“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune
I read Frank Herbert’s classic novel, Dune, in college, in Kansas, in the Dorm – maybe 1975 – about ten years after it was published. I liked it… though I can’t really say I understood it completely. I was reading a lot… I was young… I had a sense that there was a lot going on under the surface that I couldn’t really comprehend.
Then, in Dallas, in 1984, I went to the theater and saw the David Lynch film. I was a fan of Lynch (Eraserhead, The Elephant Man) at the time and actually liked the film a lot. There was so much hate for it at the time. It wasn’t flawless but it was a unique vision – and that is rare. The film actually helped me understand the world of Arrakis better and it inspired me to re-read the source. Dune is definitely a book that benefits from a second reading.
Then right after the turn of the millennium there were the two television mini-series which covered the first three books, somehow. Again, not the best, but a game attempt. I barely remember them, except that my kids – nine and ten years old – watched them and actually liked them better than I did.
And now, 2021, forty-six years after I read the novel, we have Denis Villeneuve and his film.
Again, I was (am) a huge fan of the director (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) and have been hyped up for the film for years – the Covid delay was tough to take. But patience is rewarded, sometimes.
I had big plans of going to the theater and seeing it on the big silver screen – but I have picked up a bad habit of hanging around the house during the pandemic – something I need to work on breaking – something I should have used the film as an aid to breaking – but I didn’t have anyone to go with… so I ended up closing off the living room, scooting the recliner close to the screen, turning up the sound system, and streaming the thing at home.
(don’t worry – no spoilers)
It was very good – as good as I expected, better than I feared (and fear is the mind-killer), worse than I hoped. The only criticism is a bit of slow pace the last quarter. The best part – visuals, sound, acting – all top notch.
The first Dune film was interesting because it was, at the heart, a David Lynch film – with all his personal demons leaking out of the screen. I didn’t realize how much an impression the Lynch Dune made on me, but I could feel echoes of the earlier work all over this one. It is, of course, only half the story, and there is plenty of story for two films (I almost wonder if it should have been a modern cable R-rated mini-series) and it definitely benefits from not having the rushed pace of the earlier one-film version.
The new Dune also shows the mark of its director. There is a unique visual vocabulary – it reminds me of Arrival (especially the shape and motion of the space ships) more than Dune 2049. Denis Villeneuve does have the chops to handle the visuals, the complex political science-fiction landscape, and even the larger-than-life personalities – a lot of balls to keep in the air, but he pulls it off.
Now, how long do I have to wait for the next one? I will definitely go see that one in a theater (if such a thing still exists).
“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune
A lot of people want to convince you that you need a Ph.D. or a law degree or dozens of hours of free time to read dense texts about critical theory to understand the woke movement and its worldview. You do not. You simply need to believe your own eyes and ears.
I actually am old enough (I was 13 in 1984) to remember this commercial live. In the decades since I have always been confused/suspicious/annoyed by the independent freedom-loving spirit of the ad and the locked-down hegemony of Apple itself. Every Apple product I’ve tried has frustrated me because there was something I wanted it to do… that I knew it could do… that it wouldn’t let me do.
Have you ever felt a little mbuki-mvuki – the irresistible urge to “shuck off your clothes as you dance”? Perhaps a little kilig – the jittery fluttering feeling as you talk to someone you fancy? How about uitwaaien – which encapsulates the revitalising effects of taking a walk in the wind?
“Something coming back from the dead was almost always bad news. Movies taught me that. For every one Jesus you get a million zombies.”
― David Wong, John Dies at the End
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Thursday, February 3, 2003.
We never did bring those crabs back from Galveston – I was worried that they needed deeper water so we put them back in the surf. Nick really wanted some though, so Candy bought him a couple at a kiosk in the mall. The things had gaudily painted shells – one looked like a soccer ball and the other was bright red with yellow stars.
