Getting into Dune: Gateway Spice

Arrakis…Dune…Desert planet

Brief summary

You don’t have time to read this and I understand, thanks for the view either way. This post on Dune is is long so I’m going to boil it down to one sentence. There’s no set way to approach something so experiment with different paths. In order to get into Dune I had to take a different path.

I Love sci-fi

What’s your favourite genre of fictional book?

If your a normie there is a good chance that you like mystery thriller novels. Books like Gone Girl, Harry Potter and Jack Reacher might be right up your avenue.

You don’t want anything too heady because that’s not why you read. You want something that’s easy to read, has a few thrills and maybe a sex scene. I don’t blame you. Life is depressing enough without long-winded, boring books with no hanky panky.

You probably aren’t a big sci-fi fan. It’s nerdy, unrealistic and has no characters. That’s not how I view it but understand your point. I don’t find sci-fi boring because I don’t read it literally.

On a basic level, yes sci-fi is about flying cars and laser guns, but those elements are window dressing. What I find so enjoyable is that underneath the surface sci-fi is an exploration of what it means to be human.

Sci-fi asks, “who are you” and “if everything about you were to change, would you still be you?”. The answer to the question is hard to pin down, and I’m going to butcher it here. “I am a part of the universe, and the universe is part of me”.

A lot of sci-fi ends with the hero transcending. The Matrix ends with Neo realising he is “The one”. Interstellar ends with Cooper outliving his daughter and flying off into space.

In novels, it’s more heavy-handed. Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch ends with humanity taking on the teeth, eyes, and bionic hand of Palmer Eldritch. Richard Matheson’s I am Legend ends with Richard Neville executed. He lives on in the tales the new vampire civilisation will tell each other.

Delaying the inevitable

There was always one book that I avoided though, and that was Frank Herbert’s Dune. I have many reasons for not wanting to read the book. It was long, I don’t like dessert adventures and that so many people like it must mean that I’ll hate the book. I had many reasons which is the equivalent to no reason.

The real reason and a problem that I have with reading, in general, is that I struggle with comprehension. When I talk to people about books, I’ve read, and we’ll be talking about sections and the person asks me if I’ve read the book. I get embarrassed.

I tend to come up with my own vision in my mind’s eye and don’t like books with too much description. I’m going to come up with whatever I want anyway.

I avoided Dune. It wasn’t until I read in the back of Tools for Titans that the change started. Dune was on several smart people’s top ten list. I knew that I would have to give it a read.

The book still intimidated me. I decided to take the indirect approach.

Dune the movie

I’d seen the Dune movie years ago whenever Channel 4 used to put on cult movies late at night. I wasn’t impressed then but if I was going to read the book I w decided to watch it again as it was available on Prime.

I’m going to talk about the film in general terms.

First of all, it’s beautiful, the production design and costumes are great. It’s nice to look at, and the special effects still hold up today.

Second, the cast is excellent, but the performances are not. There are so many roles in the film and trying to develop them all in two hours would be impossible. Kyle Maclachlan does well in his first film role. Kenneth McMillan stands out because he’s so over the top and appears to be enjoying himself. Everyone else fades into the background.

A more accurate title for the film would be Dune Plot Synopsis. The movie covers the majority of the main action of the novel, but it lacks the spirit.

I understand why this film failed to connect with audiences.

The first three scenes are cinematic dead weight. The first scene is someone explaining to you how the world works. The second scene is about the main planets. This scene is infuriating because this information is never brought up again. The third scene, in essence, is “Watch out for this person” but it goes on forever. The scene is included because it’s the only scene aside from the sandworms to feature a creature. The scene could have been thirty seconds.

For comparison could you imagine if Star Wars: A New Hope began with someone explaining the Force? Then the next scene explained the Empire and rebellion. Would the film have been as successful?

Once Dune’s plot kicks in the film is more enjoyable. It’s not the disaster that everyone thinks it is, but it never rises above being acceptable.

The movie Dune may have failed as a film but as a primer for the book it worked.

Do your own research

I then looked online for as many explainers as I could find. I didn’t want to read this book, so I tried to prepare as much as I could for taking it on. It wasn’t until I watched Thug Notes break down that I found the theme that would hook me in. That theme was the idea of fulfilling the prophecy v being the one prophesied.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey because of a prophecy. If Jesus was the Son of God would it matter if he fulfilled the scripture? Did Jesus become the Son of God by fulfilling the scripture?

You’re probably thinking, who cares, what does it matter but this kind of question is my Chicken or egg.

