season.

Wavelength later became grist for the UFOlogical rumor mill when an individual who claimed to be a physicist at Laurence Livermore National Laboratories in California said this during an interview with Project Camelot, the conspiracy web channel:
What can you tell us about the ET presence?

Look up the movie Wavelength. It’s based on a totally true story. Have you seen it? It's based on an incident that took place at Hunter Liggett. This is a hot one. 

You shot down a disk?

[shaking head] We should never have done it. It wasn't me personally, but the group did. Between us we had all this gizmo weaponry and I guess they panicked and thought they were in a movie or something.  
Hunter Liggett entered the world of the High and the Weird several years before the making of Wavelength, when it was used for Leslie Stevens' incredibly strange, occult-drenched art-horror film Incubus, a film that referenced the ghost lights seen throughout history on and near the now deactivated military base. 

That film also has the dubious distinction of boasting a death count, leading one to wonder what kinds of entities make Hunter Liggett their home after all.

That's just the tip of the iceberg with Wavelength. The film is a virtual Whole Earth catalog of parapolitical and High Weirdness themes and references. In fact, the exteriors for the secret base featured in Wavelength are actually shots of Lookout Mountain, home of the 1352nd Motion Picture Squadron, the military's secret movie studio where dozens of propaganda and training films and photographs were produced, most notably during the Atom Age.

What's more, the disastrous effects unleashed on the secret base by the captured aliens as they emerge into consciousness in Wavelength directly parallel a nearly identical event that allegedly befell a team of military remote viewers involved in a "psychotronic warfare unit" when they were tasked with contacting NHEs, or non-human entities, sometime before Wavelength was made.

According to Nick Redfern's landmark expose Final Events, a MUFON director (and Anglican priest) was shown photographic evidence of the deadly aftereffects of this attempted contact in 1991 by a pair of mysterious intelligence agents.

Not content with this little revelation, Gray hired two actors who were ringers for MK Ultra honchos Sidney Gottlieb and Ewan Cameron to play very similar roles, and used very Kubrickian tricks to signal to savvy viewers that he was indeed referencing the notorious CIA program. But he also seemed to be working from deeper information about the program than what is generally assumed, even among the conspiranoid cognoscenti. 

Like the alchemists with their lead-into-gold shuck, I've long believed MK Ultra's pitch was just window dressing for the rubes on the Hill. I think the real goal was a Space Age update on that old black magic*, goals far more esoteric and unspeakable than mind control (such as contact with NHEs). 

It's important to note that the MK Ultra paper trail (such as it is) starts to go cold as the Fundamentalist movement starts to heat up in the late 60s, a sure sign that Congress was growing impatient with Gottlieb's mindfuckers and realized the old control methods were still the most reliable.

In my previous post on Wavelength, I wrote that as in many sci-fi movies, the aliens in Wavelength may have been stand-ins for real-life victims:
The fact that the "aliens" are taken home to the Mojave Desert leads me to believe their real-life counterparts were Navajo or Hopi children abducted by this post-Ultra op for their perceived psychic powers. We see this when they take part in a religious ceremony by the Native Americans who help them escape, reminiscent of a rite of passage ceremony for boys. 
Sure enough, this story made the news recently. A Duke University parapsychology team conducted ESP experiments on First Nations kids in Canadian Indian Residential Schools, believing them to be more psychically gifted than other children†:

One Winnipegger said he was shocked to stumble on a report that shows experiments were conducted on children at Brandon's Indian Residential School in the 1940s. 

“This is incredible, especially when you take into account the other studies, medical tests that had been conducted at residential schools,” said Maeengan Linklater. 

Linklater was reading "Mysterious Manitoba" by Chris Rutkowski when he saw a passing reference to experiments on extra sensory perception, or ESP, on students at the school in 1941.
 But it turns out this wasn't a new story, it had been published more than 70 years ago in The Journal of Parapsychology (actual paper included at link):
The article was published in 1943 by a scientist named A.A Foster. A librarian friend found the actual scientific journal article and sent it to him. 

The study was trying to find a better way to test ESP using special cards. The author of the study said the 50 children that participated did so willingly. 

