The slab


On Nov. 28, 2020, The New York Times reported the discovery of a 12-foot steel monolith in the desert called Red Rock Country, Utah. It described it as evocative of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In that film primates howl around an unexplained monolith. Amazing. Stupendous. And inspirational.
What did it mean?
I’ve always thought Kubrick to be America’s foremost directorial genius and not only saw all his flicks (including the unknown “Fear and Desire”) but thought long and hard about every one.
In “A Clockwork Orange” he warns us of the evils and dangers of conditioning and uses Beethoven (my hero) to illustrate the point. In “Paths of Glory” we see cynicism in the use of war. In “Spartacus” he uses a communist’s book (Howard Fast), brings back Dalton Trumbo and depicts class struggle and the charms of slavery. And on and on.
Back to the monolith in “2001.”
Clearly produced by humans, but who? A vanished civilization. Where did they go? Kubrick tells us.
To emphasize his point, he shows us another monolith on another planet.
In “2001” he has a brilliant astronaut easily defeated in a chess game with the computer “Hal.”
The machine is clearly frustrated by the lack of control over feckless humans who are clearly his inferiors.
So, what does Hal do?
He kills the crew to assert control.
Man, in his insatiable quest for progress, creates a machine smarter than himself. The machine, though, cannot reproduce. It can only seek, gain control but vanish into extinction in the fullness of time. One time reference speaks of “millions of years.”
The lone survivor hurtles through space faster than the speed of light. As Einstein reminds us, this reverses time, and the astronaut, at the end, is a baby.
Now you know why I think Kubrick is a surpassing genius (assuming I am right). Of course, I ought to entertain the possibility that the police union is right—that I am a moron.
A humbling thought—and very possibly, true.
And “Lolita” doesn’t contain even one sexy scene. Now that is an achievement.
Still, imagine the event—a brilliant artist conceives a Kubrickian echo, has it secretly and laboriously embedded in Utah’s desert, swears his many helpers to silence and patiently awaits its discovery.
I am floored!

— On Friday night, Nov. 27, four men and a wheelbarrow removed the mysterious monolith.

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