(Double) Weekly Roundup: Dune For Dummies Edition

Long-time readers of this site know that the mythology and cultural detritus of the Dune novels have littered my writing for the best part of two decades now. Unfortunately some of my favorite Dune-related content had to be deleted from Riverside Green during the Time Of The Great Whining To My Employer About Mean Website Articles last year. That’s okay because you can find much of it told somewhat more coherently on Scott Locklin’s site.

There is something about Dune and its sequels that has proven magnetic to the disaffected-individualist-intellectual typa dude again and again since 1965. We called President Trump the “God Emperor” in ironic homage to Leto II, the tragic hero of the fourth book in the series. (In hindsight, we can see that Trump was more like Paul Atreides, who unleashed a jihad then ran into the desert rather than live with the consequences of his actions, but no matter.) During my two decades in tech contracting, I often referred to some enthusiastic but misguided colleague as having “put himself in the way of the Harkonnen fist” and this phrasing never failed to elicit a knowing smile in the nerds around me.

Recently I compelled my twelve-year-old son to put his metaphorical hand in the metaphorical gom-jabbar painbox by making the completion of Dune a condition for the arrival of a new airsoft gun. He’s cheating my directive a bit by listening to the audiobook more than reading the actual pages, but it’s still been tough going for him. So I took him to the theater to see the new Dune movie, figuring it would whet his appetite to pick up the book and see how it all ends. In this attempt, I was successful, much like Miles Teg negotiating the Bene Gesserit forces out of yet another deadly confrontation, or perhaps the Grand Honored Matre forcing a Futar to do her bidding. (You haven’t read Chapterhouse:DUNE? Shame on you!)

My hopes were fairly low, as Dune is one of those books that seems designed to elude a competent film adaptation. This 2021 release, which covers the first half of the first book, is the third complete attempt to tell at least some of Frank Herbert’s story, following the infamous 1984 David Lynch film and the Sci-Fi mini-series. (A moment of silence for Alejandro Jodorowsky and his attempt to make a 14-hour Dune movie.) It’s received generally positive reviews, but that means very little in a world where most film critics are motivated almost entirely by considerations of culture and politics. What follows is a brief review from the perspective of a lifelong Dune fan and compulsive re-reader of the series.

Obviously, there are spoilers ahead, for a 1965 book and its kinda-sorta-faithful adaptation.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Naked Hellscape Of Net Zero Edition

It sure is hard out here for a hillbilly conspiracy theorist nowadays, ain’t it? No matter how bat-you-know-what crazy your completely nutcase theory might be — there’s a pedophile island visited by Presidents! The United States directly supported gain-of-function coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute! The Chamber Of Commerce organized a secret coalition to subvert the 2020 election! — it almost immediately turns out to be true, either in whole or in part. Heck, even the oft-ridiculed trope about “the chemicals in the water are turning the frogs gay!” turns out to have some serious research behind it.

If you clicked the last link, you’ll see that Atrazine doesn’t turn male frogs gay, in the commonly understood sense of the word. Rather, it emasculates most of them and turns a percentage of the rest into female frogs. This rather nice distinction would be enough to earn the Gay Frogs Claim a “False!” from the plagiarists at Snopes or a “Pants On Fire!” from Politifact. Much of the “fact-checking” you see done in today’s media is reliant on such fine-grained examination; see this note on HR 1 as an example.

I mention all of this because you’re about to see a rather disturbing document that purports to show how the British Government will manipulate public opinion to accept everything from eating bugs to staying in their homes while the elite continue to travel at will. The fact-checkers are already hard at work trying to separate the authors of this document from the Government — but in this case, they are likely to fail.

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Weekly Roundup: Floating Like A Lilo Edition

Arrogant and unpleasant disclaimer: sit this one out, or skip to the end, unless you’re at least 1 SD+. I don’t feel like reading comments from people who will be moving their lips to read the next 2300 words. Sorry about that.

