Author Archives: mathisgasser

Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000)

Here some stills from Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) and later Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (2003) in anticipation of Denis Villeneuve’s forthcoming adaption, which should start filming in 2019. Closer to the novels than David Lynch’s version Dune (1984), the two miniseries are rather great. Once again one realizes how much George R.R. Martin and legions of other writers were influenced by the plot density of Dune. Besides the constant intrigues and scheming, Dune is known for its analog-futuristic aesthetics, its depiction of competing houses wanting to secure natural resources (Arrakis’ spice), its examination of declining empires and revolt, its Middle Eastern and spiritual references (Jihad and Zen Buddhism). Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune have strong set designs and a distinct theater like feel. The characters are placed within these incredible sets, with subtle light and color changes reflected on their faces and bodies. Dune has no shortage of large scale action scenes, yet the focus lies on the interpersonal, intimate relations between the characters (acting is superb overall). We also get a real sense of the desert planet Arrakis with its hot and difficult, magical environment. The costume design is great as well. There is much to look forward to Villeneuve’s version. Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune are verbose, which makes perfectly sense as the makers took a particular theater like direction. I hope in his version of Dune, Villeneuve will continue the almost silent movie like quality of Blade Runner 2049 with its visual-atmospheric approach to storytelling. This would work well for Dune with its striking desert vistas and medieval-futuristic set and costume designs. Too many words would fail the intensity of the silent, beautiful and challenging environment of Arrakis and its native population, the Fremen.







STEPHEN MESSENGER – Towards a Cognitive Theory of Politics

link to essay:

This is a promising direction that needs way more research. It posits that we are not much ‘in control’ what we think our political positioning may be, but that we are very much guided by intuitions derived from our cognitive makeup.

Messenger writes, ‘In this essay, I will propose a ‘Cognitive Theory of Politics,’ which suggests that the ideological Left and Right are best understood as psychological profiles from which political intuitions, beliefs, values, ideologies, principles, and policies follow. Ideology, and everything else, is downstream from psychology. The theory posits a new principle of moral psychology: Psychological profile comes first, intuitions follow.’

‘Ingroup’ stands in for the ‘Loyalty/Betrayal’ foundation. The ‘Liberty/Oppression’ foundation, added to the first 5 foundations later by Haidt and his researchers, is absent.

Messenger: ‘As I have argued before, concepts like liberty, equality, justice, and fairness take on different—even mutually exclusive—meanings depending on which psychological profile is interpreting them. The Left’s bias toward outcome-based conceptions of ‘positive’ liberty seems to follow naturally from its profile of Platonic rationalism focused on the moral foundation of care. The Right’s tendency to favor process-based conceptions of ‘negative’ liberty follows from its profile of Aristotelian empiricism in combination with all of the moral foundations.

It’s almost as if Left and Right are speaking different languages, in which each uses the same words but attaches starkly different meanings to them. Both sides agree that liberty is a great thing, but because neither side realizes that their understanding of it is different from that of the other they talk past one another, or worse, assume their opponent is stupid, ignorant, or wicked due to the failure to grasp concepts that in their own minds are self-evident.

A more accurate, science-based, universal understanding of the ‘Social Animal’ (humans) by the social animal might break the language barrier between Left and Right and provide a common foundation of knowledge from which productive debate can ensue.’

Stephen Messenger has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Systems Management. He has worked for 35 years in systems engineering and program management for FAA, DoD, and civilian government acquisition programs. In his spare time he studies psychology, ideology, and politics and writes a blog called ‘The Independent Whig.’


KEN LIU – The Paper Menagerie

listened to this twice. very dense. ken is a prolific writer and translator (and many other things). His translation of the The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo Award, the first translated and first Chinese novel in the award’s history to have won. Here Ken talks about this short story collection The Paper Menagerie, translation, cultural codes and more.