“It's not like these kids knew what they were participating in, because if these kids were starving already, a little bit of candy would go a long way,” said Linklater.
The "experiments" themselves were guessing games more accurately, but it raises questions as to what kinds of other experiments were going on under Ewan Cameron with First Nation children, or Native American kids under MK Ultra. Disturbing questions.
Unfortunately, as has become the pattern, finding new, credible documentation on MK Ultra's abuses has become nearly impossible as the topic has been buried in cut-n-paste disinformation and hysterical confabulation. 
Gee, you'd almost think that was intentional.
Gray is no longer with us, but he seemed to have something to say about this in Wavelength, something that may have been too dangerous to say in documentary format. Either way, I had no idea of the Duke experiments when I wrote the previous article and it's a surefire bet that there were more where they came from. Much, much more.
It's also important to note that Gray made Wavelength after producing The Rocket Pilots, a TV documentary filmed at Edwards AFB (a favorite whistle stop on the UFO railroad, site of Astronaut Gordon Cooper's Road to Damascus moment), and self-produced a very weird and paranoid film about UFOs. Nothing about the movie smacks of cash-in, in fact it seems to go out of its way to, umm, alienate, the popcorn 'n' sodapop crowd.
It should also be noted that Gray's Starman series, although as inert and arid as 80s network strictures demanded - was a lot more politically pointed than the Carpenter film. In the film, the alien is pursued by a benevolent SETI scientist (played by the almost supernaturally amiable Charles Martin Smith).
In the TV series, he's pursued by a vindictive intelligence agent (played by Michael Cavanaugh, who looked the part), who ultimately wants to capture the alien and his hybrid son in order to subject them to the kind of experimentation Gray depicts in Wavelength
For symbol junkies, note that an entire episode of the (Starman) series revolved around a peregrine falcon.

* It's important to note that LSD wizard Owsley Stanley condemned the famous Acid Tests, held by MK Ultra test subject Ken Kesey and his cohort, as 'black magic'.
† Your humble host is one-eighth Native American, my great-grandfather having been adopted from an "Indian Orphanage." He was born the year the US Army captured Geronimo.

Stanley Kubrick and the Reality Stargate: Secret Space

UPDATE: Reader Andrew points us to this must-watch video.

This one is going out to Gordon at Rune Soup...

A recent news story covered the recent controversy over NASA feeds from the International Space Station, which some sites have claimed were cut after strange objects entered the camera view. This is not a new phenomenon, NASA has been accused of monkeying with its feed since the mid 90s in order to cover some very strange goings on in earth orbit.

That this story might be more than just a bunch of "UFO nuts" letting off steam was inadvertantly revealed by the graphics that CBS chose for the story. Rather than publish the objects in question so that their readers could decide for themselves (shades of Charlie Hebdo), the editors pulled a corny old Unarius snapshot out of the archives so everyone could have a nice chuckle, feel superior for a minute or two and go back to being expendable cogs in the global economical hegemon.

This object showed up on a YouTube video, claiming to to be an ISS UFO, but it could be one of the endless parade of bad CGI creations that the popular UFO channels lure viewers in with. The more interesting-- and compelling-- videos are generally hard to find on the site (they don't tend to come up in searches for some strange reason) and don't get much traffic.

Of course, there's always the chance that what we are seeing on these ISS feeds is not alien craft but products of the secret space program. I admit that's unlikely, since even NASA wouldn't be so sloppy as to let classified hardware sneak into camera range, at least not while they're broadcasting, but mistakes are often made. But that raises the intriguing possibility NASA is out of the loop...

Given the availability of powerful telescopes for consumer use I'd love to see some interesting orbital hardware start to show up online, but aside from the controversial work of John Lenard Walson, I'm not seeing much.
Templar/Solar cross on 2001's lunar module

But the topic of the secret space program got me to thinking of the work of Jay Weidner, which reached the mainstream via the documentary on Stanley Kubrick's adaption of The Shining entitled Room 237. Weidner's argument, as explored here, is not that there were no moon missions at all, but that the Apollo missions were a made-for-TV cover of the secret space missions using classified hardware. Having researched the issue I've come to basically agree with this position.