Nick really liked his hermit crabs, though they seemed awfully shy. I remember the shoreline in Panama along the Atlantic reef. I wasn’t much older than Nick then, really. We would walk along, looking for shells (I had a thing for cowries). There would be a little inlet full of shells and when I’d walk up they would all pick up and scatter – they were all hermit crabs. Those weren’t really too scared of people – if you picked one up and held it still on your palm it would come out and start to walk around pretty quickly. Maybe it was the heat.
At any rate, Nick liked his two crabs even though they would rarely come out where you could see them. He’d give them baths – little spritzes of distilled water. He said they liked that.
Today he picked one up to spray him and he fell out of his shell, dead. Nick said he thought he’d been dead for a while – he didn’t smell too good. On the phone, I asked Nick if he wanted to bury the crab in the back yard. “I’ve already flushed him,” Nick said. I told Nick I was on the way and would be there soon.
When I drove up, Nick had obviously been crying. I didn’t really talk to him much, mostly let him tell me about it and said I knew how bad he felt. We offered to get him another, but Nick hasn’t decided. He’s scared that one will die too.
I didn’t tell Nick what I thought to myself. I don’t think it’s a very good idea to get too emotionally attached to something you bought at a mall kiosk.
“And only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us, the memories of past existences are but glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar, that are gone before they can be grasped, like the passage of that silver bird on Dhaulagiri.” ― Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”
“Love is a roller coaster… You can’t take your purse on the ride, you wind up strapped in upside down and someone throws up, and all you’re left with is a souvenir photo of you with your hands up, screaming.“
“Fame you’ll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV, Except when they don’t because sometimes they won’t..”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
You May Already Be A Weiner
Doyle Nash knew life would be tough when he decided he would make a career as an actor, that he would have to take every opportunity to make a buck – but this was too much. He stood naked in the rusty metal shed behind the hotdog and custard shop – Jerome’s Hot & Cold – facing Jerome, the owner. There wasn’t much space and they were way too close to each other for Doyle’s comfort.
“Hey, I don’t see why I couldn’t at least keep my underwear on,” said Doyle.
“Costume’s too tight, once you’re in you’ll be glad you went commando. Here, put these on, that’ll make you feel better.”
It didn’t. The shabby looking yellow tights were too loose, had lost their elastic, and made of some cheap fabric that started to itch something awful as soon as Doyle pulled them up around his waist.
“Okay, now. Let’s get you in,” Jerome said. He reached up to the top of a mottled tan curve, like a leaky canoe leaning up against the wall. There was a ragged clatter as he pulled a rusty zipper down to the ground.
“Step in, and I’ll zip you up.”
Doyle pressed his face into the zippered opening and Jerome gave him a shove from behind.
“There, now, lift your legs up through those holes… your arms go in there.”
Doyle fought back panic, blinded by the mass of the costume, until his face popped out through an oval in the front. He felt Jerome strap some elastic band tight behind his head until his eyes bugged. He stepped up into the leg holes and his arms wriggled through some sort of tubes. There was the groan of a zipper from behind and the costume closed around him.
“Okay, back up now, lift it, it’s got some weight but it’s not as heavy as it seems. Now turn, let’s get you out of the shed and see how you look.” Jerome managed to shove Doyle and the costume outside where he stood up fully.
Doyle was encased within a long red cylinder – a hot dog, with his face poking out a hole near the top. His legs emerged at an odd angle, forcing him to waddle around. Around his back was a giant fiberglass and foam bun and his arms flailed out from between the two parts.
“Hey this is really uncomfortable!” Doyle cried. The curve of the hotdog kept him hunched over, already his back was beginning to throb. He tried to reach the zipper in the back of the bun, but his hands couldn’t come close.
“I can’t reach the zipper! I’m trapped in here!”
“That’s the idea,” said Jerome. “That way you have to stand out here and get customers into my store. Otherwise you’d bolt. Here’s your sign.”
The sign said, Jerome’s Hold and Cold on one side, and Hot Dogs and Frozen Custard on the other. Doyle took it and stabbed the air with it.