How can I make this more relatable to you? What is the difference between being confident and acting confident?

I don’t consider myself a confident person. I have a lot of doubt struggle with decision making, but I’m told that I’m confident. That is because I act confident. If you find yourself with diminished confidence, take this small step. Stand up straight and take up more space than usual. You’ll give yourself a confidence boost. This has nothing to d

This philosophical Chicken or egg question got me excited to read the book. The book has confusing words, so I downloaded the book on audible first and gave it a listen.

The audible version of Dune is more akin to a radio drama version of the book.

The production is sloppy. There is a narrator, and other actors provide the voices. It’s inconsistent; sometimes the narrator replaces the voices of the actors sometimes not. If anything the poor production made me more determined to read the book.

Dune the book

It turned out that the research paid off. I flew through the book. It’s split into three sections, and the chapters are short. The annoying, confusing words weren’t a challenge.

The book is odd as it is greater than the sum of it’s parts. The plot is basic. It’s a story of revenge. When Avatar came out, everyone called it Dances with Smurfs. Having read Dune, I’m surprised there weren’t more comparisons made. Outsider turns on the system, joins native population. The outsider becomes their leader and finally drives back the invaders.

World building is the books strongest feature. You get hints of a larger world. The dialogue is on the nose, and the characters are simple. Whenever you’re dealing with massive concepts, it’s better to keep it simple.

There’s more I want to say about this book, but this has post already run long so let’s sum it up.

The weird in way

Throughout your life, you’re going to have encounters that intimidate you. Could be a book could be a person, something that you have to engage with. You don’t have to use the direct approach.

Think of yourself as the frog in the pot, even though the frog dies in the end.

If you try to jump straight in you may get burned and be put off getting back in. Instead, ease yourself into something, do your research.

If you’re considering reading Dune, which is recommended, but don’t know where to begin I suggest this overview. It gives away the ending but the ending is such a small part of the journey.

Enjoy.

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Self-Talk will make you better

You could organise yourself better by doing self-talk.

One of the most intelligent people I know does self-talk away from himself. I remember playing basketball with him, and he would always be chattering away to himself. It could have been a tactic; he always got passed me, I wasn’t very good but still. Even there were other occasions you would look over to him, and the mouth would be flapping.
He could also multitask. He’s more like a mentat from Frank Herbert’s Dune, a human computer.
I used to think that I was boring him because he would always have his head in his phone. I was wrong. When I asked him a question, he would be able to repeat everything that was said to him.
This friend is now a top solicitor.
There could be something to self-talk. I’m sure there are other factors at play like strong work ethic and aptitude, but for this blog, I’m going to write about self-talk.
I have a problem with my attention span.
If you’re like me and get distracted at a moment’s notice talking to yourself is what you need.
I’m a hypocrite. I criticise people for being glued to the TV, I’m no better. I’ve replaced TV with my phone.
It’s taken me forty minutes to get to this point. My phone is beside me; I’m watching Norm MacDonald videos on Youtube. I swear as soon as the current video ends, I’ll turn it off.

Ten minutes pass.

What am I watching? “Ryan Reynolds Savage Moments 2” what? You know what I’m not even going to watch this, I’m stalling. Writing that I am stalling is also a form of stalling.
I’m going to turn it off now. I tal to myself “Kieran, you need to turn off YouTube,” “But it’s almost over” “Kieran, it will still be there once you are finished, turn it off”.
I’ve shut down Youtube, but I have found myself on Instagram, “Kieran get off Instagram”. Now I’m on twitter, Ed Latimore liked my tweet “Right Kieran, turn off the wifi.”
I’ve set a timer for twenty minutes, Hans Zimmer’s Time is on repeat. I’m back in the room. You have my undivided attention.

Technology

I love technology; it has enabled us to do copious amounts of nothing, but I think it’s rewired my brain. I can feel my brain-clogging up with even more useless information. It demands attention too. Your phone is a pocket-sized baby, the slightest peep and everything stops until you find out what’s wrong.
The internet and the phone has launched the war for your attention. For years I’ve been losing each consecutive battle.
Only now, through talking to myself, have I been able to wrestle some of the control back.
You’ve heard the expression “I can’t hear myself think”. You can’t hear yourself because thinking makes no sound. How do you hear your thoughts? You make a sound.
Talking to yourself is a way of holding yourself responsible. You don’t trust people who say one thing but act another way. Why would you be any different? You tell yourself that you aren’t going to eat any more rubbish yet the first slice of cake offered and your lips are frosted. You’re inconsistent.

