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2001 Book Author Responds

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the laaaaaaast-word dept.

Space 144

Author Leonard F. Wheat wrote the following response to Cliff Lampe's review of his book 2001: A Triple Allegory . Wheat has certainly convinced me about several points, though not on every one. Hang on tight, please keep arms and legs inside the cart.

This is Len Wheat, author of Kubrick's 2001: A Triple Allegory, speaking. I'm here to point out some errors, misrepresentations, out-of-context quotations, and other problems with Cliff Lampe's review. I do appreciate Cliff's saying that, although "this book goes too far at times," it "is worth reading." Still, the general tone of the review -- the basic notion that my analysis is "pretty topsy-turvy" and "loony" -- is negative. The negativism rests on dubious ideas.

Let's begin with Cliff's statement that "[Wheat] uses scripts, director's notes, and some interviews to provide evidence for some of his claims." The source of this "information" is Cliff's imagination. I saw no scripts, read no director's notes, and interviewed nobody. Nowhere in the book is there any such "evidence," except that I do refer at two points to script evidence seen by other writers (Walker and Bizony). These facts tell you something about the level of accuracy to expect in the rest of the review.

That said, let's examine (1) Cliff's misguided quest for literalism in symbols, (2) his failure to grasp the subtle nature of most symbolism, (3) his misrepresentation of the TMA-1 anagram was being the basis for my saying the moon monolith symbolizes the wooden Trojan Horse, and (4) his out-of-context presentation of my assertion that the three hexagons surrounding Discovery's three pairs of rear-end excretory orifices represent bathroom tiles.

Cliff's implicit demand for literalism in symbols

A basic problem with the review is that Cliff refuses to recognize as genuine any symbols that don't come pretty close to being literal-symbols that don't reach out and slap you in the face. He doesn't seem to realize that many symbols, Kubrick's especially, are subtle. Recognizing them requires seeing analogies and paying attention to narrative and physical contexts. Cliff accepts Bowman's name as symbolizing Odysseus, because Odysseus was literally a bowman (user of the Great Bow). And he accepts the well established idea that Bowman's space voyage symbolizes Odysseus's sea od yssey, because (a) the movie's subtitle literally says "Space Odyssey," (b) Bowman literally "goes on a long voyage," and (c) Bowman, like Odysseus, literally "loses all his crew."

But Cliff can't point to any other Kubrick symbols-nonliteral symbols-identified by me that he will accept. Indeed, Cliff can't bring himself to recognize even some fairly literal symbols, including the ones representing hexagonal bothroom tiles. I'll give four examples of fairly literal symbols that Cliff implicitly rejects when he calls my interpretations "loony."

First, the Laestrygonian rock attack. Odysseus goes to the land of the Laestrygonians. All the ships in his fleet except his own anchor in a harbor. The harbor is ringed by cliffs (no pun intended). The Laestrygonians are nasty-and strong. They stand on the cliffs and throw down huge rocks, splintering the ships in the harbor and killing the crews. Odysseus's ship, outside the harbor, barely escapes under a hail of rocks. Cut to the movie. Just before Bowman goes out on his first space walk, we see an exterior shot of Discovery. Two huge meteroids come hurtling past. Kubrick is symbolizing Odysseus's escape from the Laestrygonian rock attack. But Cliff doesn't believe it. Not literal enough. Sure, the rock symbols are literally rocks, and they literally come close to hitting the ship; but the space rocks are not literally thrown, so I guess the overall symbolism is not literal enough for Cliff to accept. The idea that the meteoriods could be symbolic is, to him, just another "loony" interpretation.

Second, the three disabled survey crewman. Odysseus visits the land of the Lotus-eaters. He sends three crewman inland to survey the territory, so to speak. The three eat lotus, lose the desire to return, and have to be dragged back to the ship and put in irons, unable to perform their duties. Cut to the movie. During the BBC interview near the beginning of the space odyssey, Bowman says (a) his three hibernating crewman are (b) "the survey team." And the three are, for the time being, (c) disabled-unable to perform duties. Isn't that literal enough?

Third, the Movie's Title. Cliff focuses on the Odysseus allegory, giving short-shrift to the main allegory, which depicts Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra (TSZ). This misdirected emphasis is strange, because (a) the Zarathustra allegory has at least 160 symbols, compared to 55 for the Odysseus allegory, (b) I devote two chapters to the Zarathustra allegory but only one to the Odysseus allegory, and (c) the Zarathustra allegory is alluded to in the movie's title, whereas Odysseus's odyssey is mentioned in the secondary spot-the subtitle. Where does the title allude to TSZ? Nietzsche bases TSZ's title character, Zarathustra, on the Persian prophet Zarathustra (a.k.a. Zoroaster), founder of the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism. In Zoroastrian mythology, Zarathustra arrives after 9,000 years of history, at the beginning of the tenth millennium. The year is 9001. In the Zarathustra allegory, Bowman symbolizes Zarathustra. So he must arrive at the beginning of a new millennium. The movie's title year, 2001, symbolizes 9001, the year Zarathustra arrives. One millennial year symbolizes another. But Cliff, I gather, thinks my interpretation is "loony," because "2001" isn't literal enough: Kubrick seemingly (to Cliff) would have named his film 9001 if he wanted to symbolize Zarathustra's millennium. Well, Cliff, if you look hard enough you can find the 9000 years that expire before Zarathustra arrives. Hal, who arrives at the same time as Bowman, has as his full name HAL-9000: he is arriving after 9000 years.

Fourth, God's Sticking Out His Tongue and Blowing a Bubble. TSZ tells the story of man's evolution from (1) ape to (2) lower man, the believer, who creates God, to (3) higher man, the nonbeliever, who figuratively kills God by ceasing to believe, to (4) overman, a mentally and morally superior being. Young Zarathustra, representing lower man, creates God ("I created him"), and the God he creates is the image of man ("A man he was"): Nietzsche is turning the Bible upside down by saying that man created God in is own image. Later, the mature prophet (now a higher man) kills God, declaring "God is dead!"

In the Zarathustra allegory, Dave Bowman is the mature Zarathustra. The image-of-man God he kills is symbolized by Hal-Discovery-the spaceship and its computer brain. To be a good symbol, Hal-Discovery must have some image-of-man attributes. I'll describe these characteristics in some detail when I get to the hexagons. But for now, just recognize that Hal-Discovery has a head (with a brain inside) and three mouths, arranged in a row resemble a human mouth. In one scene Discovery opens his mouth (pod bay door), sticks out his tongue (pod launching ramp), blows a spherical bubble (space pod), and watches it rise over his head. Alas, the "tongue" isn't literally a tongue, just a pod launching ramp; and the "bubble" isn't literally a bubble, just a metal sphere. Besides, Kubrick would never resort to humor, subtle humor at that. (The pun in the name Bat Guano, from Dr. Strangelove, must have been unintentional.) So Cliff rejects my tongue-and-bubble interpretation. Indeed, he seems to reject the whole idea that Hal-Discovery, created by man and then killed by man during man's ascent from ape to overman (the star-child), could symbolize God. I wonder who, or what, he thinks the real God symbol is, or if he even thinks there is one. (He seems to acknowledge that there is a Zarathustra allegory.)

The subtle nature of most symbolism:

Most allegorical symbolism and other literary and film symbolism is not as literal as the symbolism described above. It is subtle, resting on analogy, word play, and other hidden-or at least hard to see-characteristics. Let's examine two closely related examples: (1) Nietzsche's rope dancer parable and (2) Frank Poole's anagrammatic name.

Nietzsche's Rope Dancer Parable. Early in TSZ, Nietzsche presents his parable of the rope dancer. "Rope dancer" is an archaic name for a tightrope walker. The rope dancer symbolizes mankind. He is walking on a rope stretched between two towers. The tower he comes out of symbolizes the ape (the first stage in ape-lower man-higher man-overman), and the tower he is trying to reach symbolizes overman (the last stage). When the rope dancer is part way across, a buffoon-a symbol for God-steps onto the rope from the first tower, comes up behind the rope dancer, leaps over him, and proceeds in triumph to the far tower, thereby achieving supremacy. Frightened, the rope dancer falls to his death. Zarathustra, standing below, picks up the rope dancer's body and later disposes of it.

In this parable, almost all of the symbolism is subtle, not literal. The only thing approaching literalism is Nietzsche's use of a man, the rope dancer, to symbolize mankind. But how can a tower symbolize either the ape or overman, let alone both? A tower isn't even alive. Well, the first tower is where man's journey from ape to overman begins (at ape), and the second tower is where the journey ends (at overman). Beginning and end are the first two subtleties-analogical relationships-you must grasp. But how can the buffoon symbolize God? Nietzsche says man creates God: man, not God, is the creator. So God comes after man, just as the buffoon comes after the rope dancer (both temporally and spatially)-another analogy. And God, to Nietzsche, is an idiotic concept, hence "buffoon." Also, the God man creates is himself a man ("A man he was"), so a man-the buffoon-is a good symbol for God. Fear causes the rope dancer to fall: man's fear of God dooms man's chances of becoming the supreme being, overman. Only one being can be supreme. When man makes God the Supreme Being, man dooms his own chances of evolving into a supreme being (overman). That is the parable's symbolic message.

Frank Poole's Anagrammatic Name. In 2001, Frank Poole is the character who symbolizes the rope dancer. How can this be, given that he does not literally walk on a rope? The answer is easy to deduce. Hal-Discovery, we have already seen, symbolizes God, and Frank's space pod is a detachable part of God's body-God's shoulders, arms, and hands. Now observe six subtle clues. (1) The pod-view it either as a part of Hal-Discovery or a weapon used by Hal-Discovery-comes up behind Frank, just as the buffoon came up behind the rope dancer. (2) The pod kills Frank, just as the buffoon killed the rope dancer. (3) Frank is taking a spacewalk-a figurative walk-when he is killed. (4) Dave Bowman, symbolizing Zarathustra, picks up Franks body, just as Zarathustra picked up the rope dancer's body. (5) Bowman later releases Frank's body, figuratively disposing of it, just as Zarathustra disposed of the rope dancer's body. (6) Bowman, verifying that he really does symbolize Zarathustra, later kills Hal, just as Zarathustra "kills" God by ceasing to believe and declaring, "God is dead!" Cliff considers interpretations like this "loony." But that is because he fails to recognize that most symbolism involves subtlety, and he finds subtlety hard to grasp.

Now we come to Frank's name. Cliff quotes me out of context when he quotes me as writing, "These letters [TMA-ONE], like the last nine in Frank Poole, can be rearranged to form an anagram." Cliff doesn't even bother to say what the anagram is. Naturally, many Slashdot readers have taken Cliff's word for it-"loony"-and have ridiculed the idea that Frank Poole is an anagram. But we know Kubrick uses anagrams. A Slashdot commentator named Babbage, in comments #224 and #225-points out that, "in Kubrick's version of 'Lolita,' he has a character named Vivian Darkbloom, an anagram for Vladimir Nabokov-the author that wrote the original book." (Babbage also gives five other examples of Kubrick's "anagrams, puns, and general word play." His comments-the most intelligent I have read in this Kubrick's 2001 forum-deserve your consideration. What they don't deserve is the score of only 2 given them by Slashdot's Comment Rating Bureau.) Also, I have already mentioned the punnish name Bat Guano-another type of word play-from Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. (If you don't know what guano is, use your dictionary.)

Frank Poole is what I call a 90 percent anagram. The last 9 of the 10 letters of "[F]rank Poole" can be rearranged to form "[W]alk on Rope." I figured that one out by starting out with the knowledge that Frank Poole symbolized the rope dancer. Then I looked for phrases like "Rope Dancer," "Rope Walker," "Dance on Rope," and "Walk on Rope." I didn't have to look far. Cliff seems to consider the whole idea that Kubrick uses anagrams -- Frank Poole, TMA-ONE, Vivian Darkbloom -- "just a skoach over the top." But I consider Cliff's refusal to judge these anagrams in context as something akin to burying one's head in the sand. In the case of "Frank Poole," the context is the six points of evidence showing that Frank Poole symbolizes the rope dancer.

