Arrakis. Dune. Desert planet…
Welcome to Blawg Review #256!
In 1965, the best selling science fiction book of all time, Frank Herbert’s Dune, was first published. Parts of it had been published in serial form in a magazine in 1964, but as near as I have been able to determine the first publication was in March, 1965. So, this edition of Blawg Review is in honor of the 45th anniversary of my favorite science fiction novel.
Mind you, Dune is not my most favorite movie – the 1984 David Lynch version has sure polarized fans. Lynch considers it his worst failure. When the movie was re-edited for TV, he had his name removed (an Alan Smithee film) and even created a special credit for the screenwriter – Judas Booth – for his name removal there as well. A Sci Fi channel miniseries is the most complete version of the story filmed to date, but even that had to compromise some of the story. And that’s a shame, because the novel is an amazing piece of literature. Most sci fi novels before Dune had one or two major ideas per book, but Dune emerged fully formed with layers upon layer of complexity, with deep ideas of religion, politics, the messiah complex, revenge, prophecy, technology, and ecology, to name just a few. I hope the planned film remake that keeps getting postponed will do the book justice.
Dune is often credited with raising awareness of our planet as a living complex organism, and has also been credited with supporting the movement now known as Earth Day. March 22, 2010 is also World Water Day, which makes Dune particularly relevant. On Arrakis, water is the most precious resource. The culture of Arrakis is based around the lack of water, so much so that spitting is a sign of respect (a gift of the body’s water) and when the main character, Paul Atreides, cries at a funeral people are amazed that he is giving water to the dead.
It took Herbert six years of research and writing to create the complex plot and worlds of Dune. The story is set 20,000 years ahead of our time, after an anti-technology jihad and the diaspora of mankind across the galaxy. It’s set mainly on the planet Arrakis, the desert planet which is the only source in the universe of the spice Melange. Melange is the source of power in the universe, as the Spacing Guild’s navigators rely on the spice to navigate between worlds, the Bene Gesserit sisterhood require it for their rituals, and the rest of the universe is addicted to it for its life-extending powers.
Duke Leto Atreides is sent by the Emperor to take over the planet Arrakis from his family’s arch-nemesis, the Harkonnens. He brings his 15-year old son Paul and his mother, Jessica, who is the Duke’s concubine. Jessica is a Bene Gesserit (some call them witches), and Paul is revealed to be the end result of a centruries-long breeding program that the Bene Gesserit have undertaken in secret.
The Harkonnens, though, haven’t given up Arrakis and its wealth so easily, and together with the Emperor have conspired to eliminate the Atreides once and for all. The Duke knows he is coming into a trap, so he reaches out to the humans living in the desert, the Fremen, with the hope that they will be allies. The Duke’s son, Paul, and his mother, Jessica, escape after the Harkonnen attack into the desert, where they meet up with the Fremen. The Fremen have a legend that a messiah will come from off world, and they believe Paul could be that person who leads them to true freedom. Without giving too much of the story away, Paul has to learn to adapt to their ways and become their leader.
Dune is an amazingly layered story that rewards a careful reader, or better yet a re-reading. Personally, I’ve re-read Dune once a year ever since I first had my mind blown upon first reading it. My best guess is that was in 1981, when the 4th book God Emperor of Dune was published.
My first three Blawg Reviews (42, 93, and 144) bore some relation to the number. For 256, I can tell you that the sequel, Dune Messiah, is 256 pages long. Also fitting into the general internet law themes of my Blawg, I was happy to be reminded by Colin Samuels that 256 is also the number of characters in an 8-bit byte.
I was pleased that my Blawg Review #213 was selected as Blawg Review of the Year for 2009, but in my humble opinion it has more to do with the outstanding fellow legal bloggers who submitted their pictures with their towels. My hat is off again to those hoopy froods who know where their towels are. A reminder – Towel Day is May 25th every year.
What’s in a name?
“He needs a naming, Stil.” – Fremen
Over the course of the book, Paul Atreides has many names. He becomes Usul, then Paul Muad’ib, the Lisan al-Gaib, the Mahdi, the Kwisach Haderach, and then the Duke. All of these names referred to the same man. Dr. Kynes is also known as Liet, the Fremen leader. The naming of blogs has been a popular topic this week. Venkat Balasubramani and Robert Ambrogi have led this discussion. Others with good advice include Kevin O’Keefe, Ron Coleman and Eric Turkewitz. [Some worry that Eric needs to change his name because of this earlier post criticizing two sentences in an opinion.] Tom Mighell recently renamed his newsletter as The Mighell Marker for similar reasons. When you give a name to a blog, does that limit the type of content you can post there? Personally, I have toyed on and off with the idea of multiple blogs as well over the years, and the fact that I’ve kept blogging just at one place should tell you how I’ve answered that question. I may have posts on other sites from time to time, but this blog is my digital home.