Overall, the Apollo skeptics present thoughtful, detailed arguments while their opponents merely argue from authority (or just act like dicks). But there are too many moving parts and the inconvenient fact of a very, very hot Cold War to argue against any moon mission at all. And as I've written before, the Cold War in fact is an excellent argument in favor of a Apollo hoax (as a opposed to a Moon hoax), since you don't want your enemies poring over your mission data in order to reverse engineer the hardware.

And if Kubrick was confessing to an Apollo hoax in The Shining, he was also talking a secret moon mission, undertaken right underneath the Soviets' prying noses in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And there may be a very obvious clue as to the technology that got the US up there embedded in the film itself.


The more familiar you are with high weirdness and its tributaries the more you tend to pay attention to what Kubrick is saying in 2001 and the less attention you pay to all the people telling you- at endless lengths- what they think Kubrick is saying, especially since all of that theorizing tends to pay little or no attention to what's actually onscreen.

For instance, Heywood Floyd's short speech to the directors at Clavius paraphrases talking points from a paper published in 1960 by the Brookings Institution about the possibility of the discovery of alien artifacts on the moon. This can't be an accident. The Stargate sequence- itself the subject of endless theorizing- replicates the experience of subjects under powerful doses of hallucinogens* (Krystle Cole recounted a nearly-identical experience to Bowman's while tripping on DMT in 2007). 

The oddly-lit white room Bowman finds himself in has been recounted by several 'alien abductees', most significantly Betty and Barney Hill, whose account was published in Look Magazine during the filming of 2001. A coincidence? Doubtful. The fact that Bowman's experience is preceded by an electronic signal matches then-classified stories of abductions being preceded by subjects being struck with an electronic beam. 

The Stargate scene ends with the creation of the Starchild, a new evolved being. This parallels stories only then emerging of abductees claiming to be used in hybrid programs. Again, coincidence? Whatever your opinion of the provenance of these accounts, we're at the far reaches of what can be rightly called coincidence here. Kubrick was clearly processing material outside the realm of recognized science fiction.

What is even more remarkable about the film is how it showcases technology that would not commercially available for decades, including seatback video, voiceprint ID and optical storage media. The film seems like a showcase for future technology, hardware the rest of the world wouldn't be aware of for some time to come. 

OK, now let's go back to the original topic of this post. What do you do when the public has become aware of something you don't want them aware of?

Well, as we saw with the ludicrous Unarius snap, you muddy the waters. 

Ridicule is a surefire trick. Flooding the market with conflicting and outlandish information is another (in 2001, Heywood Floyd cleverly leads the Russians to believe that the bogus plague story is true) Sending out shills to attack and insult anyone who discusses a forbidden topic is an old reliable as well. 

And of course, all of these have been used over the years over the topic of the alleged flying saucer crash at Roswell, New Mexico.

As I wrote in the previous installment of this series, I don't believe the "Dawn of Man" vignette in 2001 has anything to do with prehistory. I think it's a continuation of Kubrick's parodying of the Cold War that we saw in Dr. Strangelove, the film that Weidner argues led to this film and Kubrick's Apollo work. I see now- in the context of the secret space paradigm, that there are very clear visual cues as to this fact.

Remember first that Kubrick has apes-- jungle creatures by definition-- lounging around in the desert. Establishing shots were filmed in the Monument Valley of the American Southwest, just a few hours drive from Roswell. Remember next that the source of conflict between the two groups of apes is a watering hole.

Or, uhh, well.
Note the strategically placed lens flares following alien revelation,
subliminally reminding the viewer of UFOs

Remember also that the Moonwatcher tribe wakes up one morning and finds the Monolith-- by definition an alien artifact-- in its midst. In much the same way the ranchers of Corona, NM woke up one morning and allegedly found an alien artifact in their midst as well. Remember that the base at Roswell Army Air Field was no ordinary fort-- it was also the site of the world's only atomic weapons arsenal.

Keeping in mind that we're analyzing what Kubrick is showing us, let's look at this pivotal scene in 'The Dawn of Man'. Moonwatcher is essentially doing weapons research with some debris he found on the desert floor. He's going to take this material and transform it into a tool and then a weapon. Later he will supply the strong-arms of his tribe with these bones. They alone will have these weapons. Their enemy tribe will not.