The TMA-1 anagram:

I wrote that, when you spell out the figure 1, TMA-1 becomes TMA-ONE. These letters can be rearranged to form the anagram "No Meat." The phrase humorously alludes to the Trojan Horse's being made of wood rather than flesh and blood. Cliff presents the TMA-1 anagram in an out-of-context way that invites challenges to the anagram's validity. The moon monoliths name, TMA-1, comes before the monolith itself in 2001, so I discuss the name first. But in doing so I write, "In the next scene, . . . it becomes evident that TMA-1 [the monolith] symbolizes the wooden Trojan Horse." In other words, the evidence of the monolith's identity is in my discussion of the next scene, where the astronauts examine the monolith.

In this discussion I present evidence (1) from the scene itself and (2) from surrounding scenes that establish the sequential context of the symbolism.

Evidence from the Monolith Scene:

In Homer's The Odyssey, Troy falls to the Greeks immediately before Odysseus begins his odyssey, his homeward voyage back from Troy. The Greeks build a huge, hollow wooden horse, the Trojan Horse. Greek warriors hide inside. A clever ruse tricks the Trojans (residents of Troy) into bringing the Trojan Horse (1) inside the walls of Troy. After dark, (2) something-a bunch of Greek warriors-comes out of the horse. The warriors open the city gates, allowing the Greek army to enter and (3) inflict pain-actually death-on the people of Troy. Thus does Troy fall. Observe the 1-2-3 parallelism in 2001's moon monolith scene. (1) The monolith is inside the walls of a pit, walls that symbolize the walls of Troy. (2) Something-a loud signal-comes out of the monolith. (3) The astronauts, symbolizing the Trojans, fall back in pain. A fourth symbolic element, word play again, is also present. Kubrick-or more likely Clarke-scoured the list of the hundreds of named craters on the moon and put the monolith in the crater whose name most nearly resembles the name Troy. (4) The chosen crater was one named Tycho. It has the same initial letter as Troy, T, and it also has two of Troy's other three letters-o and y. Given the knowledge that The Odyssey is being allegorized, we find in these four pieces of evidence ample reason to infer that the monolith symbolizes the Trojan Horse.

Evidence from the Story's Sequential Context:

But the above evidence is just the beginning. More evidence of the monolith's symbolic identity comes from the sequence of events. Troy's fall and the events immediately preceding and following it display this sequence: (1) Menelaus, a Greek king, returns from a trip and is briefed on something that has happened: his wife, Helen (now known as Helen of Troy), has been seduced by Paris and taken to Troy. (2) Menelaus embarks for Troy with an army on 1,000 ships (whence Helen's moniker, "the face that launched a thousand ships"). (3) Using the Trojan Horse, the Greeks conquer Troy. (4) Odysseus, in the first episode on his odyssey, attacks the city of Ismarus. This episode has four features: (a) crewmen running through the streets of Ismarus and (b) fighting the inhabitants, after which Odysseus (c) loots the city and then (d) gets figuratively burned in a counterattack that kills 72 of his men. (5) Odysseus goes to the land of the Lotus eaters and winds up with three disabled crewmen, shackled and unable to perform their duties.

The relevant events of 2001's surface story follow the same sequence. (1) Heywood R. Floyd, symbolizing Menelaus, is briefed on something. (2) A long, many-footed (two rows of landing feet), bug-eyed (front windows) moon bus travels to the crater Tycho-Troy. The bus symbolizes a millipede (mil = 1,000; ped = foot), whose figurative 1,000 feet symbolize the thousand ships sailing for Troy. (3) The moon monolith performs in its walled enclosure. (4) The space odyssey begins. Its first four events are (a) Frank Poole's-Bowman's only active crewman's-jogging, which symbolizes Odysseus's crewmen running through the streets of Ismarus, (b) Poole's shadowboxing, symbolizing the fighting, (c) Bowman's "looting" the food dispensing machine, and (d) Bowman's burning his fingers on the food, symbolizing Odysseus' getting burned in the counterattack. (5) The BBC interview comes up on the TV, and we hear Bowman say that his three-man "survey team" is in hibernation-disabled, just like the men on Odysseus' three-man survey team.

Back to the Anagram. It is in this double context-the context of the moon monolith scene and the sequential context of before-and-after events-that the anagram (TMA-1 = TMA-ONE = NO MEAT) must be interpreted. Once you deduce by other means that the monolith symbolizes the meatless (wooden) Trojan Horse, the anagram's validity is obvious. Sure, somebody said that two other anagrams-NO TEAM and NO MATE-could be formed from the six letters, but they don't fit the context. Only NO MEAT describes the Trojan Horse. Note, by the way, how subtle Kubrick can get. In the other anagram he omitted the first letter of both [F]rank Poole and "[W]alk on rope." In the TMA-1 anagram he makes you discover that "1" must be spelled out before the anagram can be found.

The hexagon symbolism:

Cliff also rejects my claim that the three hexagons at Discovery's rear end -- we all have rear ends, don't we? --symbolize bathroom tiles and are part of a scatological joke about God's going to the bathroom. Earlier in this reply I noted that Hal-Discovery symbolizes Nietzsche's version of God, the God created by man in his (man's) own image. As part of Kubrick's God symbol, Discovery must be the image of man. So Kubrick gives him a huge bulbous head, wide-band mod sunglasses (the high-on-the-head windows), three mouths (pod bay doors) arranged in a horizontal row to resemble a single mouth, a tongue (pod launching ramp) for each mouth, a tapered neck behind the head, a segmented spine, a sacrum (tailbone) at the base of the spine, three pairs of excretory orifices (rocket nozzles)-one pair for each mouth-below the sacrum (same place as in humans), and a bathroom (hexagonal bathroom tile) for each pair of excretory orifices. Hal-Discovery, again like humans, can see, hear, and talk; he has human emotions, such as enthusiasm and fear; he is mortal; and he becomes senile before dying ("Daisy, Daisy").

Note that part of this physical-mental context is the three pairs of excretory orifices. If that's too scatological for you to accept, you probably don't think the Dr. Strangelove puns in Colonel Bat Guano's name are anything but accidental. But if you recognize Kubrick's penchant for humor, including scatological humor, it should not surprise you that the rocket nozzles symbolize the orifices God uses to excrete his waste. And if you are familiar with the small hexagonal white bathroom floor tiles that were commonplace in the 1930s, it again should not surprise you that Kubrick has God doing his excreting where it should be done-in the bathroom. Bury your head in the sand if you must, Cliff, but those three hexagons do symbolize bathroom tiles. There are jokes in this movie.

If you're still unconvinced that the hexagons are part of a Kubrick joke, consider a related joke. The Bible says woman was made from a bone, Adam's rib. Kubrick, who turns the Bible upside down in several places, makes a counterclaim: God, a man, was made from a bone. Begin by noting that Kubrick's God is a bony God, essentially an abstracted skull and spine. Now ask: how did we get to this bony God? We got there in an eight-stage, 41-minute evolutionary process, to wit: (1) A prehuman ape picks up animal bone-we start with a bone-and converts it into a primitive weapon, a club. (2) The primitive weapon, tossed into the air, morphs into a space-age weapon, an orbiting nuclear bomb. (3) The orbiting bomb evolves into an elongated, self-propelled, phallic space shuttle. (4) In sexual symbolism that Roger Ebert was the first to point out-I wasn't the first to recognize this-the phallus penetrates the slot in the rotating female space station: coitus. (5) A spherical moon lander symbolizing a sperm cell-Ebert missed this part-travels to the moon, a larger sphere that symbolizes the ovum, which is larger than the sperm. (6) Hangar doors on the moon open up, allowing the lander-sperm to enter and fertilize the moon: conception. (7) The fetus gestates: Part 2's subtitle, "18 Months Later," informs us that God, who is twice as smart as humans, has a gestation period twice as long as that of humans. (8) The bony male God is born slowly, horizontally from offscreen into the starry universe.

I hate to say this, Cliff, but those long hours you're putting in on your dissertation have dulled your senses. You no longer catch onto subtle jokes when you hear them.

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Re:Small-minded author? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#195010)

I don't really think that he is petty. He has a well reasoned argument.

If you have ever had anything that you've written judged (for example, a peer-reviewed article), you would know how difficult it is to let thinks like this go unchallenged.

Re:Layers for your layers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#195011)

Murray's competition with the gophers is symbolic of the struggle that goes on within everyman.

Don't we all have a little gopher in us all?

Re:symbolism and the movie (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#195012)

Sometimes I look at to just read the reviews, even I do not intend to buy a movie, but just to see how people receive it. One of the review was '1' star out of ten, or something like this, the reviewer of 2001 wrote: "This was the most boring movie I ever saw, don't waste your time or money to watch this movie". The other reviews were all 9 or 10 stars out of 10, one or two reviews were brilliant in themselves.

What movies, or good books do, they turn the inside of a person, the psyche, the soul, the spirit - or something very hard to catch inside-out; the vessel which art is often used allows the reader or the viewer to put something of him- or herself into it, in order to complete the artwork, this I call true brilliance - and the movie 2001 Odyssey achieves this - if you don't put something into of yourself or you simply can't due lack of ability to reflect or whatever (a longer discussion in itself) then you don't get out a lot out if it, as it seemed occured to you - sorry for you, you missed a great opportunity - I saw the movie when I was 15 (20 years ago) when I accidently saw the movie in the theater with a friend of mine (as we originally wanted to go for another film and just walked in and bought tickets), and I was completely impressed, I was speechless for 30 mins after I walked out of the movie, and I felt, if this was the level of movies shown in theaters then I would become a movie-fan, which I became then, but unfortunatly such moments rarely happened again.

About Herman Melville's Moby Dick and his reply what the whale truly is, replying "it is just a whale". I would say, this reply was meant to dismantle the ignorance of the person who posed the question - the symbolism of the whale is explained through the story, whoever asks what the whale is either never read the book, or is gracefully stupid. Clark was asked what the monolith was, in a TV interview I saw on BBC, and he replied, "you might find out yourself - I won't tell [you]". It was a nice way to reply this appearant inappropriate question within an interview - you may pose the question in a real long discourse, when you truly explored the story, but not just to get a fast and free ride without yourself truly participating the journey of (inner) exploration when approaching art.

I admire your honesty saying the movie didn't made sense to you, but I also feel truly sorry you couldn't take more out of it, as said, there aren't many movies alike which invite the viewer to join the journey, nowadays we have the bold, appearant told movies from Hollywood, where everything is explained and shown that everybody can follow - and therefore the stories are the same just different figures - just few movies like The Matrix or English Patient which operate on different story-lines (time-wise or conceptually) are exceptions, Tarkovsky's movies live from that part as well, the part you bring in yourself . . .

the old man != the crew (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#195013)

THE OLD MAN makes it back,
but THE CREW dies.

Maybe you should read the whole thing :-P

Re:A Response? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#195014)

Me fail English? That's improfessional!

I thought this was great (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#195015)

Three cheers for this guy. In my opinion, Slashdot authors often tend to focus too much on being cute and clever, rather than sticking to the facts. All too often, it goes over the line into semi-flames and irresponsible taunting, with the assumption that the authors are somehow invulnerable to criticism themselves. It's good to see them get called on it for a change. Perhaps they'll think twice before calling someone "loony" next time -- because that guy just might be reading.

Those who can't do -- criticize on Slashdot

Re:Who's Next For Slashdot? (3)

Roblimo (357) | more than 13 years ago | (#195016)

Tell you what: if 10 Slashdot readers email me and request an interview with Alex Chiu, I'll ask him.

Who knows? Maybe he'll even send me a free pair of Immortality Rings!

- Robin

Say what? (5)

Roblimo (357) | more than 13 years ago | (#195017)

Many years ago, when the world was young and there was no Internet, I wrote a short story called "Seven Days at Camp Cocaine."