“Hey, I just thought of something. What if I have to take a piss?”
“There, on the front.”
Doyle looked down and found a rectangular patch Velcroed into the front of the hot dog.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. I don’t think it’s in the right spot.”
“It’s close enough. Figure it out. Now get out there and start walking up and down. I’m paying you to drum up business, not to goof around.”
“I’m not sure I can do this. I’m an actor, sure, but this….”
“Don’t worry, you’ll do better than the last pair.”
“Yeah I had a custard costume too. This couple – Matilda and her boyfriend Hubert – they seemed awfully happy to do this. Too happy as it turned out.”
“Turns out they were really, really into costumes. You know what I mean? On their second day, as soon as I turned my back, they sneaked off down the alley, into that blind spot behind the closed Chinese restaurant. You wouldn’t believe what I caught them at down there.”
“Oh, God…” Doyle stared with despair at the Velcro flap on the front of the hot dog.
“Yeah,” Jerome said, “Ruined a perfectly good custard costume too, tore it to shreds. Now, you’re on your own.”
Despondent and morose, Jerome waddled out to the sidewalk and started to figure out how to best hold the sign.
“Hey look at the hot dog!” shouted a crude voice from across the street. “Yeah, lookit… Haw Haw!”
Doyle looked over and saw two men wearing stained canvas shoes, tattered knee-length shorts and filthy olive drab military surplus jackets, rolling back and forth on the sidewalk in front of a butcher’s supply company, pointing and laughing at him. Both had long, dirty hair matted into irregular dreadlocks.
“Damn gutterpunks,” Jerome said, “Watch out for them two – they’re over there selling crack again. They’ll rob you or anything that moves if they think they can get away with it. Scared Hubert and Matilda half to death.”
“What the hell can I do about it?”
“Well for one thing, take your wallet here.” Jerome retrieved it from the pile of clothes in the shed, “And keep it on you, I’ve seen those two snooping around the shed before.”
Doyle held the wallet in his hand, “Where can I keep this?”
“Oh, there’s a pocket built into the costume, right under your left arm, between the dog and the bun.”
Doyle felt for the pocket and shoved his wallet inside, being careful to turn so that the two gutterpunks couldn’t see. As his hand slid inside he felt a couple of objects already there, one hard and irregular, the other a soft rectangle. Hubert, in his haste and excitement, must have left some stuff behind. Doyle thought it best to wait until Jerome was inside before he checked it out.
So Doyle started waddling up and down the sidewalk in front of the joint, waving his sign in as non-threatening a manner as he could. Still, it seemed like he was scaring more people, especially the children that might enjoy some frozen custard, than he was attracting.
Every time he passed the two gutterpunks across the street they would shout obscenities at him. They seemed to have a series of rude hot dog jokes already prepared – Doyle guessed that they had worked these out at Hubert and previous walking dogs. He imagined they were disappointed that there wasn’t a female in a custard costume any more.
After a couple of hours, Doyle was trying to decide if the costume or the boredom was the worst part of the job when he remembered the items he felt in the pocket. At one end of his walk, he leaned his sign against the building and turned to hide himself. Fishing his hand in, he withdrew a good-sized ziplock full of what looked like poor-quality weed and a small, cheap, twenty two caliber revolver – the kind they call a Saturday Night Special. It felt so tiny in his hands, but he checked and confirmed it was loaded.
He supposed that Hubert was afraid of the gutterpunks and decided to pack some protection. As far as the weed – Doyle decided that the next day he might bring a pipe and look for that hidden blind alley where Hubert and Matilda had their ill-fated tryst.
He stuffed everything back into the pocket and began his monotonous back and forth, trying to think of something, anything, other than where he was and what he was doing.
Doyle’s reverie was interrupted by the squeal of tires and a loud thud. Looking up he saw that a big black Tahoe had run up on the curb across the street and slammed to a stop.
