Go see Dune, and see it in the theater

Since the “2 weeks to stop the spread” back in March of 2020, I haven’t been inside a theater. Hollywood hasn’t exactly made me excited to go back either. Ooo, I can watch a mediocre Marvel film aimed at Chinese audiences? Or a homosexual adaptation of some previously great character? Or a film that will repeat “The Narrative?” My view on new Hollywood movies was pretty aligned with one of my favorite YouTube film critics, The Critical Drinker.

But then, the Dune trailer came out. And man, it looked cool. I had heard a lot about Dune, and I knew that it was probably one of the most influential science fiction novel series of all times, but I had never watched the movie (or TV mini-series). Since I had an extra Audible credit, I grabbed the predecessor book “The Butlerian Jihad,” a book written by Frank Herbet’s son Brian and Kevin J Anderson, who has written tons of science fiction books, including some in the Star Wars expanding universe (back before Star Wars was acquired by Disney).

Excited by the trailer, and even more so as I read through the books, I saw Dune last night with a group of friends in our local theater.

And it was awesome!

First, it was a movie that took itself seriously. The acting is great. The scenes are beautifully shot. The editing is really good, and there aren’t long moments of dead space for you to be bored.

Second, no woke BS. We have a diverse array of actors because that’s what the books had! The desert people of the planet Arrakis look, feel and act like people living in a desert. I immediately had Iraq/Afghanistan insurgency vibes when I saw them, and as people trying to fight off the control of the Emperor, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to feel. Female characters feel the same way. They aren’t made out to be super strong, take on everything without emotion monstrosities like Captain Marvel. Instead, we get an outstanding performance from Rebecca Ferguson (who plays Lady Jessica Atreides) that doesn’t look like she’s trying to outperform Timothee Chalamet (who plays Paul Atreides).

The movie is genuinely enjoyable to watch. Watching it in the theater was great because of the sound. The movie places big demands on low bass sound, especially when the giant sandworms of Arrakis make an entrance. The low rumblings as the sandworms approach genuinely fills you with dread, and the rest of the musical score is well composed.

The one issue with Dune is without understanding the lore, its hard to follow. Before you see it in theater, I’d recommend watching the Looper trailer that gives you much of the backstory of the main characters.

In a world full of dumb, woke, cringy movies, Dune is a bright spot of good story and good acting. It’s not the next Iron Man or Lord of the Rings, but if you have to pick a movie to watch, you can’t do wrong with Dune.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Cognitive decline: the mainstream media is still protecting Biden

By John Ruberry

After the collapse of the government of Afghanistan last month mainstream media reporters remembered for a little while that they were supposed to be journalists instead of propagandists and protectors of the Democratic Party.

They criticized President Joe Biden for the Afghan debacle, which was easily the worst foreign policy disaster since the fall of Saigon in 1975. It may have been the worse than that, as no one expected the Viet Cong to attack America. 

But those catcalls from the media only went so far. No one, outside of conservatives, has addressed the metaphorical crazy grandpa in the basement–Joe Biden’s clear cognitive decline. 

Okay, let’s get something out of the way. I am not a doctor and I have never met Joe Biden. But even two years ago, as he announced his run for the presidency, it was clear, to phrase it as Mark Levin did, that “the spin was off of his fastball.” Of course Biden, always a mediocrity, never had much of a fastball. 

And of course to prevent a Bernie Sanders Democratic nomination and a likely Donald Trump victory, US Rep. James Clyburn led the rush to annoint Biden as their only hope to defeat Trump. And Biden campaigned, sort of, for the presidency from what Sean Hannity called “his basement bunker.” 

Greg Ganske, an MD and former Republican member of Congress, knows Biden, In an op-ed for the Des Moines Register, he decried Biden’s mental decline.

It’s gotten worse since the election. In a CNN interview, he opined, “Um, you know there’s a, uh, during World War II, uh you know, where Roosevelt came up with a thing, that uh, you know, was totally different, than a, than the, he called it, you know, the WWII, he had the War Production Board.” In March he forgot the name of his Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, at a White House event, calling the Pentagon chief “the guy who runs that outfit over there.”

I am not alone in seeing a difference in President Biden. Mike McCormick, who worked 15 years as a White House stenographer and with Biden from 2011 to 2017, has said, “He’s lost a step and he doesn’t seem to have the mental acuity he had four years ago. He doesn’t have the energy, he doesn’t have the pace of his speaking. He’s a different guy. He read that Democratic National Committee speech verbatim — it’s not Joe Biden anymore.”