It was a simple, 4000 word piece that made a simple point. It got published in a local (Baltimore) rag, and later ended up in a "literary" short story anthology, even though I had intended it to be nothing but a moment's reading pleasure with a small political message built into it. IMO, it was *not* literature.

Anyway, readers and critics (some with many academic-type letters after their names) went on and on about this or that "piece of imagery" and my "veiled symbolism" and so on.

We're talking about something I knocked out in an afternoon, probably after I'd had a fair amount to drink, and got maybe $400 or $500 for, tops; not great art, just a piece I cranked out to help pay the mortgage that month.

I swear, there must have been 40 *thousand* words written about "Seven Days in Camp Cocaine" by all those critics and professors and students. Most of them found all kinds of deepness in the story that I, the author, sure as hell didn't put in it.

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
- S. Freud

Sometimes a story is just a story and a movie is just a movie. Or perhaps I'm just too shallow to recognize Art when I see it, even if I'm the one who produced it. Geh.

- Robin 'roblimo' Miller
(The real Roblimo, UID #357, is sitting in the cabin of his sailboat, posting this through his Ricochet wireless modem, and may cast off and go for a short sail if the sky stays clear, having turned out over 2000 words of "pay copy" today -- which is more than enough, thank you.)

Thanks (1)

Indomitus (578) | more than 13 years ago | (#195018)

I didn't really want to read this book in the first place but now that the author has gone through the trouble of summarizing the whole thing for me I know I won't buy it. :) Thanks!

Bad defense (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 13 years ago | (#195019)

This is less a defense of the author's work than an attack on Cliff's review, interspersed with an uncomfortable number of personal attacks directed towards Cliff.

I wouldn't be averse to him responding to Cliff's criticisms with a defense of his book and an explanation of why those criticisms are inapplicable or misguided, but I am averse to him simply attacking the review and the reviewer.

Re:Here are some other anagrams of NO MEAT: (1)

pod (1103) | more than 13 years ago | (#195020)

No, you got it all wrong. TMA is actually TLA, the number 1 after it symbolizes that the second letter is off by one. How do I know this? It's what very smart people call a '90% substitution'. I won't get into details, but if you're smart like me you'll see it eventually.

Why I hate interpertations of artistic works (1)

JetJaguar (1539) | more than 13 years ago | (#195022)

I have to agree with you here. I get really annoyed by so-called "symbolic" interpretations of artistic works (be they literary, film, or on canvas). Such interpretations always wind up sounding like meaningless deconstructionist pablum.

I have to wonder who these people think they are? I'm a pretty bright guy, and I can figure stuff out. I don't need some self-appointed, self-important, pseudo-intellectual to tell me how I should think, feel, or interpret a piece of art, I can do that pretty well on my own!

Undoubtedly different people will see different things in a work, because each of us brings different experiences to bear on it. And that's a good thing! But some guy coming along and deciding that his interpretation is the one and only right one is nothing more than someone with an inflated ego trying to make everyone else believe that he is justified in having such a big head. In this case, it's particularly egregious since he just SO wrong!

Re:Why I hate interpertations of artistic works (1)

JetJaguar (1539) | more than 13 years ago | (#195023)

I think you're reading a little too much into what I said. I'll admit I'm not an expert on deconstructionist thought (and perhaps I'm not using the term properly), but I have read about the ludicrous extremes it sometimes goes to. Which is where I was drawing my parallel, not that the book itself is deconstructionist in nature (a miscommunication on my part), but that it draws conclusions that are based on the flimsiest of logic.

Also, I didn't say that I thought a critic's function is to enhance one's experience, in fact, I said just the opposite. I enjoy a work much more when I'm able to draw my conclusions about it, without the filter.

Now, if you want to talk about using artistic works as a means of understanding the culture that produced it, that's a totally different thing (at least, to me it is), and I think an analysis on that level would be interesting, but I really don't think Wheat's book comes even remotely close to doing that, or at least I don't think the evidence he presents adaquately supports his assertians, not even by a longshot. As you say, it sounds like numerology.

Prank Foole (4)

Bud (1705) | more than 13 years ago | (#195027)

Surely, you have to have a PhD to miss Frank Poole == Prank Foole.


The Lost Worlds of 2001 (3)

ciurana (2603) | more than 13 years ago | (#195028)

With all due respect to the author, I think he's being extremely sensitive to a negative review. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The symbolism in 2001 has been a source of extensive interpretation by anyone who has bothered to see the movie at least once. The sources of inspiration as well as the creative process behind the film and novel are discussed in detail in Arthur C. Clarke's The Lost Worlds of 2001. The book is entertaining and informational, and, for those looking for symbolism and the motivation to have it in the movie, pay particular attention to chapter 4. Clarke discusses there the goals Kubrick had set even before they teamed up to write the movie.

For what is worth,

The Lost Worlds of 2001
Arthur C. Clarke
Signet Books (possibly out of print)
ISBN 0-451-12536-3



symbolism and the movie (3)

ragnar (3268) | more than 13 years ago | (#195029)

I unfortunately wasted a good deal of time trying to make sense of "2001" and eventually stopped puring time into extracting some meaning out of the story. Rebuttals like this demonstrate to me that some people are still hot in pursuit of making sense of the movie, by any means necessary. I understand that some people like and even revere this movie, but it really escapes me. I fancy myself a pretty sharp person, learned in the ways of symbolism and metaphore, but the movie was simply tearfully boring and seemed to repeat itself. The whole story seemed to be told in the first 30 minutes and then I was subjected to a longer 2 hour version afterward. Gag.

On the topic of symbolism, I'm reminded of something. Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was asked by a group of critics what the whale symbolized. He simply answered, "A whale." Sometimes I think we try to dig too deep for meaning in what others do. The counter point given by the author I think is such a case.

Re:Inevitable (2)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 13 years ago | (#195030)

True, people sometimes confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory' but one can't ignore the fact that 2001 features humans evolving into the next stage of existence (Nietzsche's whole philosophy centered around men becoming "supermen") and has "Also Sprach Zaruthustra" (named after Nietzsche's most famous book) on the soundtrack. Kubrick clearly meant us to think of Nietzsche, and so it is allegory.

Other things that Wheat brings up, like bathroom tiles, "no meat", etc. are at best examples of 'applicability'.

Ah, The Subconscious... (1)

waldoj (8229) | more than 13 years ago | (#195033)

OTOH, some might argue that those elements did exist in the story, and not as inventions of the readers, but as subconscious inventions of your own mind. As a writer of a family of writers, we've all been accused of the very things that you were accused of. Sometimes we write them off as nuts, but just as often, our conclusion is that they're right, and that we inserted that element into the story unintentionally.


Bowman (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 13 years ago | (#195034)

Your observation about the name Bowman frankly lends more credibility to the Ulysses link: Ulysses, in the Odysseus, makes it home as well. It's very sad that you don't even know this very basic element of the plot of the Odysseus - in fact, until you mentioned it, I thought that was the biggest hole in the association.

The Odysseus link is the only plank of the original essay that holds any water, as far as I'm concerned. (Duh. It's called A Space Odyssey. Duh.)

Re:What is it about literary criticism? (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 13 years ago | (#195035)

Your complaining that the exhaustive analysis of literature by academics somehow compromises your ability to enjoy reading is like someone saying that discussions about programming styles or analysis of algorithms compromise your ability to enoy a game of Quake.

For pete's sake, did you expect to go to a literature class and just have a bunch of people say "Oh, I liked that, did you?", "No, I didn't. What about you?"

Re:Why I hate interpertations of artistic works (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 13 years ago | (#195036)

Sadly, your ignorance is showing. This symbolic reading of the text for its "true meaning" is very anti- and pre- "deconstructionist." It's a throwback to 19th century critical style. A so-called "deconstructionist" (probably better called a poststructuralist, or even just a contemporary critic - calling a critic who uses deconstructive strategies in their work a "deconstructionist" is like calling anyone who uses java a "object-oriented programming advocate" - it mistakes a tool for an ideology) would take the obvious meaning and show hidden agendas that go outside the narrative, historicize it, call into question implicit assumptions, and otherwise 'reverse engineering' the story. The book we are talking about simply looks for the True Hidden Meaning by doing scrambled hermeneutics in a more-or-less quasi-paranoid Jungian vein.

Your biggest mistake is to think that the theoretical critic's function is to enhance your experience of the book like a wine-steward recommending wines. Most literary critics of this sort actually see books, films, and other cultural works as a way of understanding and talking about the culture that produces them, what they say about that culture in its historical moment, and what they reveal about us as people who tell each other stories and use language.

Re:What is it about literary criticism? (1)

Splat (9175) | more than 13 years ago | (#195038)

You sum up what I'm thinking perfectly. Part of the reason I cannot get into literature/english classes at school is that everyone sucks the joy out of books and movies just like you said. Overanalyss and "intellectual" criticism is so incredibly selfish. I've also seen people devote so much energy to pointing out what they found wrong in books or movies. Some criticism is good, but examples like yours prove all too often the academic crowd goes overboard.

Re:Kubrick?? (3)

F2F (11474) | more than 13 years ago | (#195040)

the book '2001, a space odissey' was created after the movie. the original idea for this movie came from Kubrick, who later invited Clarke and worked together with him in creating the screenplay.

Clarke himself acknowledges that :)

or maybe you're just trolling ;)

Re:Criticism of this approach was on-target (2)

The Cunctator (15267) | more than 13 years ago | (#195041)

Thank you. The author is such a loon. But I have to say that I love observing the processes of pseudoscience, from astrology to faith-healing to the mystical outgrowths of political systems--from libertarians to liberals, you can find the One True Answer, "supported" by countless reams of evidence that just so happen to have at the core the One True Answer, thus happily completing the circular argument, from the Invisible Hand of the Free Market to the Golden Rule. At least the Golden Rule encourages people to be nice, though.

Religions are good, of course, but even better are the Kabbalists and the numerologists. There's some fun stuff. It's a pity there aren't more movies exploring this; Pi only scratched the surface.

Of course the best these days are the conspiracy theorists, which is why Foucault's Pendulum and the Illuminatus! Trilogy are such fine books. There's a great loony right now who's convinced that Heidi Klum is the unwitting focus of an age-old Satanist conspiracy [] .

It's too bad for the author of this book that his frothings are demonstrably false. It's much better to insert your own goofy readings into something that's a bit less well documented. Like, say, the Bible. Or the stock market. It's funny how the media can always tell why the market acted the way it just did, but can never predict it, huh?


Small-minded author? (3)

alienmole (15522) | more than 13 years ago | (#195042)

Is it just me, or does this author seem incredibly petty? Whether Cliff did or did not "get" his book, this level of response to a review exhibits a staggering degree of insecurity on the part of the author.

He might have posted a message which explained his book in a more positive light, rather than picking away at every comment Cliff made.

I read the earlier review and wasn't really swayed one way or the other as to whether the book should interest me - it certainly didn't grab me. Having read this rebuttal, I know for sure I don't want to waste any time on this guy's stuff.

Nice Article (1)

Null_Packet (15946) | more than 13 years ago | (#195043)

I won't pretend to try to cover or re-review anything said above, but this is an interesting article for Slashdot to carry; we normally would see these things on kuro5hin. I hope you guys can continue to find good reviews/posts of this nature.

Re:Small-minded author? (2)

Felinoid (16872) | more than 13 years ago | (#195044)

When a book author dose a poor job you put the book down.
When a critic dose a poor job otherwise intrested readers don't bother.

The book being reviewed is pritty much a review itself.
That isn't the sort of book you EVER review.

It's painful to watch an otherwise profesional critic try and review something he is absolutly unable to understand.

Oh, the pain... I cannot comprehend the beauty... (1)

SatanLilHlpr (17629) | more than 13 years ago | (#195045)

(4) In sexual symbolism that Roger Ebert was the first to point out-I wasn't the first to recognize this-the phallus penetrates the slot in the rotating female space station: coitus.