Of all the expensive delicacies out there, from white pearl albino caviar to the “Stingray Burger” at the National Corvette Museum, surely the most indulgent would be the intellectual notion that there is a universal human experience, capable of being accessed by any sufficiently broad-minded person. Our distant ancestors would have scoffed at the notion; virtually all ancient languages make no distinction between “people” and “our people”, the implication being that others are inherently different and probably worse besides. The Romans did not seek to understand the Vandals. Even among the Greek city-states there was always this simmering notion of cultural incompatibility, accompanied by the baggage of equal parts disdain and fear.

Not until the Enlightenment did the intellectual class start to get the notion Amberthat the similarities across races and cultures were greater than the differences. By the middle of the Twentieth Century this had morphed into a sort of outsider worship; I’m thinking in particular of the Western fascination with Indian and Chinese thought and dogma as exemplified by the “guru” fetish and a blossoming interest in Zen. (The late Jeff Cooper, in one of his Commentaries, despaired that young men in the Seventies and Eighties had utterly abandoned the study of Roman and Greek culture in favor of Eastern mysticism and obscurity, thus becoming incompetent at understanding two cultures instead of at least being masters in their own.)

From that outsider worship fifty years ago, we have now degraded to a sort of infantile volunteer tribalism, a perverse figure-ground approach in which power, relevance, and even safety are derived by calculating one’s distance from the untouchable (in the Dalit sense, not the exalted one) state of white Christian American “cis-straight” male. Everything in our society, from hiring decisions to quality of medical care, is now determined via this calculus. The comedian Dave Chappelle just released a comedy special in which he discusses a confrontation he had with a white man at a nightclub. The white man threatened to call the police on Chappelle; the implication here, to anyone sufficiently versed in the identity catechism, is that such a call would be tantamount to attempted murder, since police are killing unarmed Black men at the feverish, breakneck rate of one in 1.3 million annually. This makes the white man a clear villain, and absolutely deserving of some mob justice, real or virtual — until Chappelle notes that the white man was gay. At that point, every person who does any business in modern society finds themselves doing back-of-the-envelope perceived-privilege calculations. Who’s more oppressed here?

In this way, we have leached all meaning from action, which can then only be truly understood in the context of the societal value accorded to each different type of person. If I call the police on you, is that bad? Fifty years ago, we would say “It depends on what you’ve done.” Now, we say that it depends on what you are. Sometimes it is good to burn a Federal building. Sometimes it is treason to walk past one. It all depends on who you are.

This new morality would confuse the living hell out of Pascal or Sartre, but it would have sat perfectly well with any illiterate cave-dweller of prehistoric times. So in a sense it is more authentic, truer, than any outdated notions regarding a “brotherhood of Man” or any of the goofy stuff in our country’s thoroughly irrelevant founding documents. You ignore it at your peril.

All of this is a long-winded way for me to say: I’m not sure I’m allowed to listen to, comment or, or apply critical thinking to the topic at hand, namely: two of the greatest pop records to be released in years, maybe decades. Why? Simple: they are the product of a relationship between two young British lesbians.

Let’s go.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Screenless In DC Edition

I got an email last night, more than two days after the fact, from the nice people (by which I mean overseas-sourced Mechanical Turks) at SPIN scooters, telling me something along the lines of Parking Photo Not Approved. As many of you no doubt know, SPIN is one of the half-dozen providers of urban rental scooters, following in the footsteps of BIRD. What makes SPIN different: they have some sort of backing from Ford, and the scooters are slightly but usably faster than the competition from Lime and elsewhere. (As I noted while leaving a Lime in the dust along the reflecting pool near the Washington Monument: “Lime? More like lame, am I right?”) Beyond that, you are also required to take a photo of your scooter when you park it, so they know you didn’t vandalize the scooter or park it on top of a homeless person.

Which I had done, Saturday at 1:07PM. Now, late in Monday’s evening, SPIN was indicating their dissatisfaction. What was I supposed to do? Find the same scooter, two-plus days after the fact, and photograph it again? Why wait this long to tell me the photo wasn’t good enough? I was reminded of Samuel Johnson’s famous letter to Lord Chesterfield, who had declined to be a patron to Johnson’s Dictionary until Johnson had effectively finished the work: “The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind: but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it.”