The ecology of Dune
“I Am a Desert Creature!” – Dr. Kynes
When he set out to write Dune, Frank Herbert had one particular scene in mind – The Imperial planetary ecologist, Dr. Kynes, has been caught helping the Atreides and is left in the desert to die by the Harkonnens. That chapter is a compelling read because it is the planet which kills him. Kynes knows and understands what is happening to him. In an early version of the story Kynes was the hero of the book, but Herbert quickly scrapped that version because there was no conflict. Instead, he chose Kynes to introduce the science of ecology to his readers. At the end of the book, Appendix I is devoted to the Ecology of Dune. Herbert was smart enough to include this text as a reference rather than include it within the novel itself, but it still is a fascinating read.
Kynes’ dream was to transform Arrakis into a paradise where no man would want for water. That is what endears him to the Fremen, and when he realizes the Atreides share this dream he decides to help them despite his orders from the Emperor.
Zach Hiatt of Graham and Dunn had a nice post where he celebrated his 100th post, as well as St. Patrick’s Day, by looking at the environmental impact of dying the Chicago River green. As a Chicagoan I found this environmental post of great interest.
Also, of interest to those of you in Chicago, the John Marshall Law School will be hosting the “Green Issue Symposium” on April 9th. It’s free, but you must pre-register soon. One of the speakers is Maureen Gorman of my firm, her topic is “What Does It Mean To Be Green: A Short Analysis of Emerging IP Issues in “Green” Marketing.”
Holly Doremus of the Legal Planet blog had a good post on the fact that CO2 gas emissions can be a local problem as well as a global problem.
At RealClimate, a post earlier in the week on rainfall in the Amazon was followed up with a rebuttal. This is exciting stuff when a topic like the environment can be debated so openly with such respect.
Lawyers as Mentats
“It’s easier to be terrified by an enemy you admire.” – Thufir Hawat
In the post-technological jihad society of Dune, there are no computers. A rule which came out of the jihad is “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind.” Instead, human minds have developed beyond the capabilities of any machine, and these men are called Mentats. There is no evidence of lawyers in Dune, instead the role of lawyer as trusted advisor is served by the Mentats. A mentat can have many jobs – the Atreides mentat, Thufir Hawat, is also Master of Assassins. The Baron Harkonnen has twisted his mentat, Piter DeVries, into a killer, but Piter is still capable of the master plan involved in the conspiracy with the Emperor to overthrow the Duke. Paul’s father had hoped Paul would become a Duke Mentat.
If my proposed talk for IgniteLaw on March 24, 2010 had been accepted I would have talked about how we as lawyers can still use technological tools, but we must not lose sight of the fact that we must still be lawyers providing advice using human reason. Good science fiction, like Dune, can serve as a warning to help us prevent certain futures.
Cathy Gellis understands this point quite well. She wrote about how we’re so dependent now upon those who wrote the software for our hardware, we’ve become a nation of button pushers. I especially liked this part:
“But all this software comes at a cost. For one, and this might be a blog post of itself, our reliance on software to run everything is removing us from the physical world. While we are becoming smart when it comes to programming, we are becoming stupid in terms of every other technology. A child who grows up pressing buttons will be a sophisticated button presser, but will he be able actually build anything worth having software to control? In subordinating the mechanical we are losing our mastery over our physical world while at the same time becoming entirely dependent on programmers to control unseen software for us.”
In my opinion, we as lawyers must always understand what our systems are doing for us so that if they go down we can still practice law.
I also believe I’ve never seen a Blawg Review quite like Cathy’s tribute to Huey Lewis.
He who controls the Spice, controls the universe! – Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
In the movie and the miniseries, he’s the “floating fat man” at the center of the dark pit of excess and sinful pleasures which is Geidi Prime. In the book, though, he doesn’t float per se, the Baron is merely aided in carrying his large girth by these suspensors built into his flesh. The thought was that of his 350-plus kilos, he only has to worry about carrying fifty of them. Add this excessive floating to my list of problems with both the film and miniseries adaptations.
For his Blawg Review #245, Charon QC did a “Darth Vader” edition. The Baron is like Vader in his presence, but unlike Vader is never redeemed. As a Doctor Who fan myself, I had to laugh with Charon QC this week over his post about a Twitter exchange he had over the tax status of the new Doctor, Matt Smith.
I couldn’t imagine the Baron approving of criminalizing the Internet, he would instead have wanted to suck it dry. After all, he had an invasion to pay for. The Spacing Guild isn’t cheap, especially at military rates. He also wouldn’t cry too much over the false analogy between torture lawyers and detainee lawyers, as David Luban wrote about.
