9.23.2020

Dune ... by David Lynch!

 


    Some thoughts from Godfrey this Wednesday afternoon ...

    I'm sure most readers are aware of the release, last week, of the first trailer's for Denis Villeneuve's new adaptation of the classic science fiction novel DUNE, which will be released in December. This got me thinking about the 1984 adaptation by David Lynch and I wanted to share some of those with you.

    Lynch's adaptation is largely hated and apparently even the director himself was unhappy with how it turned out, saying it's the only film he made that he's not proud of. It was one of my favourite films growing up, however, and I can't count how many times I watched it.

    It's far from perfect, but there has always been a lot I liked about it. Maybe in part because I saw the movie before reading the novel, I was able to take it completely on its own without comparison to the book. The thing I loved most were the sets, costumes, and overall atmosphere that Lynch created. He did an excellent job of creating a fully immersive film and portraying the uncomfortable themes (including the Byzantine politics) and even some of the weird mythical stuff very well. I personally loved the baroque/Art Deco styling. The visuals and cinematography were epic and gorgeous really giving a feel for the planet Arrakis and the massiveness of the whole universe Herbert created.

    I was actually rather underwhelmed when I finally read the novels and for a long time preferred the Lynch adaptation to the original material. I have come to enjoy each in its own way. I certainly think that Lynch's Dune is NOT worthy of the scorn that is heaped upon it.

    The cast was, for the most part, superbly cast and delivered great performances. I know that Kyle McLaughlan is hated as Paul Atreides, the main protagonist but I never had a problem with him. Maybe he wasn't the most inspiring leader type, but he's also supposed to be a 15 year old boy (albeit Kyle was more like mid-20s). Patrick Stewart and Jurgen Protchnow were absolutely epic in the film and I don't know how a guy I've never heard of and Poe Dameron can replace them, but we'll see!

    Just in case you missed it, there's the trailer I mentioned:



9.18.2020

SHORT STORY: UNDEAD NORTH, PART 2 of 3

By Godfrey Blackwell 


    “Are you frigging kidding me?” Alex, one of my fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows chapel, where we both attended the Latin Mass, screamed at me over the phone. “You know, I told you that you shouldn’t watch that garbage. But this is taking it way too…”

    “Alex, come on,” I said. “You know me. I’m not crazy. I’m telling you what I saw. Tell me you haven’t been hearing weird stuff about this latest pandemic anyway.”

    “Oh who knows man, the mainstream media isn’t saying anything and the internet is the internet. Look, I’m not debating this with you. If my advice to a client to keep his mouth shut was ever important, I’m telling you now to keep your mouth completely shut! Don’t spew any of this zombie nonsense to the police!”

    “Yeah ok, I won’t but —“

    “No buts, keep your mouth shut. This is bad enough. I can already see the headlines: WHITE SUPREMACIST/CATHOLIC EXTREMIST GUNS DOWN SYRIAN IMMIGRANT.  Look, I’ll be down for bail court in the morning. Until then you just keep your mouth shut.”

    “Alright. You talked to Nadejda?”

    “Yes, she’s squared away. Look … I’ve got to go, but I know one of my longtime clients, a guy named Namestnikov got arrested this evening too. You’ll be sharing cells with him. Tell him you know me and he’ll look out for you. I know this isn’t your normal scene.”

    I was a history professor at the Avon campus of Conestoga College. It absolutely was not my normal scene. It all started hitting me for real, as I mumbled a thanks and hung up the phone. The nervous-looking special constable hustled me out of the search room with the phone and down the hall into one of the row of holding cells attached to the Avon Police Service headquarters on the ground floor of the Avon Courthouse.

    He left without a word. There was only one row of cells, all next to each other, so I could not see how many of the others were occupied.

    “Yo, nice to have some company,” a voice with a heavy Ukrainian accent said.

    “Uh … I take it you’re Namestnikov.”

    “Hey, how’d you know?”