What didn’t SPIN like about the photo? Hard to tell. I thought it was pretty well done, particularly since at the time of photography my Samsung S21 Ultra looked as it does in the image opening this column. Yup, that’s what you call “a thoroughly destroyed $1,799 phone” — and on just the fifth day of ownership? Sucks to be me. But that’s not all.

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Weekly Roundup: Time Out For Bad Behavior And The Gentle Sci-Fi Of Donald Fagen Edition

It could have been a lot worse than it was. Six to eight weeks off the bike, won’t be playing much guitar for a while, can still operate an airsoft rifle and a race car (sorta). Still don’t like it. And it would have been better, somehow, if I hadn’t led most of the race. Easier to go from DFL to a broken wrist than from P1 to same. I’m not permitted to lift any weights with my left hand/arm, which will make it a bit more difficult to hold onto the nearly twenty-pound weight loss I managed in August and September. Oh, and then I managed to completely break my rather fancy, and in no way completely paid for, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra phone. Just to make sure I entered the month of October flat broke, earlier today my freelance/personal IdeaPad suffered death-of-the-keyboard after just four and a half years of use. (That’s sarcasm; not since my mighty 600X have I actually gotten this much use out of a laptop.) None of this qualifies as tragedy but it also doesn’t qualify for any of the sympathy I would receive were I subject to an actual tragedy.

On the other hand, those of us who live in a permanent Seventies of the soul have some good news to celebrate, so let’s get to that.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: It’s not inEVitable edition

Last week, commenter Ken asked why I get so militant on the subject of electric vehicles, both here and in the digital pages of Hagerty. Yesterday, one of our most time-honored and respected commenters suggested, in his own kind way, that this blog had become “anti-science”.

If nobody minds, I’d like to respond to this pair of comments together, because there’s a strong common thread running through both of them. Trigger warning: this post is likely to contain Master of Orion content.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: What If The Feds Held A Fed Rally And Only Feds Showed Up Edition

If you’re looking for a reason to lose faith in America, this past weekend’s “Justice For J6 Rally” would be a good place to start. The ostensible reason for the rally was to bring attention to the plight of numerous people who attended the January 6 “insurrection”, were allowed to enter the Capitol Building by police who moved the barriers out of the way and waved them in, and who were then hunted down and “captured” by a massive federal effort in the months after the fact. Dozens of them are still being held without bail, over half a year later. (You can see the status of individual cases here.) It is widely believed that the January 6 “insurrectionists” have been treated much more harshly than the “peaceful protestors” who burned and looted cities across the country in the summer of 2020.

(For a contrary viewpoint, arguing that the Jan 6 protestors have been treated with remarkable leniency, see this AP story and this Politifact pravda.)

This “rally” struck everyone with an IQ over room temperature as an Extremely Bad Idea. Donald Trump told his followers that it was a “setup”, a sentiment echoed by everyone from Andrew Torba to Vox Day. As a consequence, virtually no one showed up. The lack of attendance allowed some of the Uniparty’s bones to show through the skin — and the coverage of the event, both during and after, proved to be most illuminating.

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(Double) Weekly Roundup: A Sign Of The Times Edition

Rent will not be “cancelled”. It will be paid by the federal government printing money like a khat-gobbling Zimbabwean warlord and giving it to those landlords willing to accept 80 cents on the dollar after extensive paperwork. We are doing this while jobs go unfilled everywhere. Like at Firestone, where after two hours no one could be found to crank a wrench for $60 labor cost per tire.

That’s the situation in Van Nuys, but who cares if you don’t live there? Ah, you might care because all of California is simply a TV show about what will be common/popular/mandatory in flyover country someday. Maybe. Meanwhile in sunny Traverse City, Michigan, there is this: A sign begging people to treat Burger King workers with decency.