The Lady Jessica
“My children are not freaks! – Lady Jessica
Mother to Paul, and concubine to Duke Leto, she takes on a new role as the religious leader of the Fremen in order in order to have a chance for survival. Jessica had been ordered by the Bene Gesserit to bear a daughter to Leto, as part of their breeding program, but instead she bore a son. The Bene Gesserit had hoped a daughter could be wed to the Harkonnen heir and seal the breach between the families, but that was not meant to be. She paid the price for her decision, but what a price!
One of the great strengths of Dune is its strong women characters. The Bene Gesserit are strong women, but I am always struck by the inner strength of Jessica and Chani when I read the book. In fact, the last line in the book is from Jessica to Chani, talking about Paul’s political marriage to Princess Irulan, while it is Chani who has Paul’s love –
“Think on it, Chani: that princess will have the name, yet she’ll live as less than a concubine – never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she’s bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine – history will call us wives.”
Niki Black’s Blawg Review #254 was in honor of International Women’s Day, National Women’s History Month and the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project. This week, Niki discusses the iPad and its impact on law, and was pleased to announce that her book with Carolyn Elefant, Social Media for Lawyers, is being published by the ABA. A preview version will be shown at Techshow this week. Carolyn (who hosted Blawg Review #215) has a nice post this week as well on looking at what solo and small firm attorneys really earn.
Good job and kudos to two of the strong women of the legal blogosphere.
“We thank you, Stilgar, for the gift of your body’s moisture. We accept it in the spirit with which it is given.” – Duncan Idaho
If you read the later Dune novels, you will know that despite dying in this book, the Atreides swordmaster is reborn again and again as a clone (or Ghola). He’s an especially important character in the 4th book, God Emperor of Dune. He’s the closest of the Duke’s advisors in age to Paul, and he’s as close to a friend Paul ever had.
Another thing that keeps arising from the dead are these check scams targeting attorneys. Jim Calloway has a good post on how to avoid these scams. For those of you with long memories, Jim hosted Blawg Review #49. Another good post on avoiding email scams comes from Brett Trout. Brett hosted Blawg Reviews #106 and #148.
Kevin Heller has resurrected his TechLawAdvisor blog, after working for the past five years for employers with restrictive social media policies. Welcome back, Kevin. He hosted Blawg Reviews #12, #58, and #79, but I couldn’t get those links to work.
“For they shall suck of the abundance of the seas and of the treasure hid in the sand.” – Gurney Halleck
Quick with a quotation, a song or a knife, Gurney Halleck served Leto as one of the Atreides Swordmasters. In the beginning of Dune, he practices weapons with Paul, and teaches him to always be ready for a fight. The technology of personal shields in Dune is interesting, a quick attack is blocked while a slow weapon is allowed to enter the shield. Of course, the Fremen don’t use shields, especially since their use in the desert results in the calling of a worm. And death shortly thereafter.
Gurney was a loyal friend to Paul and his family. One of my friends, Evan Brown, had a great post this week on a recent New Jersey case involving anonymous speech and the posting of pictures of an honor student playing beer pong. Since the Plaintiff couldn’t make a prima facie case of defamation, the anonymous poster was allowed to remain anonymous. Did you know that Evan was also the host of Blawg Review #10?
Speaking of anonymous speech, I was pleased this week to help the EFF in serving as local counsel to file an amicus brief on this topic. To obtain a copy of the brief, please visit the EFF site. Some of you may recall that Blawg Review #93 is in honor of the EFF and its first major case.
The Worms of Arrakis
“Bless the Maker and all His Water. Bless the coming and going of Him, May His passing cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.” – Fremen saying
Ordinary people on Arrakis live in fear of the sandworms, as large ones are about 400 meters and can swallow a spice harvester whole. The Fremen’s ritual weapon is the crysknife, ground from one of their teeth. At the end of the book, Paul uses the worms to implement the most impressive use of a Shock and Awe tactic ever seen in Science Fiction, IMHO. The movie and the miniseries don’t really do a good job of portraying the sheer mind-blowing effect that it has upon the Emperor and his troops to realize that the most powerful and most feared thing on the planet is a mere riding animal to the Fremen.
“I told you,” Alia said. “My brother comes.”
Born into the full consciusness of a Bene Gesserit due to the actions of her mother, Jessica, Alia is never fully sane. She also was never really a child. Jessica may insist that her children are not freaks, but Alia is. The Bene Gesserit may call her the Abomination, but later in life she becomes known as St. Alia of the Knife. She is an important character in Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
Jessica got the job as the Fremen Sayyadina partly because the current Reverend Mother Ramallah didn’t know Jessica was pregnant. Douglas Keene wrote an interesting post on employment discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. I wonder if Jessica would have had a claim?