The two gutterpunks immediately started running down the sidewalk. The passenger door opened and a huge man wearing a crisp leather jacket slid out and using the door as protection and a gun rest, leveled a mean looking submachine gun and fired a burst at the retreating gutterpunks. Doyle saw the two tumble to the ground in a spray of blood and ricocheting bullets.
Stunned by the murder he just witnessed, Doyle stood stock still until the man turned and looked right at him. He began to swivel his gun and Doyle realized the guy didn’t want any witnesses, no matter how silly they were dressed. He turned to see Jerome quickly locking the front door of the Hot & Cold from the inside and sliding down under a booth.
His instincts told him to run, but the costume would only allow a waddle. He began to totter and weave when the burst of fire hit him. It felt like a giant hand shoving him in the back as he jerked forward and fell into the parking lot.
Doyle cursed his bad luck as he waited for the pain of the machine gun bullets. It didn’t come. He realized that the fiberglass shell of the hot dog bun and the thick foam underneath must be, at least somewhat, bulletproof. As he rolled he saw the man still coming, running across the street, with his gun raised. Doyle’s hand reached into the pocket for the little twenty two and as he spun onto his back, raised his arm and fired.
A tiny handgun may be no match for a submachine gun, but the bullets are still deadly. Doyle saw a red circle appear on the man’s forehead as he pitched forward, falling right on top of Doyle, now stuck on his back like a turtle. The machine gun rattled to the ground.
Looking back to the street, Doyle saw, to his horror, the driver’s side door opening. He heaved the dead man off his chest, grabbed the machine gun, and used it to lever himself up to his knees. Then, grunting with all his strength against the weight of the ungainly costume, he rose to one knee, then stood.
Doyle barely had time to turn away before the fusillade from the driver blasted into the armor of his costume’s bun. Absorbing the shock, he crabbed sideways and shot the submachine gun into the side of the Tahoe.
That suppressed the driver’s fire for a second and Doyle tried to waddle his way to safety but another burst came and buried itself into his bun.
Suddenly a wave of anger came over Doyle and he turned again and fired. Instead of a short burst, though, he kept shooting. Letting out a hideous roar of fury, fear, and humiliation he tottered as fast as he could toward the Tahoe, spraying bullets.
The sight of a machine gun firing giant hot dog, complete with armored bun, running at him and screaming was too much for the driver. He turned and tried to flee as Doyle gunned him down. Without mercy.
His anger spent, Doyle saw the blue lights of the police as they sped down the street toward him. The machine gun clattered as he dropped it in the street. The cops screeched to a stop and leapt out, guns drawn.
“Put your hands on top of your… hot dog!”
Doyle complied. The cops tried to cuff him behind his back, then gave up and put his hands in front,
“Wait, wait, he’s innocent.” It was Jerome coming out of the Hot & Cold. “It was self-defense. Hey! We better unzip him. Uh, I’ll fetch his clothes.”
“Now you come out,” said Doyle.
Doyle noticed two bystanders huddled behind a low brick wall down the street. They were both standing there, phones held in front of them, filming.
“Oh, great. This is going to go big on YouTube now, isn’t it.” he said to the cops.
“Serious publicity,” said Jerome as he fetched the sign and waved it in front of the filming bystanders.
Doyle sat on his couch and remoted to one of the true crime channels. At first he wasn’t going to watch the show, but the more he thought about it, he decided he couldn’t really miss the thing.
Sure enough, they had everything wrong. The worst thing was the actor in the show was zipped into a giant peanut suit.
“A peanut! I wish. A peanut would be a piece of cake.”
Of course he had tried out for the part on the show, to play himself. The producers had given him an audition. Doyle figured it was only a courtesy. In the end they said he “Just wasn’t right for the part.”
That was when Doyle decided the acting thing wasn’t going to work out. When he can’t even get a job playing himself, well, it was time to pack it in.
He had taken a job as a salesman in his father’s car dealership. It seemed to make his dad happy. He shook his head at how he had ended up. He had always hated those salesmen and couldn’t believe how they had to run around in those cheap suits all day.