Oh, my aching head. God, (some other god, not the man-god we created to fear) created the universe, and its laws of physics, to support Kubrick's desire to exercise metaphors for a brief moment 20 billion years after creation, in one tiny corner of the universe. Okay. That's the only way that it fits! Using centrifugal force to simulate gravity is all part of God's plan to make it all work out so that engineers would be forced to design space station docking mechanisims in such a way to allow Kubrick to allude to coitus !!! I FIANLLLAYY USNGDER STATNDD!!!!

It would really bother me if I didn't realize that this all represents the most elaborate and brillant troll in the history of the web. (But maybe not usenet)

By the way, Wheat does make some good points about Kubrick's wordplay. (It just serves to make it seem all the more real !!)

How pedantic! (5)

KFury (19522) | more than 13 years ago | (#195047)

Let me get this straight: I'm replying to an author's response to a reader's review of that author's analysis of a filmmaker's interpretation of another author's creative statement about the human condition?

Please dear god someone reply to this, just to tell me I'm wrong!

Kevin Fox

Anagrams and Scriptwriters (3)

Saint Nobody (21391) | more than 13 years ago | (#195048)

the anagrams were most likely created by whoever wrote the scripts to the films. The screenplay for Lolita was written by Vladimir Nabokov, as was the book. Another user pointed out that Vivian Darkbloom was even in the original book.

Doctor Strangelove started out as a book entitled "Red Alert" by Peter George, and it was a suspense novel. Kubrick decided to make a movie out of it, and he and Peter George collaborated on the screenplay. In the process of writing it, they realized that the plot had amazing comic potential, so they invited Terry Southern to join them. My bet is that Bat Guano was not an accident by any means. However, I would bet that that's one of Terry Southern's contributions to the film.

On to 2001... Originally it was the short story "The Sentinal" by Arthur C. Clarke. Kubrick decided to use the events in that story as a small part of his next project, and invited Clarke to collaborate with him in a screenplay. Wheat makes a good case for the Odysseus and Zarathustra analogies, but some of it, is just farfetched. "NO MEAT" might be feasible, but is probably just a side effect of some sort of drugs. either that, or Wheat has spent his entire life as a more-intellectual-than-thou prick. but the bathroom tiles?!? that's a little too far gone for me.

Vivian Darkbloom (2)

rjrjr (28310) | more than 13 years ago | (#195050)

Actually, Nabokov used the Vivian Darkbloom anagram all the time, in Lolita and elsewhere. It certainly wasn't Kubrick's game, he merely let it stand.

In fact, Nabokov indulged in all kinds of wonderful anagrams, puzzles and games. Read The Annotated Lolita [] for a decoder to that book.

Re:Why I hate interpertations of artistic works (2)

IntelliTubbie (29947) | more than 13 years ago | (#195052)

Sadly, your ignorance is showing. This symbolic reading of the text for its "true meaning" is very anti- and pre- "deconstructionist." It's a throwback to 19th century critical style.

Would you call a Joycean scholar "ignorant" for analyzing the allusions and references in Ulysses? Perhaps you would prefer that he focus on the homoerotic undertones and relate this to the cultural climate of Dublin at the turn of the century. The problem with your critique is that it presupposes a single "correct" kind of criticism. Different kinds of criticism have different uses, but all of them are meaningless if a book's literal and symbolic meanings are lost on the reader. Therefore, books like A Triple Allegory do have a place in critical discourse.


Bat Guano (2)

Allen Akin (31718) | more than 13 years ago | (#195053)

You need someone better-informed than I am to confirm this, but in the 70s I was told that the character name "Bat Guano" in Dr. Strangelove refers to an urban legend of the 60s. The UL was that the caffeine added to Coca Cola was derived from bat guano. This is part of the humor behind the character's interaction with the Coke machine -- the line "If you're lying, you'll have to answer to the Coca Cola company" and the Coke machine spraying him after he shoots it.

So to my limited understanding, the name "Bat Guano" is not exactly a pun (as Wheat states); it's a pop-culture reference.

Re:Bowman (3)

MadAhab (40080) | more than 13 years ago | (#195054)

Re-read your quotes again. "After all, Odysseus was the sole survivor..."

Funny, most of the criticisms of the author seem to accuse him of seeing pattern where there is none. Meanwhile, you are talking about the order of a couple random notes, while missing the point that they were explicitly and deliberately working in elements of the Odyssey, to the point of changing the story line to resemble it better.

The title wasn't set from the start; that's true of most works except the kind that remain only titles. You're an idiot if you think that the "How the Solar System was Won" title was anything more than a joking parallel of "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb". The name Bowman happened to be mentioned in these notes before the name Odysseus. There is zero indication that it wasn't already the Odyssey from day one, so your assertion that the name was chosen "before" is laughable. Why wasn't the word there earlier? Probably because the Odysseus metaphor was so obvious to the creators that it wasn't worth writing down. Probably because they are artists and not literal-minded children. If you can't see that they were doing Odysseus from this evidence - they were changing the story to improve the allegory - then you are too big a loon to argue with.

There are few things that clearly identify fake intellectualism more than wacky theories and finding crazy non-existent patterns in things. Ranking very high among them; the idea that all symbolism in art is accidental. It's a fundamentally neanderthal argument that's the sneakier sibling to "That ain't art, my 2 year old coulda painted that thar pitchur!"

I've talked to enough creative people - artists, musicians, etc - about their influences that I feel reasonably certain about an artists' internal influences - and they aren't always the ones they admit to. But Zarathustra and Odysseus are dead on. Are you really that thick?

Boss of nothin. Big deal.
Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

Sorry, Leonard, you are trying too hard (5)

Galazi (41578) | more than 13 years ago | (#195055)

Yeow, Mr Wheat has put a lot of thought into his writing, but I feel he may be overdoing it. If you try you can read what you want into most things.

A couple of examples:

1. The bathroom tiles.

Lets assume our space ship needs exhaust ports (it does - it must - no allegory there). Leonard says the hexagonal shape represents bathroom tiles, therefore excretion in the bathroom etc. Maybe.... But, what other shapes could Kubrik (or the model's designer have chosen)? Square - bathroom tiles, rectangular - bathroom tiles, circular - toilet bowl, triangular - starts with a T (toilet) and could be bathroom tiles too (I've seen triangular ones). Hmm, it's hard to escape the conclusion that whatever shape the excretory orifices were made, we could see bathroom tiles!

2. The final 8-step Bone allegory.

(1) ape picks up bone & uses it for a weapon, OK. (2) Bone, tossed into air morphs into nuclear bomb - a common cinematic artifice (conversion) and nuclear weapons were a key topic when the film was made. (3) Orbiting bomb morphs to phallic space ship - this elongated shape is VERY logical for a space ship, and coincidentally is similar to a phallus shape. (4) The ship penetrates the space station; coitus - what else would it do? It is logical for the ship to dock in the space station if the crew wish to enter it. (5) Sperm-like lander lands on bigger ovum shaped moon - Duh! it would be pretty silly if the lander was bigger than the moon, if the moon was not round and the lander was a long thin (phallus), with limited mechanical stability, unlike a more squat more circular shape, no?? (6) Hanger doors open allowing the lander to fertilize the moon - this seems like a sensible way for any lander to get into a hanger (7) The fetus gestates over 18 months, a god-like gestation period because God is twice as smart as us - please!!, God is generally credited with being more than twice as smart as humans. (8) The bony god is borne horizontally into a starry universe - same effect if he was borne vertically, silly if there were no stars in the universe, babies are bony..... this is not a strange thing tio show either.

I can't go on! A lot happens in the movie. Some of it may be symbolism, but Mr Wheat's determination to find symbols is bound to succeed because if one looks hard enough one can find symbols in many things.

I enjoyed the read, though.

i'll take a scathing comment, heavy on the sarcasm (1)

TypoDaemon (43268) | more than 13 years ago | (#195056)

so many slashdot posters, denouncing someone for defending themself against criticism. and god forbid he return the insults which were delivered to him when his book was reviewed, and in such harsh words. i mean, using all that well-thought out argument was just a little bit harsh, i think.

of course, he shouldn't have been defending himself in the first place anyways. that's just silly. once one has presented one's views, it is ethical to simply allow people to pull them apart without responding to them at all. why should anyone be able to defend anything they do, after all? that's childish. once you've done it, it's done, and you have no right to state your opinion of the critiques of your actions by others.

this just really sickens me, that a forum dedicated to free speech, or at least a forum that pays heavy lip service to it, won't let a person defend what are fairly large insults to his book. you'd think that you all would be a little more accepting.

Re:Nice Article (1)

divec (48748) | more than 13 years ago | (#195057)

Now, who in his right mind can be interested in a biased response? Only neutral reviews are worth reading.
I disagree with this: firstly I don't think that it is logically possible to have a neutral review, because any review is an expression of an opinion; and secondly I think it is interesting to hear this author's rebuttal of criticism (even though I think he is mistaken in some places).

Re:A Response? (2)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#195058)

> overman-twice-god-three-anus-bathroom-tiles-from-t he-roaring-twenties-that-kills-man-and-has-an-18-m onth-gestation? I dont think so.

Hey, that's a good idea! Let's chip in to buy Professor Wheat a copy of Finnegan's Wake and watch him disappear up his own ass ;-)

Re:Criticism of this approach was on-target (4)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#195059)

> And no duh, becuase the engine arrangement in Discovery most certainly isn't meant to harken to bathroom tiles; it is a sensible engineering solution which was probably approved by Kubrick after it originated with a model-maker or engineer (or combination thereof).

Yeah, but you're trying to talk sense to an academic. Once they get their mind wrapped around something, no matter how crazy, they cannot be budged. (I mean, there's grant money riding on it!)

Cripes, I've seen academics argue that real rockets - as in, the ones we use today - are shaped the way they are, not by engineering constraints, but because they were originally built by male weaponeers, who wanted them to look as phallic as possible.

They're serious about this - as though somehow rockets would somehow be shaped like giant flabby Earth-Mother Gaia-Figure tits if they'd been invented by women instead of men.

(Reading this article was a great reminder why I left University to work in the private sector... the day I got my degree, I was fuckin' gone, man, I couldn't get away fast enough ;-)

Re:Small-minded author? (5)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#195060)

> Is it just me, or does this author seem incredibly petty?

Cynical answer: The author is likely an academic - perhaps a Ph.D. in English Literature - pettiness and endless squabbling over mind-pummelingly insignificant crap is part of his job description.

Insightful answer: he's a geek - like you and me - except that he's a geek of English-Lit. In the same way that you and I can bitch for hours about the merits of vi vs. EMACS, or GNOME vs. KDE, he can bitch for hours about how Discovery was more about a man with cool shades and bathroom tiles up his ass than it was a really neat-looking model of what a spaceship to Jupiter might look like.

Take whichever answer you like. I still kinda prefer the cynical version myself. Because even though the insightful version is more likely a reflection of the truth, I refuse to believe that the emacs-vs-vi debate is petty. I mean, eight megs and constantly swapping, how could anyone use emacs over the wonder that is vi, and how could anyone fail to realize that the debate is hardly petty, I mean, you watch 2001, but you live within your text editor!

Re:Say what? (1)

Phyrexia (55710) | more than 13 years ago | (#195061)

Is there a copy of your story online?
If there've ben forty thousand words written about it, it deserves a read, I suppose.


Comments far off base (2)

SmileyBen (56580) | more than 13 years ago | (#195062)

As much as people might disagree with this book (and agree with the critical review) - many people do seem to be taking a very narrow view of art. Art is defined as meaning what the artist intended it to - for it to be good art it must have meaning of its own, and must be open to interpretation.

This reminds me of the responses to the article about the director of Blade Runner saying that Deckard wasn't a replicant - and everyone saying 'Oh, that's spoilt it, how could he?' - as if that ended the debate. It's ART. The director doesn't get any more right to an opinion as to what it /means/ than you or I do. I don't care how many people involved in the writing of 2001 say it's nothing to do with any metaphor - that doesn't stop it having meaning and connotation against the backdrop of the whole of literature.