“God created Arrakis to train the faithful.” – from The Wisdom of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan
“I am a Naib,” Stilgar said, “never to be taken alive. I am a leg of the death tripod that will destroy our foes.”
The leader of a Fremen community, or Sietch, he takes in Paul and Jessica. He serves as a father figure for Paul, and Paul has to find a way to take power without having to call Stilgar out for single combat. It may be the Fremen way, but Paul knows he needs Stilgar to carry out his plans for Arrakis.
I wonder if the Fremen could have learned a better style from Victoria Pynchon, the author of this post on the differences between mens and women’s negotiation styles. Victoria last hosted Blawg Review with #234.
Dr. Wellington Yueh
“Remember the tooth!” – Dr. Yueh
Imagine the Hippocratic Oath taken to the level of mind control, and you will understand why no one would suspect that the Suk conditioned doctor could be the traitor to bring down the Atreides. But, the Harkonnens had his wife. Yueh is quite sure she’s already dead, but he cooperates with them out of a glimmer of hope. Leto’s death is the price Yueh is willing to pay for a chance to kill the Baron Harkonnen…
This week, Jim Calloway posted a link to an article on representing unpopular clients. Think Piter deVries or the Baron Harkonnen deserve adequate representation? How about the Emperor Shaddam IV? The Beast Rabban? How about Yueh?
Medical care in Dune is certainly much better in the cities as opposed to out in the desert. David Harlow wrote this week about his interview with Peter Neumann about the role of cost-effectiveness research in health care policy. Did you know that the HealthBlawg last hosted Blawg Review with #211?
The Spacing Guild
“The Spice must flow.” – Guild Envoy
Dependent utterly on the Spice for their gift of space navigation, the Guild’s navigators have become super-human. They are never seen by ordinary people, as they have become mutated by the Spice. They have become capable of folding space. The Guild controls commerce throughout the galaxy by setting the rates for transportation. As the Guild is dependent upon the Spice, that is the leash that can be used to control them…
One thing spice is used for is to make filmbase. Filmbase is then used by the Atreides Propaganda corps to spread their message about the “Good Duke Leto.”
“We mustn’t run short of filmbase,” the Duke said. “Else, how could we flood village and city with our information? The people must learn how well I govern them. How would we know if we didn’t tell them?”
Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice had three good posts this week about PR and bloggers, on being “edgy,” and the cult of personality around those who are unwilling to say anything “edgy.”
I really liked these parts –
“I’m not going to name names, because my purpose isn’t to attack you but to persuade you to exist. There are blawgers who agree with everyone, wholly divergent positions notwithstanding. There are blawgers whose posts are so tepid, so devoid of substance, so safe, that no one could disagree with them. God forbid they write anything that takes a position, that means something.”
and later in that same post:
“Have some pride in yourself. Stand on your own two feet. If you actually have something to say, have the guts to say it. If you have nothing to say, control the urge to make noise anyway. But if the noise comes out, be lawyer enough to face the challenge.”
As an added bonus, he talks about those monetizing their Twitter streams by sending out paid tweets. I don’t know about you, but $174.38 per tweet isn’t enough to make me risk losing my audience on Twitter. People forget how permanent the Internet really is, tactics like this could really come back to burn someone who later wants to be treated as a professional. Perhaps like a burnt pizza pie.
Speaking of blogging to brand, I liked the article Ron Coleman linked to here. It is a good summary written for non-lawyers about Ron’s brand. Ron last hosted Blawg Review #242.
Count Hasmir Fenring
“Mark him well, Feyd! A killer with the manners of a rabbit – this is the most dangerous kind.” – Baron Harkonnen on Count Fenring
Count this character’s short shrift in the movie and the miniseries to be one of my biggest disappointments in both. Left out of the movie, and reduced to a mere Mentat advisor to the Emperor in the miniseries, in the book Fenring is a most interesting character. He is a failure of the Bene Gesserit breeding program, a genetic Eunuch. His wife did her best to warn Jessica of the upcoming doom from the Harkonnens. He is the one character that Paul cannot see with his prescience, and the one that could have killed Paul if he chose to. He chose not.
Fenring is one person I can see being engaged in the “bias, intimidation and harassment” discussed by Marc Randazza in his post. A 16-year old kid said some hurtful things towards African-Americans over a Wal-Mart PA system, and the police did not just investigate this prank but they also charged this kid with a crime.
“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.” – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.
Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.
Thanks for reading! The photos throughout of the Libyan desert are taken by Luca Galuzzi.