We should be doing that anyway. One of my co-workers, a woman who grew up dirt-poor in China and is fourteen years younger than I am but who now exceeds my career luminosity by the sort of calculable-but-incomprehensible amount that separates the mass of our local Sun from that of VV Cephei, says that I am overpolite to waitresses, fast-food counterpeople, supermarket checkers. “They probably think you’re making fun of them or something, you’re so formal about it.” Had to explain to her that the ghost of my father could appear at any moment to keelhaul me for being a mumbling, floor-staring eleven-year-old, and that therefore it’s necessary to have the precise correctness of Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham, while patiently repeating for the ninth time, to someone who could not possibly care less about the quality of their work: Ah, it is possible I neglected to mention the fact that I wanted this cheeseburger plain, would you be willing to shoulder the burden of correcting this situation which I am certain is my fault, having made my previous eight requests on the subject in a manner that simply wasn’t a good “culture fit” for you, or was simply too quiet to penetrate the Future-und-Weeknd audio curtain laid in by the $299 iPods you wear at work?

Can’t help it. I’ve worked too many dishwater-dull, dishwasher-poor jobs myself to have any natural high-handedness when it comes to service-industry workers. In this, I am apparently rare. And the mechanism by which Burger King rage is engendered should teach us a bit about the way we live now.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Total Eclipse Of The Sprezzatura Edition

Let’s start this week with a brief clarification, for those of you who came in late. I never thought it needed saying, but given the content of an e-mail that just got sent to my employer, I suppose it does. The name of this site is Riverside Green, after the drab Columbus, Ohio neighborhood in which my brother and I spent some of our formative years. Most of you get to it via jackbaruth.com, but some of you use jackandbark.com as well. This site significantly predates my association with Hagerty, my marriage, and most of my freelance writing relationships. I launched it as a WordPress blog in March of 2013, almost exactly eight and a half year ago. Since then we have served 4.7 million articles to approximately 1500-2000 readers a day. We served ads for a while, but now we keep the (very dim) lights on thanks to a partnership with Shinola. Thank you for visiting and reading.

I don’t write everything you read here; about two-thirds of the posts are mine. The rest are done by guest and recurring contributors like my brother, Tom Klockau, Ronnie Schreiber, and others. It is fairly common for Tom, in particular, to publish the contributions of other automotive enthusiasts under his byline; when that happens, he identifies that person in the opening paragraph.

All of this has to be said because apparently it’s not obvious from a perusal of the site. For what it’s worth, I assure you that my brother, Tom, Ronnie, and other people who contribute here are absolutely real and not figments of my imagination, nor are they pseudonyms I use so I can write more often.

Good talk. Let’s continue on another topic.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Gilded Seat For The Unraveling Edition

It was very popular in midwit circles, for a while, to talk about “the end of history”. A remarkably stupid man wrote a remarkably stupid book about it. There was an even more stupid song on the topic. “Right here, right now… watching the world wake up from history.” Perhaps you’ve heard the song used to sell you Pepsi or Truvada or Dogecoin.

The idea behind “the end of history” was based on some remarkable naivete regarding human nature. It stated, more or less, that the arc of history bent inevitably toward liberal democracy, and that therefore all societies would move inexorably in that direction until they reached the blessed state of liberal democracy, at which point there would be no more broad change in that area, and therefore no more “history”. Like “climate science”, this was ex post facto theorizing based on the relative stability of the United States and the Western democracies between 1960 and 1990, coupled with the seemingly-inevitable-in-retrospect collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

Let’s consider 2021 to be a massive comeback for the idea of plain old history, and I’m talking George Foreman, or possibly Michael Jordan, levels of comeback here. It is happening on the periphery of the civilized world, where a puppet Afghani “democracy” simply vanished like fog in the face of a few thousand men with worn-out AK-74s and the will to use them. It is happening in the very center of today’s civilized world, as China uses technological methods to tighten the grasp of its Uniparty on internal dissent even as it prepares to do whatever it wants internationally.

As for America, the place where history was the first to end? Why, it’s simply… unraveling. This past week, I’ve had a front row seat from which to watch the process.

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