To assert otherwise is to blithly claim that nobody could /ever/ be a bad writer / director / actor. One mark of a good artist is, presumably, the ability to express what they're trying to express. If the metaphors in 2001 sink or swim at Kubrick's say-so, without any reference to what is /actually/ in the text / painting / film then directors needn't bother taking time to actually make the film well - after all, if Kubrick says HAL is really a human, that means he is, regardless of the fact that he failed utterly to show that in the film (this is an example - he didn't actually say that) - and regardless of the fact that HAL was acted really rather computationally, even if on the AI side of things.

Come on those who just dismiss interpretations - try to take a slightly more interesting / sophisticated / deep view of art, and actually let it live for itself, rather than being a fairly dull slave to (a random person chosen from) its creators!

Re:Seeing a thing that is not there (1)

Zoop (59907) | more than 13 years ago | (#195063)


Not only is he expert at the same sort of crap that generates "Bible Codes" (does Wheat realize that he's the intellectual equivalent of a Pax Channel special or a Fox conspiracy-theory special?) but he's spectacularly bad at the one thing an English major should be good at: getting the INTENDED, OBVIOUS point of the damn story.

To wit: he expends all his energy on Bowman and The Odyssey and Zarathustra with an emphasis on telling the Human story of both "We are What We Make of Ourselves". The whole point of 2001 is that We Might Be Overestimating Our Place in the Universe, and We Wouldn't Even Understand Something Truly Advanced, but They Might Understand Us Better than We Ourselves. Wheat never addresses this theme in his comments, which leads me to think that his exercise in numerology misses the point as well. Surely there was at least one or two symbols present along that theme...maybe the impenetrable blackness of a certain monolith, representing the unknown?

Once again, Lit Crit types prove themselves to be staggeringly less elite and enlightened than they'd like us to believe.

A Response? (5)

iamsure (66666) | more than 13 years ago | (#195066)

After reading one of the longest responses to a review that I have EVER read -- and I am no slouch when it comes to such things -- I feel compelled to respond to the author.

First, any author should be comfortable with criticism of their work, fair or not. By publishing the work, you accept that as not a possibility, but a true expectation.

The author clearly does not feel comfortable with the criticism. That to me pretty much ends the conversation. It is seriously immature, and highly improfessional.

However, to do some justice to this book of a response, let me quickly hit a few points:

1. The author stretches SO far with "no meat" and tma-one, as to be silly. Yes, I said silly. I am intimately familiar with Kubrick's humor, with Clarke's style, and this just doesn't fit it. It is almost without a doubt taking something from the movie to fit an agenda.

In what context has the Trojan horse EVER been mentioned as having no meat? Or any emphasis of such? Is there any need to emphasize that? no? Kubrick was no slouch at choosing anagrams and subtle humor, the author admits, but the author seems to give him almost god-like credit for subtlety.

He didnt mean for anyone to 'find' TMA-1.. it didn't mean ANYTHING.

2. The bathroom tiles. Oh please. What silly rubbish. The author makes NO strong linking except nice guessing like "do you know about bathroom tiles of the 20's".. With such strong evidence, why did Cliff ever doubt him?

In short, I wont go on, but the author isnt using strong logic. Looking after the fact, with no input from the authors, or directors clearly doesnt lead to alot of insight. Instead, it leads to alot of inductive reasoning, and logic jumps.

Jumps right off the short side of silly.

Dont even get me started with the "18 months instead of 9 cause god is twice man". WHAAAA?? Where else did that come from but your mind?

Some of the author's analysis is DEAD-ON. Approximately the first half of this response, in my mind. However as it goes on, it gets less and less beleivable, and more and more a stretch of any logical mind to accept.

Subtle? Yes. Humor? Sure. overman-twice-god-three-anus-bathroom-tiles-from-t he-roaring-twenties-that-kills-man-and-has-an-18-m onth-gestation?

I dont think so.

I find alot to agree with from Cliff's original posting, and very little here to agree to.

Mod the parent post up! Refutes criticism (1)

schmaltz (70977) | more than 13 years ago | (#195068)

just do it.

Re:Kubrick?? (4)

nebular (76369) | more than 13 years ago | (#195069)

Clack can only be attributed to the original short story "The Sentinel". It was this short story that inspired Kubrick to go to Clark and ask him to help him in writing the "Good science fiction movie".

The novel was written first becuase writing a screenplay is very tedious compared to writing a novel. Both Kubrick and Clark worked on the novel together and although Kubrick moved on to make the movie before the novel was in it's final draft, Clark often went to Kubrick for his approval various aspects of it. (Clark in the past has voiced his frustration in this as he felt that Kubrick was intentionally delaying his responces to have the move released before the book was published, and he succeeded).

Clark actually wanted to credit Kubrick as a co-author, but for reasons I cannot remember, Clark didn't give it to him.

So although Clark did originally create the story, he did so along with Kubrick.

Alright, this is an interesting one... (5)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 13 years ago | (#195071)

A bunch of repliers on this post have pointed out that Mr. Wheat's reply to Cliff's review is overly hostile. It certainly isn't friendly in content, but based on past observations, this is par for the course for academics or those who fancy themselves as such when faced with criticism from nonacademics.

The problem here is that Wheat's rebuttal is suffused in the realm of the English literature academe. He _brags_ that he hasn't read script notes, etc. He is just interpreting symbolism in his own way and getting hot and bothered about it.

This jibes poorly with the practical minded (read: engineers, programmers, and general tech geeks) Slashdot audience, which says collectively: "Go read the fucking notes from Kubrick and Clarke". While I can't claim to have read those notes on the creation of 2001, a couple of points are obvious.

For one thing, these basic allegorical connections that Wheat is referring to are clearly not just the perception of a wacko reader. They are pretty obvious (both the Odyssey and the Also Sprach Zarathustra connections). The problem is that Wheat carries things too far for this audience and thereby discredits himself to the /. crowd. He also gets so hung up on attacking Cliff over a couple of detailed points that seem far fetched to us or aren't mentioned or connected to in any way in the supporting literature.

But let's face it: whether the three rocket jets are the collective anus of the spaceship or not is not a question to be resolved in the realm of the factual. To Wheat, it's a symbol supporting a basic theme (2001 -> TSZ). To us, it sounds silly and unsupported by fact. Neither side could possibly disprove the other side, and thus people get hot and bothered. It's a silly and narrow point.

As for some of the other symbols TMA-1, Bowman, Tycho - are they "real"? I don't know, what is real? To an English major or literary theorist they are real. To an engineer looking at this story and how it was constructed they are not real. Was Discovery supposed to look vaguely human? Well, it had an AI in it, a brain, it "died" at the end of the movie. Nobody denies these plot elements. I don't personally think Kubrick said "let's give Discovery a big ole anus and we'll all get a scatological chuckle over it", but does it matter to me?

Symbolism provides a useful way to understand and interpret a story. Wheat is too caught up in proving every symbolic connection is absolute, true and intended by Kubrick, and most of you are too caught up with "proving" Wheat is a moron to draw those conclusions.

Kubrick?? (3)

cpytel (89261) | more than 13 years ago | (#195072)

It seems as though someone has forgotten who orginally created 2001: A Space Odyssey: Arthur C. Clark. While the imagery in Kubrick's film might have enhanced, extended, or created some of the metephors and symbols, I believe its incorrect to attribute everything the Kubrick.

TMA-1 (2)

Error27 (100234) | more than 13 years ago | (#195074)

Here all the time, I had been thinking that TMA stood for Thinfilm Micromirror Array. No wonder, I was so confused by that movie.

Who's Next For Slashdot? (3)

Cheshire Cat (105171) | more than 13 years ago | (#195075)

I would really like to see someone from Slashdot interview the founder of the eternal life device, Alex Chiu [] about 2001. I'm sure if Leonard F. Wheat can find all sorts of hidden metaphors in anagrams and the shape of the Discovery's engines, just imagine what Alex Chiu can find!

Re:WTF? (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 13 years ago | (#195076)

I find this arrogance disgusting. It is often worthwhile to listen to people who put a lot of thought and effort into it. While you do not have to do it, to think that just because you are bright you can understand everything is pure hubris.

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy (4)

slamb (119285) | more than 13 years ago | (#195080)

Frank Poole is what I call a 90 percent anagram. The last 9 of the 10 letters of "[F]rank Poole" can be rearranged to form "[W]alk on Rope." I figured that one out by starting out with the knowledge that Frank Poole symbolized the rope dancer. Then I looked for phrases like "Rope Dancer," "Rope Walker," "Dance on Rope," and "Walk on Rope."

Here the author is committing a logical fallacy called the Texas Sharpshooter. A very short description of this fallacy: it is when you know the result before you begin the search for evidence. You then find evidence which matches your result, interpreting it favorably toward that result.

This fallacy got its name with a story. A man wants to prove he is a great sharpshooter, so he shoots at the unpainted side of the barn. He then draws a target around the bullethole. It is meaningless because the order is important. The target must be drawn before the bullet is fired, or the evidence must be gathered before the result is found.

Try something. Pick some element of mythology...any element of mythology. Think of short phrases that are related to it in some way. Then look 2001 (or any book/movie/play/whatever) for at least one of those phrases. You will find it. There are lots of anagrams of the character's names already without doing weird substitutions like cutting out the first letter of his name (why?!?) or changing "1" to "ONE". By the time you get to doing something like that, you are certain to find what you are looking for.

This proves nothing. You can say "[phrase]" is present, therefore [predecided conclusion]. That does not make it so.

(Disclaimer: I have not read the book. What I am saying here is based only on the review and the rebuttal.)

Layers for your layers (3)

scout.finch (120341) | more than 13 years ago | (#195081)

Enough of this namby-pamby lightweight pseudo-academic posturing Mr. Wheat. Let's take the gloves off and get down to brass tacks:

What do you think of Caddyshack?

Kubrick's real genius - ambiguity. (4)

garagekubrick (121058) | more than 13 years ago | (#195082)

If one were to actually study the production, history, and words of those who worked on 2001, there is more than enough anecdotal evidence to purport that consistently throughout the production Kubrick made decisions with the pretense of engendering ambiguity, discussion, and interpretation.

I recently had the chance to see a new 70mm print of 2001 in London, and apart from being completely enraptured and shocked at how much power this film still has... I was ultimately stunned by how unconventional the film is in its sense of ambiguity. For instance, upon its release no explanation was offered for HAL's insanity. Thanks to Clarke, we have an explanation, but as the original film runs and was released no explanation was ever offered.

Instead of searching for semiotic signals in the ether, one must realize that Kubrick set out in pre production with initial solid ideas. For example, that cut that proceeds from the bone to the first object floating in space - that object is an orbital nuclear weapons platform. The original ending for 2001 would have the Starchild detonating all the satellites. As for the alien presence in the film, Kubrick shot several tests using all manner of visualization (to the exasperation of the crew) to attempt to film "aliens", but ultimately settled on never showing them.

The greatest proof I can give is the following statement, made by Kubrick himself, and I think it pretty much says it all, and the author of the aforementioned book should, as well.


"I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself."

Wooden Horses (wah! wah!) (2)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 13 years ago | (#195085)

TMA-1 as trojan horse doens't even vaguely work. It doesn't occupy the right point in the plot.

There is a war at the start of this odessy, it's back where one would expect when running the Odessy in parallel with Zarathustra, down in the rift valley with the apes. If you need a horse, then look at it this way, the apes are the horse, they have people riding around inside them, and when the people get out get out all hell breaks loose.

In general I think this searching for Joycean symbols is misguided. We should remember that Kubrik wanted to make `the proverbial good science fiction movie', to assme that Kubrik was too ham-fisted to be able to handle the tools he chose is, IMO, to underestimate the man.

SF exists to tackle big ideas head on, not via allusion and metaphor. 2001 paralels Nietzsche and Homer not because Kubrik and Clarke were trying for literrary effect, but because they were tackling the same big questions. A fact which Kubrik and Clarke recognised as the project grew hence the choice of music and subtitle.

If Kubrik had wanted to go the other way he'd have made a movie of Ulysses.