Exactly the same situation as the US and USSR in 1947 when the US has nukes and the Soviets did not.  (Note: This connection seems inarguable in light of this fact from the Wiki: "Stanley Kubrick originally intended that when the film does its famous match-cut from ancient bone-weapon to orbiting satellite that the latter and the three additional technological satellites seen would be established as orbiting nuclear weapons by a voice-over narrator talking about nuclear stalemate.")

Note those walls- they seem oddly unnatural. They look like embankments, as if the tribe has built a fort. That's a classic OOPart--out of place artifact. An important clue in Kubrick's narrative. 

So what we see onscreen is weapons research taking place inside some kind of fortification. 

We soon see a lot of yelling and screaming over the well by the opposing tribes, punctuated by the death of an enemy warrior.

And following this victory over the "well", Moonwatcher throws the bone into the air and it immediately becomes a spaceship. It's not out of the realm of reason now to assume that this bone symbolizes the remains of a spaceship, since that's what it instantly becomes. Kubrick shows no suggestion of the march of time, of evolution, of progress, nothing at all. 

There's no reason at all to imagine any such thing, and in the context of his previous film every reason that this sequence is an even blunter and brutal parody of the Cold War, which filled many people with existential dread at the time of the making of this film.

What this bone is in fact is a secret weapon-- that's exactly what the narrative is describing the bone as exoterically. That it becomes a spaceship, that it was found in a pile of debris in the desert (where apes don't live), that this was filmed less than a day's drive from Roswell Army Air Base suggests that whether or not there is any truth to the Roswell stories that Kubrick thought they were compelling enough to tell a story around.

Well, Rus
As I've said before, the scene with Floyd meeting the Russians is meant as a parallel to the watering hole scene and in my view proves that the latter is a parody of the global politics of the former. For etymology buffs note that Roswell means "red well" and by conjoining these two scenes we have a well- the water hole-- and red symbolism in the chairs and the Russians themselves. Again, too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.

We see that this scene isn't much different than the previous one; the players are cordial but are clearly playing on opposite sides of the field. Floyd practices diplomatic deceit rather than physical violence to disguise the fact that his team too has had secret contact with an alien intelligence and is keeping that fact secret from their adversaries. 

Note that Floyd ends up in roughly the same pictorial space in-frame as Moonwatcher during the well battle.

Kubrick drops in a little more water symbolism here in case you didn't pick up on it and has the male Russian very subtly turn the table so the amber colored drink is now in front of him. Leading the Russians to believe that the phony plague story that's been leaked through intelligence channels is true, Floyd hides the fact that he is on a secret mission to the Moon, and will be later ordering a secret space mission to Jupiter.†


I think space travel is a lot more expensive and dangerous than we're led to believe by the science propaganda. We hear a lot of brave talk about Mars but the fact is that no one I know of thinks it's anything but a suicide mission. Unless of course there is hardware along the lines of what Ben Rich hinted of all those years ago. But I'm sure all of that is so black we'll never know even a hint of it unless it crashes in a place so public that a thousand videos pop up in an instant.

But then, the Internet does have an off switch, you know.

With a new Cold War brewing, it will be interesting to see what revelations about space are kicked loose. So far we haven't heard Putin say America never went to the Moon but we have heard Medvedev talk about aliens in the context of nuclear security. America has been reliant on Russian boosters for ISS missions but that arrangement looks shaky at best. Will Elon Musk and other corporate space raiders take up the slack? I don't think their pockets are that deep.

More importantly, if we did go to the Moon-- and my current opinion is that we did in some kind of secret mission(s) that had nothing to do with playing golf or doing wheelies, using some technology that will never show up at the Smithsonian-- what did we find there? Are there missions that are still going on that we aren't hearing about? How would we know the difference?

Finally, please note that all of the propaganda techniques discussed in this post apply to a lot more than space or UFOs or science fiction.

UPDATE: Reader NDL reminds us that not long after 2001 a TV series premiered in Britain in which a movie studio in Borehamwood was used as cover for a secret space program...

* Despite Kubrick's anti-drug protestations, the film is riddled with incongruous mushroom design symbolism.
† In 2000, the controversial Cassini spaceprobe performed a Jupiter flyby. The Cassini drew criticism for its plutonium power source.