Consistency is key

After the Korean War, they brainwashed American POWs. How did they do this? Chinese soldiers would interrogate American troops. American troops were asked to name one bad thing about America, “There is crime in the USA” and a good thing about Communism, “Under communism everyone is equal”.
They recorded this admission and played it on the loudspeaker for the rest of the POWs to hear. The person from the interrogation was now a traitor. The traitor wanted to act consistently with their words and became a traitor. They had been brainwashed.
When you talk to yourself, you’re putting it out there. On a subconscious level, you expect yourself to live up to your own standards. What’s the first step towards doing something, you say you’re going to do it.
Talk to yourself, state your aim out loud to help you focus. Say to yourself, “I’m going to focus on the work that needs to be done“. Hold yourself responsible.
You can do this, like me, in a basic way. I talk to myself to get things done. As I am reading back over this, I keep checking my phone, I say to myself “concentrate, get the work done first then you can look at your phone”. I put the phone down and get on with the work.
I’m not saying that talking to yourself will solve all the problems that you have, but it can help you focus.

Prayer and uses

You are probably thinking I’m writing like some self-help hippy, maybe but look at religion. A prayer is a personal act. Prayer is a private conversation between you and God. What if you aren’t religious, how does it look? For the non-believer, prayer is a group of people in a room talking to themselves. Another place where a group of people talk to themselves is an asylum.
For the dirty heathens, like myself, reading this, do you consider religious people mad? What separates the church from the madhouse? Just because you don’t understand the use of something doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
You’re not religious, that’s OK. Have you ever watched sports? You see people in groups coming together to talk to themselves in unison. My dad will shout at a TV over football. What is that if not self-talk.
You talk to yourself all the time you just don’t notice.

Self-talk can help you get out of stress.

Have you ever said to yourself “Come on now you can do this”? You’ve probably done it when hyping yourself up into doing something that made you nervous.
You don’t have to just do it for big events you can do it on a small scale too.
When you feel like giving up during work out, do like I do, “Think how fortunate you are to be able to improve your health. Not everyone can but you do. You can push yourself that little bit further. One more set and you can stop.”
You can use self-talk to remove nervous tension from your body. When your nervous your body tenses up. I noticed this during running. I get out of breath, my chest and shoulders constrict reducing my oxygen intake further. When I notice that I say to myself “Kieran all you have to do is relax your shoulders, stand up straight, take deep breathes”. It doesn’t do all the work for me, but it helps me get back on track.

You can use this to soothe yourself in an uncomfortable scenario. When you’re uncomfortable, your body takes on the shape of someone doing rigorous exercise. If you take steps to talk to yourself and consciously unstress your body, you may feel more comfortable.

Next time you’re feeling stressed out, try talking to yourself. If you’re out in public whisper to yourself.

Talking to yourself can also help you be more present.

You and I are probably future orientated, thinking about what comes next. You can miss out on great experiences by not being mentally present for them.
If you have been reading me for a while, you are aware that my grandmother died last week. Towards the end, she was incapable of being present. The times I went to visit her in the hospital all she could ask about was who was coming to visit her next.
She was incapable of appreciating those who were with her then and there. She would have benefitted from taking the time to acknowledge those who had come to see her. I know she wasn’t well, but I wish that she could get comfort from the moments that she was in rather than those yet to come.
How can you use self-talk to be more present? Simple, just talk about what’s going on around you and in you. Use me as an example, I said the following out loud:
“I’m sitting on a bench in Ormeau Park, the sun is out, but it is cool. There is a woman with a pram walking past.There are cute tiny dogs running around. I’m sad about my grandmother passing as she and I didn’t have much of a relationship with her. There’s nothing I can do about that now. I have to learn and live with my failings as a grandson.”
You owe it to yourself to enjoy your life as it happens.

You can if you American.

I was in New York in February. I noticed it’s hard to differentiate between phone users and the mentally disturbed. Both would be walking down the street having full blown conversations with themselves.
Kieran, if I start talking to myself I’ll be considered disturbed, I hear you think. You make a good point but here is where you and I disagree. The mentally disturbed person may think that they are talking to someone else. You and I are under no such illusion. You and I know we are talking to ourselves.
If you live in a small town as I do, where word travels fast I understand you may not want to. You don’t want to get that rep as the person who talks to themselves in public. Public opinion matters to many and you might be one of them, that’s fine. I don’t talk to myself in public, yet.
Talk to yourself; the response will surprise you.
I’m going to be bringing in a new section called Conversations with myself. Those posts are going to be going up every Tuesday.