Inevitable (3)

legLess (127550) | more than 13 years ago | (#195086)

This debate (tempest in a teapot, more like it) reminds me of similar arguments regarding Tolkien and (mostly) TLOTR, and Tolkien himself has words that will inform this discussion. People have variously claimed that Tolkien was writing an allegory of the Bible, World War II, ancient Greece, and your mom. Tolkien has the last word, though, with this fairly famous quote:
I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the auther.
(Aside: a literary critic once castigated Tolkien for his use of 'elfish' rather than 'elvish', and referred Tolkien to the OED. Tolkien's responded with "I wrote the Oxford English Dictionary," which was true. The man knew whereof he spoke.)

Back on track: yes, many of the coincidences that Mr. Wheat points out are applicable to 2001, but that in no way makes them allegorical. Of course, it's easier to sell books if you tell your audience, "I've discovered the true, shocking purpose behind X." rather than, "Here's some cool shit I made up that kinda fits with X."

question: is control controlled by its need to control?
answer: yes


Gorobei (127755) | more than 13 years ago | (#195087)

That's nothing... the real anagram is: LEONARD F WHEAT = THIS IS REAL, DAMNIT Actually, this is what I call a "3/10 anagram," but the point still stands.

Here are some other anagrams of NO MEAT: (3)

big.ears (136789) | more than 13 years ago | (#195090)

Thanks to This Site [] , you can find all of the anagrams of TMA-1:


I can find significance in at least a dozen of these, especially when I comparing them to all the characters and events out there in literature and mythology.For example, MEAT ON is the opposite of NO MEAT. "AMEN TO"--TMA-1 symbolizes God, because God is the 1 you say AMEN TO. I could go on, but we all get the picture.

I used to believe that if you played heavy metal music backwards, you would here satanic messages. Then, I just realized how good people are at finding patterns in noise and making associations.

In my opinion, it is really petty for an author to complain about a review, and down-right childish to make that last personal attack on Cliff. Somewhat ironic, too, because Cliff claimed that Wheat misinterpreted 2001 and found meaning where there was none. In response, Wheat claims that Cliff misinterpreted his own work. Wheat is a relativist when he writes about others, but not when others write about him. BTW, LEONARD and ALDERON are anagrams as well. What do you make of that?

Re:Secondary literature or art . . . (3)

kfg (145172) | more than 13 years ago | (#195091)

Everybody has to make a living?

Ok, let me take your question seriously for a moment. It is the *intention* of an artist that his work has meaning beyond the mere presentation of a literal image. In fact, that is pretty close to the very definition of art.

People who review, critize or explain other's works of art are meerly carrying into the public realm that attempt to find meaning in art that each and every viewer of the work is already carrying on internally.

If done *well* the ensuing public discussion/debate advances the *general* depth of understanding of the work, often including that of the reviewer * and of the original artist*, who may hence be inspired to go to create works of even greater artistic depth.

Of course when done poorly it boils down to nothing more than an attempt to sell a book or be granted a doctorate/sinicure.

Sturgeon's law applies equally to original works and their subsequent criticisms.


Re:Rebuting a critique is lame (5)

kfg (145172) | more than 13 years ago | (#195092)

Have you never come across the concept of scholarly debate before?

Mr. Wheat wrote a work of scholarship. Mr. Lampe questioned some of that work. Mr. Wheat has defended his premise.

That's the way it works, even in such empirical fields as the hard sciences.

A logical construct was put forward. A criticism of that construct was put forward, and a defense of the logical construct was then, again, put forward. All in all a good exchange. Advantage Wheat. Lampe to serve.

I was not entirely convinced by Mr. Wheat's work. I was not entirely convinced by Mr. Lampe's critque of Mr. Wheat's work. I have not been entirely convinced Mr. Wheat's rebutal to Mr. Lampe's critique.

What I *have* been is given a deeper understanding by the interchange between the two, and the corallary comments and exchanges here in the forum.

There's a good chance that both Mr. Wheat AND Mr. Lampe may have each gained some further enlightenment as well.

This is good. This is as it should be.

At the risk of appearing snide I might also point out that Mr. Wheat's original work was itself a critique of Kubrick/Clarke. Applying your own standards Mr. Lampe rebuted someone else's critique. How lame is that?


Yes, but the ramans do everything in threes (1)

jerryasher (151512) | more than 13 years ago | (#195093)

Rendezvous with Rama []

Re:Prank Foole (2)

nagora (177841) | more than 13 years ago | (#195096)

Actually, it's a "90% anagram" so you can have plain Prank Fool if you want.


I have a copy of the Odyssey here... (4)

nagora (177841) | more than 13 years ago | (#195098)

...and dispite the fact that the Odyssey parts of this theory are the best fit it shows why it doen't really fly.

I'm going to quote the whole of the Lotus-eaters bit since it is quite short (Robert Fagles trans, Penguin 1996):

Once we'd had our fill of food and drink I sent

a detail ahead, two picked men and a third, a runner,
to scout out who might live there-men like us perhaps,
who live on bread? So off they went and soon enough
they mingled among the natives, Lotus-eaters, Lotus-eaters
who had no notion of killing my companions, not at all,
they simply gave them the lotus to taste instead...
Any crewmen who ate the lotus, the honey-sweet fruit,
lost all desire to send a message back, much less return,
their only wish to linger there with the Lotus-eaters,
grazing on Lotus, all memory of the journey home
dissolved forever. But I brought them back, back
to the hollow ships, and streaming tears-I forced them,
hauled them under the rowing benches, lashed them fast
and shouted out commands to my other, steady comrades
`Quick, no time to lose, embark in the racing ships'
so none could eat the lotus, forget the voyage home.
They swung aboard at once, they sat to the oars in ranks
and in rhythm churned the water wite with stroke on stroke.

The similarities with 2001 are indeed there but the real issue is the differences.

One of the crewmen is picked out as a scout with a particular skill (running). All the crew return to the ship and more to the point they are specifically rescued by Odysseus. The fact that they are not mentioned again indicates to me that the crewmembers recovered (which is needed if their "rescue" is to be worth anything). The lotus are not fatal either.

What this tells us is not that 2001 isn't based on the Odyssey but that it is loosely inspired by it.

Unfortunately Wheat needs the trailing of events in what might be called the "source material" to be very close-to the point where Dave's buring his hand on the food is symbolic for events in the sacking of Ismarus (figurative events at that) and a space pod having a passing resembance to an insect is a parallel to the launching of 1000 ships to reclaim Helen of Troy!

What we have here is a classic example of the fact that if you pick, choose, and stretch your evidence you can find parallels of all sorts of things in a story. Particularly if the story does actually draw some elements or make references to the material inquestion.

The wooden horse anagram (not subtle, just weak) is the work of a mind overly devoted to a theory as is Frank Poole's non-anagram where Wheat actually admits that he started off looking for an anagram which meant something like "rope dancer" and that he never found one ("Frank Poole is what I call a 90 percent anagram". Yeah - and what the rest of us call "not an anagram") .

The Nietzsche stuff is mindless. Once more we're required to believe that 2001's following of TSZ is so close that the reason the pod sneaks up behind Frank is not so that he can't see it but because we're following a detailed piece of symbolism. Well, if it were that close, why does the pod not jump over Frank and the knock him off?

Wheat happily chooses when the symbolism is tight and when it is "subtle" to match his line. The Nietzsche parallel in 2001, like the Odyssey parallel, is there in the journey of Dave from man to superman but the details are in Wheat's head.

If who have seen Kubrick at work you will know how often he changed his mind about things and their meanings (that's why AI didn't get made while he was alive). The possibility that he constructed this complex and subtle web of symbolism and carried it through to completion simply isn't like him.

Plus, of course, we ignore the contribution of everyone else: Clarke, obviously, but also Wally Veevers and Douglas Trumbull who's input into the phyical aspects of the Discovery were huge and generally unrelated to bathroom floors. Were they all symbol-nuts too?

Next on the list of "things to ignore" are the physics: where exactly should a rocket have it's exhausts? Probably at the back. If you wanted to spin a space station to get artificial gravity how would ships dock? In the middle where there is no gravity and it's a lot easier generally (assuming the docking craft wears a condom, I suppose!).

And finally, because I need to go to bed, why 2001? Well, it could be that it's a reference to Zoraster returning in 9001 but it seems more likely that it's because in 1968 that seemed a looong way in the future but within the audience's possible life times and Clarke is intelligent to know that the new millenium started in 2001, not in 2000. So the connection with Zoraster is simply that both knew that milleniums start on the '01.

This sort of thing is fun to play with but given enough effort I imagine someone like Wheat could find more similarities between The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T [] and TSZ than he has for 2001.


Seeing a thing that is not there (3)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#195099)

To my mind the author is quite expert is seeing hidden meanings. It is obvious that he is also expert is seeing something that was not there.

In some literary situations, this is useful. There are times when it goes way to far, in that it sees and puts something there that was never there in the first place. It becomes a literary hallucination when the analyst insists on it even when there is solid evidence in the first place.

In technology circles, it is damning for someone to say that they never consulted the facts before issuing an opinion.

Now there is an artistic technique which deliberately puts in factors which are slightly incomplete and which allow an analyst to play connect the dots as the analyst sees fits.

It is accomplisdhed by putting in a rich enough texture at different levels that it becomes something of an Ink blot test for the analyst. The artist in this case does not have to say anything, but sets something up that suckers the analyst in. You can select elements that go together well for the effect of an artistic pun, etc. and let the analyst loose the forest for all the trees. You can sit back and watch the analyst go off into a maze of their own making with all of the little symbolisms that they bring into the situation.

It is a wonderful little technique that allows the artist a certain smile.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

Re:How pedantic! (3)

davejhiggins (188370) | more than 13 years ago | (#195100)

Let me get this straight: I'm replying to an author's response to a reader's review of that author's analysis of a filmmaker's interpretation of another author's creative statement about the human condition?

Yeah; forget the film. That alone speaks volumes about the human condition...


New slashdot poll idea... (4)

davejhiggins (188370) | more than 13 years ago | (#195101)

Who's right?
  • Cliff
  • Leonard F. Wheat
  • CowboyNeal

It's democracy after all...


The beauty of 2001 is... (5)

fatamorgana (193059) | more than 13 years ago | (#195102)

...that it incorporates so many elements of mythology (e.g. Journey of the Hero, Slaying of the Dragon, etc...) that it can be 'read' in countless ways.

Last year, I wrote a paper for a mythology class arguing that the mythological aspects of 2001 (the movie) were impossible to get across in the book. I did a fair amount of research and, while I understood that Kubrick and Clarke each had their own explanations for the details of their works, it was impossible for me to write this paper without bringing in my own 'reading' of the film. It was then that I modified the thesis statement of the paper - namely that the film was more effective than the movie because it left itself open to so many personal interpretations; the film allows us to project our own motives, views, and needs into the story. Because of this, the movie works as a mythology (whereas the book has to be more concrete, it is less able to be 'modified' later - it suffers the problems that mythologies which have been written down (e.g. The Bible) - they aren't allowed to change as people's needs change. The film, due to its vagueness, lack of dialogue, and (unlike nearly all major movies) lack of explanation, allows the viewer to come back to the movie time after time and read what they need to into the film.

I haven't read Wheat's book and I don't currently have any desire to do so. For me, the film is an effective mythology. Everytime I view it, it changes in meaning for me - it becomes a means for me to evaluate myself and the world around me. I guess the point I'm trying to make (if there is one), is that Wheat's book is essentially harmless and, because it is trying to say (like I said I haven't read it, so maybe I'm mistaken) that there are definitive explanations for the details in the movie, it is, by my estimation a mistaken reading. Regardless of what Kubrick wanted me to think of his film, it isn't up to him anymore - the film has been made and viewed by me and is now mine, in the sense that I have the freedom to interpret it any way I choose to. To me, this is the beauty of the film and the reason that any definitive interpretation of 2001 is nothing more than the viewer's reading of it.

Re:ROTFL! (1)

James Nolan (208114) | more than 13 years ago | (#195104)

Do you really think Kubrik and Clarke spent all their time working subtle symbolism into every detail of the movie?