John Kass, the former Chicago Tribune lead columnist, calls Biden “President Meat Puppet.” 

During the 2020 presidential campaign while watching Biden, well, sort of campaign on television, I was reminded of a Star Trek episode centered on the doomed and flawed John Gill, Captain Kirk’s former history professor, who creates a Nazi government because that fascist nation was, in Gill’s opinion, “the most effecient state Earth ever knew.” Not true, I need to add, although oddly enough Spock agreed. 

The Enterprise’s power trio watch in horror and pity as Gill, a puppet of the evil Melakon, addresses his planet in a televised address by announcing an attack on the scapegoat planet Zeon. “Captain, the speech follows no logical pattern,” says Spock. “Random sentences strung together,” Kirk adds. “He looks drugged, Jim,” observes Dr. McCoy, “Almost in a cataleptic state.”

“They’ve kept what’s left of him as a figurehead,” Kirk says. 

Last year Lou Aguilar of the American Spectator noticed the similarities between Biden and Gill in 2020. So did Victor Davis Hanson for American Greatness last month. But these men are conservatives.

Now I am not claiming Biden is a fascist. Calm down, leftists. He is not. Biden is a confused and tired old man–but only conservative pundits are noticing that. Are we smarter than liberals? Well yes, of course we are, but it seems at the very list our “betters,” the liberal elite that is, are looking the other way in regards to the president’s mental status. Or perhaps the liberal media is purposely hiding Biden’s cognitive decline, as seems to be the case with George Stephanopoulos, who allowed a portion of his most recent interview with the president to end up on the cutting room floor as he confused key details of his late son Beau’s military service. I suspect the latter scenario is the case.

Dr. Ronny Jackson is now a Republican congressman. He was the White House physician during the Trump presidency. Two months ago he called on Biden to take a cognitive test and for the results of it to be made public. Three years ago Jackson said he administered one to Trump and he reported that “45” answered every question correctly.

Here’s the problem the mainstream media faces. Biden will continue to have good days and bad days–but as I’ve observed with relatives of mine suffering from cognitive decline, the good days always become fewer. 

Oh, how many more times will Biden be hours late for a press conference? Why always so late?

Eventually Biden’s slipping mental state will be too obvious for even the liberal media to ignore. And when they finally do notice–it’s up to us to remind them that conservatives blew the whistle on Biden first. 

Perhaps at that time, in an act for redemption, the lefty talking heads and writers can reveal who the power is behind the Biden the Figurehead.

Kass has an idea, “Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, is now openly referred to as President Klain.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Review: Season One of Tribes of Europa

By John Ruberry

I guess I’m in an arts and culture mood of late so I’m reviewing my latest Netflix binge-watching adventure, Tribes of Europa, a six-episode series about a dystopian Europe centered on the former Germany in 2074. 

In December of 2029 the world’s power-grid fails–the cause of which is never explained, but it could be because of a cyberwar gone too far, along the lines of the biological warfare that precedes the Charlton Heston classic, The Omega Man.

Europe has devolved well past the European Union or even the nation-states that the borders of which–for the most part–have been resilient since the end of World War II. Microstate tribes have replaced the old order. One of those tribes is the Origines (rhymes with aborigines), a peaceful group of several dozen hunter-gatherers, wearing, presumably, scavenged clothes from before society’s collapse. Their community is destroyed after a B-1 type aircraft, belonging to the technologically advanced Atlantians, crashes near their village.

Three young Origine siblings, Liv (Henriette Confurius), Elja (David Ali Rashed), and Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), along with their father Jakob (Benjamin Sadler), are forced to scatter, the siblings carve three storylines, much like what the children of Ned Stark did in Game of Thrones. Yes, this show is derivative. Much of the mood and tone recalls another German series, the time-travel show Dark. The producers of that series also are behind this one. And there is a bit of the Star Wars franchise in Tribes of Europa. Moses (Oliver Masucci) is a fast-talking salvage merchant who is constantly trying to keep one step ahead of a powerful lender. Who does that remind you of? Moses takes Elja under his wing. Masucci is a gifted actor, he portyayed the brooding Ulrich in Dark, a cruel but ultimately tragic character, as well as Hitler in the comedy Look Who’s Back

Moses is only interested, at least initially, in Elja, the youngest of the Origine siblings, because he found an Atlantian cube, which, must like the Ring of Power in the Lord of the Rings, is sought after by other tribes, particularly the Crows. And in the early episodes, like the Ring, we are unsure of exactly what powers the cube possesses. As for the Crows, they are barbarians who party in discos and participate in gladiator duels.