Now, of course, he realized that there were worse things you might have to wear to work.
“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, September 6, 1998.
Experience an “Earthquake” Sensation
I’m sitting here typing on my laptop and trying to read a book I checked out from the library: “Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. It’s a non-fiction account of an expedition that tried to reach the South Pole in 1915, only to be caught in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. It took several years for them to escape the ice and to be rescued. I saw a show about this on cable TV a couple weeks ago, and was fascinated.
I’m glad to find this story. It meets my criteria of enjoying reading about disasters while mollifying my concern over becoming too morbid. I know from the TV show that, despite incredible odds and terrible hardships, everyone survives.
I’m afraid my own challenge and adventure is quite a bit more pedestrian today, like every day. This is the centerpiece of a prized three day weekend, one dominated by a soccer tournament held in Arlington, Texas (A large city, a suburb of the Metroplex, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, about forty miles of city freeway driving from our house in Mesquite).
We played a game at nine o’clock this morning, and have another at one this afternoon. The Wildcats won the early game handily (seven to nothing, five different players, including Nick, scored). The afternoon game will be much more difficult, I doubt we can play with our opponent. This morning I saw them dominate a team we tied yesterday.
The real struggle isn’t with the other team, though (the kids have fun whether they win or lose), it is against the weather. The heat continues at an unbelievable level. Friday was 108 here, a record high for any day in any September. At our house, we haven’t had a drop of rain since early June. Yesterday wasn’t too bad, it was hot, but dry and windy. Today it is calm, hot again and very, very humid.
So between games we brought a bunch of the kids here, to a newish Burger King at Interstate 20 and Great Southwest Parkway, so they can play inside in the cold AC of the playland. The plastic structure towers three stories high, tunnels and slides and padded slopes. It is supported by a cubical scaffold – a lattice of steel pipes covered with bright foam padding held tight with plastic cable ties. Black nylon mesh sides and blue soft floors. Bright colors everywhere, Plexiglas bubble windows smeared with children’s handprints of catsup and hamburger grease. Screams and running, stockinged feet (and for our kids – shin guards), French fries and cold drinks and plastic bags with clever little toys. A blue fabric holder, pockets crammed full of children’s shoes.
There is a sign on the giant structure:
EARTHQUAKE TUNNEL THE ABOVE PLAY EQUIPMENT IS FREE MOVING SO CHILDREN MAY EXPERIENCE AN “EARTHQUAKE” SENSATION
I’m sitting at a table with my book and my laptop. Next to me is a window to a special room set aside, a little girl is having a party in there; presents, camcorders, the kids all wear gold paper crowns. A parent just brought in a purple bicycle with training wheels and a basket.
Every couple of minutes a child in a red soccer uniform will pass by where I can get at ’em and I’ll repeat my mantra “Stop screaming, watch out for the little kids in there!” Candy and the other parents are all out in the main part of the Burger King (I had typed “restaurant” there, but it didn’t look right), chatting, relying on me to keep some kind of an eye on the kids. They should rest before the next game but I know better than to expect that.
They are playing some sort of tag and hide-and-seek. I hear screams of “Who’s It?” and “I’m on the base!” The noise is incredible. The floor of the room is tile, the walls glass, the plastic tubes amplify the hootn’ and hollerin’. The sound bounces and grows. A high pitched deafening cacophony.
I am shocked at how many people are leaving my place of work. The most common reason is the vaccination mandate – but a lot of people are just burned out. It won’t be long – but I will join them soon. It’s pretty much all I think about.
It’s to be expected that the words we use will change and develop over time as they begin to be used in original and innovative new contexts. But in some instances, these developments can lead to words gaining new meanings entirely different from their original implications—and the 25 words listed here have done just that.
English has changed a lot in the last several hundred years, and there are many words once used that we would no longer recognize today. For whatever reason, we started pronouncing them differently, or stopped using them entirely, and they became obsolete. There are some old words, however, that are nearly obsolete, but we still recognize them because they were lucky enough to get stuck in set phrases that have lasted across the centuries. Here are 12 words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms.