First, it may surprise you that some writers/artists enjoy using symbolism, allegories, word play, anagrams etc. Now try to think of their possible functions in a work of art...

Second, how do you think one goes about making a good story and getting the visuals right? Do you think good stories are conjured out of thin air? Do programmers write every line of a new program from scratch?

Now look at the practical side of the creative process. What should we call the monolith? What does the space ship that goes to the moon look like? Is it too hard to believe that Kubric would go back to the 'source' material for inspiration? I mean, why use something arbitrary when you have the opportunity to attach symbolic significance that's in tune with the work as a whole?

If you really need your hand held, consider the hidden cheats or secret rooms common in video games. That's kinda like what Kubric was doing with 2001. :P

As far as NO MEAT and bathroom tiles, as Wheat was trying to point out, these are minor conjectures that appear to fit the overall model. See comment #122. My take on Cliffs review: I didn't understand most of it and these two lines in the book were dumb.

The authors mistake in his response: overestimating his audience. How he could make such a mistake after reading the initial review and subsequent responses is beyond me. To Wheat I say: the education system is working magic, but should be renamed to more accurately reflect its function.

Re:Bowman (1)

James Nolan (208114) | more than 13 years ago | (#195105)

August 16, 1964: We've also got the name of our hero at last -- Alex Bowman. Hurrah!

October 15, 1965: Stan has decided to kill off all the crew of Discovery and leave Bowman only. Drastic, but it feels right. After all, Odysseus was the sole survivor...

Proves what? That they were trying to make the plot more consistent with the odyssey, not that they hadn't decided on the allegory when the name 'Bowman' was chosen.

Re:Say what? (2)

tswinzig (210999) | more than 13 years ago | (#195107)

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
- S. Freud

"And sometimes a cigar is a big, brown dick! With an asshole sucking on the wet end of it!"
- G. Carlin

Re:The Lost Worlds of 2001 (1)

Master Mage (231315) | more than 13 years ago | (#195118)

I'm not sure whether the book is out of print or not, but the text is availible on my website for anyone interested in reading it. I do this for convienience only, as an avid book fan. If it is still in print, go pick up a copy. At worst, check if there is a copy in your local library. As much as I enjoy reading on my visor, it's still not quite the same as a paperback. (Nice and small in comparison though. Great for trips!) []

Good vs. Bad literary criticism (4)

corvi42 (235814) | more than 13 years ago | (#195119)

First off, I applaud Wheat for coming back to give such a thorough response to the criticism of his book. I like to see good debates, they keep everyone on their toes.

However, I think that Wheat is simply wrong in a lot of what he says, both in his analysis of the film and in his response to the criticism.

Largely he defends his analysis on the grounds of his being able to see the "non-literal" symbolism of elements from the film, whereas Lampe is demanding a "literal" symbolism. I think that this is a mis-representation.

It is of course true that in literature we cannot take everything literally - to do so would make most great works meaningless, especially all poetic language. The human mind works in an associational manner, not a literal one; and great works of art are great precisely because they communicate with us on levels other than the literal.

This being said, I still think that a lot of the symbols Wheat chooses to see in 2001 are really just as Loony as Lampe points them out to be. How can I be so certain though, given that we want to look at the non-literal associational aspects of this work. Well quite simply. A symbol in a work of art has to be well-known enough that it is generally understandable by the audience, otherwise it ceases to be an element of the art, and merely the idiosyncratic associations of one individual.

A work of art, particularly something narative like a book or movie, must communicate, otherwise it is meaningless. This is true of both literal meanings and non-literal symbolism. If an artist puts elements into a work that are personally meanningful to him/herself but which aren't generally known to others than they can't reasonably expect anyone to understand or appreciate or even notice that these things exist. Therefore as a general rule artists don't do this, because it defeats the purpose of the art which is to express and communicate a meaning or message. It is true that some meanings and symbols might be visible only to people versed in a select culture or education, and their maybe hidden meanings that are only to be noticed by those with a special knowledge. But even in these circumstances it should be apparent that someone educated in field X will generally recognize references to X when they appear. If not than the art has failed.

So to say that something as obscure as a correlation between the year 2001, the number 9000 in the name Hal-9000 and the year related to Nietzche's Zarathustra ( 9001 ) are all a solid symbol is truly absurd. Even someone versed well in Nietzche would probably not notice this correlation, and therefore it seems very unlikely that this is intentional on the part of the film's creators. To say that any conceivable millenial year is a symbol for any other millenial year is absurd, not because it fundamentally can't be such a symbol, but that an audience isn't going to think that way unless the association is explicitly suggested to them by some other aspect of the film, which it isn't. Likewise to associate a hexagonal jet with bathroom tiles takes such an idiosyncratically unique perspective on such forms that it is pointless to work it into a film in a meaningful way.

Basically we see a lot of idiosyncratic personal association of Wheat's to these various elements, but to believe that because he has such an association therefore it must have been intentional on the part of Kubrick & Clarke is absurd. Given such criteria for literary analysis you can make up anything you like and have it be true.

One must have a literary criticism that is based on criteria that examines the art and the intentions the artist has to communicate through it. An expose of one man's personal associations to a piece of art might be interesting, but it has no claims to be anything more than that. This is not because of the nature of symbolism, but because of how we can realisticly attribute intention to a thing. If I had a personal association between a stop-sign and the death of my mother, it would be natural for me to feel sad when looking at a stop sign, but it would be psychosis for me to claim that the person who put the sign there wanted me to feel sad.


FrankDrebin (238464) | more than 13 years ago | (#195120)

Man this guy misses the point A FLAW RODENT HE

You can find anagrams in anything to back-up a premise A TRAWL FED HE ON

Some pretty crazy stuff, A HALF DEER WON'T

And jokes that are pretty obvious when you want them to be A FART HOLDEN WE

Re:How pedantic! (1)

second_aphex (241445) | more than 13 years ago | (#195121)

2001 was based on The Sentinel, a short story by Arthur C. Clarke. He developed the story later as the book series, but it was based on The Sentinel so in fact KFury is perfectly right.

You forgot the music! (1)

nurikochan (247910) | more than 13 years ago | (#195122)

Looking through your rant/rebutal, you missed another fairly obvious reference to Zarathustra. The musical oveture used in the beginning and throughout the movie is "Also sprach Zarathustra" (Thus Spake Zarathustra) by Richard Strauss.

Which is even more evidence to your Zarathustra argument. (might even go and read your book now...)

Re:Layers for your layers (1)

mcspock (252093) | more than 13 years ago | (#195123)

indeed so. it is also very easy to see the correlation between the golf club (phallus), the golf ball (sperm), and the green (ovum, or more specifically, the surface of the ovum).

naturally, the hole is admittance into the ovum, and the gopher symbolizes a resistance to this admission, almost certainly by the state of the golf ball when it arrives. as we all know, golf players tend to be sterile, and the gopher is a manifestation of this sterility, by preventing the fertilization.

Murray's battle is more symbolic of the efforts of a son to buy viagra for an aged father.

Rebuting a critique is lame (3)

noz (253073) | more than 13 years ago | (#195124)

Attacking a criticism says something about the author, who put his intellectual property in the public domain.

Also, a simple analysis of this situation (being between this response, the critique and the original publication) is (in chronological order): 'this is my opinion,' and then, 'criticise! he makes stupid associations!' to 'they're good associations!'

Bah! Too much text! Bookmark my summary now! ( :

Re:Bowman (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 13 years ago | (#195125)

Ulysses, in the Odysseus, makes it home as well.

Unfortunately, the guy's assertion was based on the fact that only Ulysses made it home. Yes, Clarke and Kubrick were drifting away from The Sentinel toward a consciously recognized Ulysses metaphor, but Bowman's name wasn't part of it.

Clarke quotes his own journal:

August 16, 1964: We've also got the name of our hero at last -- Alex Bowman. Hurrah!

October 15, 1965: Stan has decided to kill off all the crew of Discovery and leave Bowman only. Drastic, but it feels right. After all, Odysseus was the sole survivor...

So you see, the name Bowman was chosen at a stage when the script was not an Odyssey (and in fact elsewhere Clarke says their informal name at that point was 'How the Solar System was Won'). The fact that Odysseus was a Bowman is entirely coincidental.

Criticism of this approach was on-target (5)

localroger (258128) | more than 13 years ago | (#195127)

I saw no scripts, read no director's notes, and interviewed nobody.

Obviously so. Despite the fact that there have been many, many interviews with Kubrick and Clarke about how they made the movie, and that Clarke wrote a very informative book The Lost Worlds of 2001 which was specifically about the process of how the movie and book emerged, you used none of that information.

The core criticism is not that some of your interpolations are fanciful or over-the-top, but that they are demonstrably wrong. Clarke and Kubrick have documented much of the process by which 2001 achieved its final form.

To take the only metaphor which Cliff accepted: Dave Bowman's name most definitely is not a reference to Odysseus. How do I know this? Because I read the damn source material and know that Clarke and Kubrick chose Bowman's name at a stage of the project when they expected the crew to survive and return to Earth.

Indeed, Cliff can't bring himself to recognize even some fairly literal symbols, including the ones representing hexagonal bothroom tiles.

And no duh, becuase the engine arrangement in Discovery most certainly isn't meant to harken to bathroom tiles; it is a sensible engineering solution which was probably approved by Kubrick after it originated with a model-maker or engineer (or combination thereof). Kubrick had a large staff of people making props for 2001 and they were largely out of the loop with Kubrick and Clarke, except for vague instructions that "we need a ship that could get to Jupiter" and "we need lunar excavation equipment." As the final form of the book and script continued to morph, there was a race to produce script fast enough to pace production, and also not to over-produce and trip over the evolving script.

Kubrick and Clarke did not sit around thinking up names that were anagrams of Meaningful Phrases or adding up Meaningful Numbers to get patterns. They were too busy to play games like that. That leaves us with the assertion deconstructionists always reach, which is that authors and artists don't do this stuff deliberately -- that these coincidences work themselves into artworks through some subconscious mechanism.

I might even buy that in some cases. But not 2001. The process of creating 2001 has been documented by its creators. To speculate on their hidden motives without taking that documentation into account (even if to refute it) is the height of irresponsibility. Imagine, we are supposed to accept that these poor authors were smart enough to make one of the most influential movies of all time but were too dumb to see these Very Important Symbols which are only visible to someone who has your advanced training in picking them apart! What chutzpah!

This screed reminds me a lot of the people who pore over Roulette and Baccarat scorecards looking for the hidden pattern that will reveal how to bet next. They find patterns, these people do. They find patterns all the time. Humans seem to excel at perceiving patterns in random noise. And I think you've just posted another excellent example of the phenomenon.

Re:Small-minded author? (1)

servasius_jr (258414) | more than 13 years ago | (#195128)

He might have posted a message which explained his book in a more positive light, rather than picking away at every comment Cliff made.

Playing devil's advocate here, I think it bears remembering that criticism is essentially structured arguement, and that this is what critics are supposed to do, arrive at the truth through debate.

Re:Secondary literature or art . . . (1)

servasius_jr (258414) | more than 13 years ago | (#195129)

There are people who create artwork, and those who try to understand it - you want to understand it, others create it - people who review other's artwork trying to explain it as the author tried is szizophrenic, his skills seem to go beyond to explain, but to create an unique artwork himself

How are creation and understanding mutually exclusive? I think you'll find that good artists generally have informed and critical opinions of other artists. Ever heard of a good author who wasn't well read?

I consider the direct sight the best, and reviews tell more about the reviewers than the movie itself, as (explained in another post) some artwork, like 2001, lives from you putting in something of yourself, the storyline is a skeleton, and when you read some reviews of the movie then you see if people are able to put something of themselves into it.

Reading someone else's opinions about the movie shouldn't replace your own opinions, or remove from you the obligation to make your own judgements; rather, it should inform your own judgements in some way. By agreeing or disagreeing with someone else you come to a clearer understanding of your own beliefs.