Yes, there is a bit of The Hunger Games in Tribes of Europa.

Liv falls in the the Crimson Army, which is led by General Cameron (James Faulkner). He’s the actor who portayed the stern Randyll Tarly in Game of Thrones. One of the Crimson Army’s goals is to seize the former Berlin, Brahtok, the Crow capital, where Kiano and Jakob are being held.

Cameron dreams of bringing back the old Europe. Liv asks the general, “Do you really think you can pull it off, unite the continent?” Cameron replies, “The European idea will never die.” According to numerous media sources the idea for Tribes of Europa came to show creator Philip Koch after the Brexit vote in 2016.

The German in Tribes of Europa is dubbed for Netflix. But in a key revelation, English is still the lingua franca in post-collapse Europe.

There are just six episodes in the first season and as this one ends with three cliffhangers, I imagine a second season of Tribes of Europa is planned. If there is I’ll tune in.

Netlix rates Tribes of Europa as TV-MA for graphic violence, foul language, nudity, and very uncomfortable sexual situations. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Principles, Linear Existence, and Deep Space Nine

by baldilocks

One of the many reasons that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was my favorite of the several Trek incarnations is the quality of its pilot episode “Emissary.” In it, we first meet Commander Benjamin Sisko, a widower, the father of a young son, Jake, and previously, the first officer of the USS Saratoga which was destroyed in Trek’s infamous Battle of Wolf 359. His wife, Jennifer, has been dead for three years — killed at Wolf 359 — and he has languished at a desk job since that time. In the beginning of the series, he takes command of Space Station Deep Space Nine without much enthusiasm, and contemplates retiring from Starfleet when his task at the station is finished.

Fast forward to the pivotal scene of the pilot: here is Sisko as he teaches the prophets — a group of non-linear alien beings who have abducted him and who use the appearance of persons and scenarios which are familiar to him in order to communicate — about linear existence using his favorite game as a metaphor.

[On a baseball field]

Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko

BATSMAN-Alien: Aggressive. Adversarial.
SISKO: Competition. For fun. It’s a game that Jake and I play on the holodeck. It’s called baseball.
JAKE-Alien: Baseball? What is this?
SISKO: I was afraid you’d ask that. I throw this ball to you and this other player stands between us with a bat, a stick, and he, and he tries to hit the ball in between these two white lines. No. The rules aren’t important. What’s important is, it’s linear. Every time I throw this ball, a hundred different things can happen in a game. He might swing and miss, he might hit it. The point is, you never know. You try to anticipate, set a strategy for all the possibilities as best you can, but in the end it comes down to throwing one pitch after another and seeing what happens. With each new consequence, the game begins to take shape.
BATSMAN-Alien: And you have no idea what that shape is until it is completed.
SISKO: That’s right. In fact, the game wouldn’t be worth playing if we knew what was going to happen.
JAKE-Alien: You value your ignorance of what is to come?
SISKO: That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives, day by day, and we explore the galaxy, trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here. Not to conquer you either with weapons or with ideas, but to co-exist and learn.

[Scene switches to the doomed USS Saratoga in Sisko’s quarters as he leans over Jennifer’s dead body.]

TACTICAL-Alien: If all you say is true, why do you exist here?

The prophets force Sisko to face the fact that, by living in the grief and anger produced by Jennifer’s death, he has stopped trying to live up to his own standard.

This is what we all do at various points in our lives. And our task in life isn’t to beat ourselves up for being imperfect in what we say we believe — for failing — but to get back up off of the floor and keep pushing and pressing on, using what we have left.

Sisko still had his son and discovers by the end of the pilot — and by the end of the series — that he has much more than he was able to imagine at the point where we first meet him. This was good TV.

And it demonstrates something essential about the relationship between inner-core beliefs/principles and the fallen nature of humanity: temporarily falling away from the former doesn’t make them any less true or correct …and doesn’t make them any less yours. And the great part about principles which are solid and true is that returning to them will help you dig yourself out of the ditch into which life has deposited you.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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