A twenty-four-hour news cycle that preys on this human propensity has undeniably aggravated the problem and swelled the 8% to appear as 98%, but at the heart of this warping of reality is an ancient tendency of mind so hard-wired into our psyche that it exists independently of external events.
Count me as a Buster Benson fan. His 2016 Cognitive bias cheat sheet is legendary among behavioral designers. I have a framed print out of his codex in my home and I’ve enjoyed his writing on various topics for years. He has extensive experience building products that move people at Slack, Twitter, and Habit Labs.
“No one motorist can cause a traffic jam. But no traffic jam can exist without individual motorists. We are stuck in traffic because we are the traffic. The ways we live our lives, the actions we take and don’t take, can feed the systemic problems, and they can also change them…”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, December 14, 1998.
The City at Night
….. I’m writing another entry sitting in the van, waiting in a parking lot. This time it’s a long way from home. I have a focus group at eight thirty, on the tenth floor of a big office building, at Park Central on the northern arc of Dallas’ LBJ freeway loop. I have better things to do with my time than sit here, but they’ll pay me a hundred dollars, cash. Allowing an hour to get here, it only took twenty minutes, so I found this lot in a commercial strip right off Central Expressway. About a half hour to kill before I drive back to the building, that’s how long the batteries in this old Dell can hold out.
I had wanted to go exercise after work and there is a club located between there and here. I forgot my damn shoes again, can’t very well work out in steel-toed safety boots, so I stayed in my office a couple hours late. Time is becoming so precious, it drove me nuts. Nowhere to go, no money, nothing much to do (I was so sick of work, it was tough to get anything extra accomplished). So I sat and did some light computer stuff and watched the hands turn.
At least the van is a good place to type. The middle bench seat is roomy enough for me to hold the laptop on my lap, there is enough stray light from the parking lot to illuminate the keys without washing out the screen. Also, the van isn’t stalling. I was about to give up yesterday, when I put another fresh tank of fuel in her, and presto- no more problems. My guess is that the recent cold snap condensed water into the gas tank, it took a refill to work itself out.
Across the street from here is a big hospital. This is where both Nick and Lee were born. It seems like I’ve been there a hundred times, for childbirth classes, medical emergencies, routine checkups. We don’t have the HMO anymore, so we don’t come back here now. One reason I dropped it was because I was concerned about the drive from Mesquite, it scared me to think of Candy driving over here in the awful traffic with a sick kid strapped in beside her.
The traffic is scary. The intersection of LBJ and Central may be the busiest in the Metroplex, maybe the country. Lines of white, lines of red. Going either seventy or stopped. I constantly look at these thousands and thousands of cars speeding past and wonder where all these people are going. What are their dreams? Are they happy? Do they really want to go where their car is pointing? Why are they in such a hurry to get there?
Honk! Honk! Honk! The car alarm on a big sedan is going off. A woman gets out. Is it her car? Is she confused by the alarm and can’t shut it off? Or is she stealing the thing? I don’t care. It stops, she gets back in. Nobody calls the police. There the car goes.
Behind this strip, this line of office supplies, fast food Chinese, medical equipment, and podiatrist, is the dark slash of a creek. I know that linear wilderness better than I know the wild street; the White Rock bicycle trail runs back there. It starts five miles to the south at the lake and winds along the creek embankment, using the floodplain to cut through these civilized islands unseen and undisturbed. The day was dry and warm, I wish I had my bike and was able to get some late season fresh air back there today. Or I wish I had a nice light and could run the trail now. Swooshing along in the dark, heart pumping, legs pumping.
I think I’d better wrap this up, save the file and get going. I’m not sure exactly where to park (there is a maze of garages around the office complex) and I don’t want to be late. They won’t give me my money.
Thanks for listening to me ramble, thanks for helping me kill a few minutes away from home, thanks for the memories and the city at night.