Re:Secondary literature or art . . . (2)

servasius_jr (258414) | more than 13 years ago | (#195130)

I wonder why people don't spend time, and energy to create something unique instead to review, critize or explain others' artworks.

If someone, in this case Kubrick, goes to great lengths to create something layered and allegorical, why is it a waste of time to try to understand it?

Re:Lenny, you beautiful, incredible crank. (2)

servasius_jr (258414) | more than 13 years ago | (#195131)

uh. so, uh. what plotline is it, exactly, that we could say has NO parallels to the Iliad? (or the Odyssey, etc etc?)

Right on. The end result of literary didacticism is to reduce all stories to two basic types: "Somebody takes a trip," and "Somebody new in town." The Odyssey and the Illiad are the usual archetypal examples of each, ergo, any movie where somebody takes a trip is going to resemble the Odyssey to some extent.

Eureka! My God, it's full of clues... (1)

BiOFH (267622) | more than 13 years ago | (#195132)

After diligently poring over all of these exchanges I have found definite clues and subtle meanings which lead us to understand the greater underlying truths here.

a)Leonard F. Wheat is a clever play on Arthur C. Clarke. He 'IS' Clarke!
b)Slashdot is a clever allegory for the cutting and spearing of Jesus - Jesus was a Chrsitian who died - Elvis died - he was a Christian. Cliff is Elvis!
c)If you arrange FWHEAT into a six-sided formation, it looks JUST LIKE a bathroom tile! Arthur C. Clarke is pooping on Elvis!

PS - Why the HELL didn't the Enquirer cover this? Slackards!

Re:Layers.. Dammit mod this up! ROFL! (1)

BiOFH (267622) | more than 13 years ago | (#195133)

Dammit, someone mod this up! I almost pee'd myself readin it! ROFLMAO!!!!

Bad Author (1)

bow (300451) | more than 13 years ago | (#195134)

I saw no scripts, read no director's notes, and interviewed nobody.
But you did watch the movie, yes ?

I mean, come on, it's not like this movie is brand new, it's not like this is the first piece of 'literature' covering it.
That's like trying to explain E=mc^2 without reading a physics book first.

Uhh, Odysseus did return. (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 13 years ago | (#195135)

Dave Bowman's name most definitely is not a reference to Odysseus. How do I know this? Because I read the damn source material and know that Clarke and Kubrick chose Bowman's name at a stage of the project when they expected the crew to survive and return to Earth.

Your point being? In my copy of the Odessey, published by Cliff Notes , the old man makes it back.

Overreaching your target (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 13 years ago | (#195139)


Having read your annalisis of his analisis I have to give at least one-half a vote for "loony".

The first duity of alagory is relevance. The second duty is accessability. These things you propose in your rebuttal (I havn't read the original work nor Cliff's comentary so I judge only by the rebuttal) overreach the period and import of the more accessable and relevant things.

TMA-1. "The Moon Artifact" is more accessable and relevant as a reference to "DNA" which, at the time of the book and movie (I don't know which is the originator of the TMA designation) is brand new science and much on the minds of the scientist and public. Twice the monalith functions as gamite: monolith + monkey = man and later monalith + man = starchild. "TMA-ONE == NO MEAT" becomes artifical and unnecessary in the presence of "TMA sound like DNA".

"The Discovery" is clearly a sperm analogy. The sperm is the carrier of the fertalizing gamite (bowman) and must be discarded. The other half of the crew being removed for cause (poole) is very much in fitting with the seminal (pun intended) understanding of the reproductive gamite dance. An alagorical reference to the idea that the "prupose of man must not be caught up in his love for technology" which is an A.C. Clark favorite-harpstring is all over the place, as is the idea that hal is the part discarded from the technological DNA of the egg is arguably true. One may also visit the fact that HAL isn't destroyed really, he is labotimized, his goals and higher functions surpressed in the interest of mans, but he is not killed alltogether, his value in other areas is recognized and preserved.

Sure, "the Odesy" parallels are there, running, disabled crewmen, etc but your inability to transcend and release the parallels when considering the realms of significance of the other symbolism is, well, self limiting. You spend so much effort to look back to the classic that you forget that both of these people (Clark and Kubric) were communicators and men of their times if not the relative future. What was the social dialog of *THEIR* time, how were they trying to be relevant to the world around them and comming up fast? What were they trying to say about the dawn of the new melenium? The absence of these parts from your analysis is why I have to give it the "slightly loony" rating. You *seem* to have let the scolarly and historic totally blot out the relevant.

To that end, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". Quite frankly the idea that the engines are excretory and the little hexagons are bathroom references is kind of a push for me. I never saw it as that, but barring some comment from kubrek(sp?) I'd have to say no. The vision of the future in force a the time of the production was one of Space = Size and Power. Our ships are massive rockets damnit, and rockets have, well rocket engines. Space is precise, detailed, and well constructed. No more will we buy the flash-gordon losenge-with-fins rocketship. We want angles and exciting futuristic shapes. Rockets have nozzles and we have all seen them on TV so package a bunch of them on a nice angular and futuristic engine mount. In short I want interesting, functional looking, unexplained outcroppings. I want stacked hexagons (very beehive, very scientific, very natrual science meets the man of the future) and I want them now. In short "You there, model guy, build me a space-sperm and make it look good and next-melenial..."

Not *everything* has to be symbolic, try to make every element of a production symbolic an you end up boring and heavy handed.

Then again, I could be wrong... 8-)


Re:How pedantic! (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 13 years ago | (#195140)

OK, you are wrong. But only near the end there. The author and filmmaker apparently were co-originators. The book, it seems, didn't predate the movie.

So you are replying to an author's response to a reader's review of that author's analysis of a filmmaker and colabrative author's creative statement about the human condition?

But very nicely summarized.

Of course now I am replying to ....


Re:Overreaching your target (partal retraction 8-) (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 13 years ago | (#195141)

I, having read some of the other comentary, withdraw some of the above. While I clearly think that the DNA-gamete nature of the monilith and the monkey-human analysis holds. I withdraw any assertion as to delebrateness of the parallel 8-)

Reapplying OCCAMS RAZOR, TMA is, well, a good Three Letter Acronym, which always works well on the surface. (ASK IBM) and I guess any TLA would sound like DNA if it ends in "A" 8-).

I till suspect that it stood for "the moon artifact" cause that is just too obvious.

Again, as initally stated, I was just working from the odd response to the unseen review of the book I will never read... 8-)


ROTFL! (2)

Flying Headless Goku (411378) | more than 13 years ago | (#195142)

Perhaps they'll think twice before calling someone "loony" next time -- because that guy just might be reading.

...and respond, proving his complete and utter loonyness.

Do you really think Kubrik and Clarke spent all their time working subtle symbolism into every detail of the movie? Enough to fill a book?!

As if they didn't have enough trouble making a good story and getting the visuals right...

I am reminded of a response to a long pompous analysis of the symbolism of a minor feature of some literary work I can't properly attribute:
"Sir, after long discussion with the author, I can assure you that the chicken in this scene symbolizes absolutely nothing."

Re:ROTFL! (2)

Flying Headless Goku (411378) | more than 13 years ago | (#195143)

The authors mistake in his response: overestimating his audience.

The author's mistake in his response: making a response, and not simply putting this embarassing episode behind him.

The author's original mistake: writing a book of made-up symbolism supposedly in a popular movie, without doing one lick of research or attempting to interview the creative minds behind it. He just watched the movie and made it all up from there. Some of it fit... sort of... other stuff he clearly found because he desperately wanted to find something.

It's sheer wishful thinking. I could buy a few clever inside jokes, but this dumbass reads a subtle message into everything in the movie. "NO MEAT" and "bathroom tiles" are just particularly obvious examples of the fact that if you reach far enough, you can imagine anything as symbolic of anything else. You could as easily match up every detail to Genesis, the Lord of the Rings, or an episode of Ranma 1/2.

Get over it. He's exactly the kind of pompous ass who deserves to be mocked mercilessly.


6EQUJ5 (446008) | more than 13 years ago | (#195145)

Then again, "Pork a felon" also works.

Cracking the Kubrick "Code" (3)

mrericn (446447) | more than 13 years ago | (#195146)

Granted some of the Odysseus and Zarathustra symbols match up, and provide insight into this obtuse mesmerising film, Wheatley is looking just a little too hard.

Do you remember when that book Bible Code came out, and everyone thought for a moment that there were all these secret messages in the Bible... After a little analysis people applied those same techniques and found assassinations foretold in Moby Dick [] , prophecies in a MS access license, references to Bill Gates in Revelations (I'd believe that) and all kinds of stuff [] .

It's like crossing your eyes and looking at wall paper, amusing, but meaningless.

Thanks for the highlights of the book though Mr. Wheatley, now I really don't need to read it.


Beltway Prophet (453247) | more than 13 years ago | (#195147)

Right on...much of what the author says is interesting and even credible, but he really starts to venture into Bible Code territory with this stuff.

His deeper meanings on 2001... (2)

Kipper the Llama (454021) | more than 13 years ago | (#195148)

The essential debate here is the excess of a symbol-searcher verus the logic of geek-aesthetics. It is easy to interpert anything the way you want it to be. I could sit down and link 2001 to William Blake's pantheon of Urizen(HAL?), Orc(Bowman?), Los(the monolith race?), and others. You can always make simple rebuttals to the point of saying Bowman cannot be Zarathustra since he was not HAL's creator, or that Kubrick's notes don't support this interpertation. But, on the same side the literary among us will argue that 2001 is an allegorical tale, we are bound to be annoyed by saying this of the precious "critic's-choice" sci-fi movie by being /.ers, much as Tolkienites HATE allegorical interpertations of his works. In the end, you will probably ALWAYS find these connections between truly great works, in many ways the themes in Zarathustra, the Oddysey and such are embedded in the so-called "European Collective Sub-Consciousness"(sometimes even "Northern European"). Sigmund Freud could make so much related to sex since everything is infinetley linked. In this argument: everything is the reason for everything. So, we have no reason.(?)

Wheat is a genius:-) (1)

ColGraff (454761) | more than 13 years ago | (#195149)

It's intuitively obvious upon further observation that Wheat's response is a deeply meaningful, symbolic work. One need only consider the repeated insults to a man named "Cliff" to understand that this essay really isn't about 2001 at all. No, this is about the small, screaming voice in each and every one of us that is afraid of heights, that froze when our phys-ed teacher in elementary school told us to climbd the monkey bars. Wheat is telling us in a very subtle way that there's no need to be afraid of heights because they do not really matter.

Likewise, the name "Wheat" is also highly symbolic. It suggests that Wheat is saying that litereray criticism is fueled primarily by the need of litererary critics to put food on the table (wheat = food).

I congratulate you, Mr. Wheat, on your deeply meaningful response to Cliff's criticism. It has enriched my life.

What is it about literary criticism? (2)

ColGraff (454761) | more than 13 years ago | (#195150)

Guys, come on, it's just a book. It's not worth getting worked up over. Logically, since all of the shared culteral context of our civilization is based on our collective pool of literature, I'm sure intentional and unintentional symbols of all sorts of spiffy allegories and whatnot can be found, but you'll never prove any of them one way or the other, because the preception and acceptence of a symbol depends a lot on the reader.

I'm an Honors English student, and I've seen all sorts of arguments rage for an entire 90-minute period over whether or not Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter actually loved Chillingworth! And you know what, at the end of the discussion, I hated the book. Nothing sucks the joy out of a book or movie quite like literary criticism.

Re:How pedantic! (1)

then, it was nigh (455221) | more than 13 years ago | (#195151)

So you are replying to an author's response to a reader's review of that author's analysis of a filmmaker and colabrative author's creative statement about the human condition?

Of course now I am replying to ....

In the immortal words of Sparky the Wonder Penguin [] , "If this gets any more post-modern, my brain is going to explode." []
require 6.0;

OK, But why? (1)

my_name_is_steve (455393) | more than 13 years ago | (#195153)

On the 3rd cup of coffee, i finally realized that this guy better not EVER read the Bible and then write a book ABOUT the Bible. God will strike him flat.
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