    “I guess we both have the same lawyer. Alex Velasquez is actually a pretty good friend.”

    “Yo, respect,” a huge fist came out from the next cell. I reluctantly gave it a fist bump. “You can call me Namest. What you in for, bro?”

    “Uhhh … it’s a long story.”

    “You’re not in here for doing something to a kid are you?”

    “No! Good grief no … I … oh, hell, I shot a guy. At least, I think it was a guy. It was …”

    “You shoot a zombie?”

    “What makes you ...?”

    Namestnikov chuckled. “You Canadians man, if the TV don’t say it real, you don’t believe it. I read the real news online. I know. I seen enough govno.”

    “Well, if zombies are real then that’s what I shot,” I said. “It was my neighbour’s body, but he was walking all weird, just making growling sounds like an animal. And those eyes … I shot him five times before he went down.”

    “Last one in the head, right?”

    “Yeah …”



***




    No one came to take us to bail court the next morning. By about noon on the clock in the hallway outside the cell block, we still hadn’t seen anyone and Namest started banging on the cells and shouting to let us out. At about seven in the evening, we heard what we thought were gunshots, lots of them, in the main area of the police station but we could see nothing as our view was blocked by the concrete walls separating us from the hall that led to the search rooms, let alone the other concrete wall separating that from the main station, all with locked steel doors.

    Through it all, the fluorescent lights hummed and cast the same bluish-white hue commingling night with day. By ten the next morning I admitted to Namest that not only had I been drinking from the toilet bowl in my cell I was getting really concerned.

    “Zombies, bro,” Namest said. “We gotta get out of here. Can you see anything?”

    My cell was the first in the row of holding cells and I could see through the doorway into the hallway that led down into the main police offices.

    “I can see the locker where the guard put the cell key,” I said. “But it’s a good fifteen feet away. No way could I reach that.”

    I looked around my cell for the thousandth time. There was just the concrete floor, the concrete slab that was supposed to be a “bed” and the stainless steel toilet. I had the rough blanket they’d given me, which was maybe six feet long.

    “Namest, you’ve got a blanket, right?”

    Tak.”

    “What about the cell next to you? Is there one in there? Can you reach it?”

    There was, and I was able to tie the three blankets together. I tried flipping them at the locker holding the keys like a long whip. The blankets heavy and it was unweildy, but I kept at it, whipping the long chain up and down repeatedly. It was impossible to have any accuracy. I finally sat down hard, sweating and out of breath.

    After resting a bit, I tried at it again. Then I froze as there was a loud bang from down the hall.

    Kurva!” Namest shouted. “What that, bro?”

    There was another metallic KLANG!

    “It sounds like it’s coming from that door just across from us.”

    There was another crash and this time I saw the door shudder.

    “That goes up to courtrooms,” Namest said.

    Oh man, here it comes, I thought to myself. I retreated as far back in my cell as I could get as visions of Mohhamed’s blank eyes and that iron grip flashed through my mind. I crossed myself and prayed. There was nothing else I could do … when zombies poured through that door we’d have no way to fight them, but they also wouldn’t be able to reach us.

    The door flew open with a boom like a gun shot and I jumped. But instead of a ravenous zombie, my friend Alex Velasquez burst through.

    “Alex!” I gasped with relief. “What are you doing here?”

    “Saving your sorry butt,” he smiled. “Plus I was hoping to find some living cops, or at least some of those AR-15s our benevolent overlords decided 'have no place in civilized society' … since we’re no longer in civilized society!”

    He retrieved the keys from the locker I’d been trying to open with the blankets and as he released us from our cells explained that the night I’d been arrested there were riots and mass panic throughout Southern Ontario. By the morning, no justice of the peace or judge could be found to run court and every officer who actually showed up for work was trying to keep zombies and chaos at bay. By the afternoon it was complete societal collapse.

    “I just decided to hunker down in my office and wait for the worst to die down,” he said. “But darn it if you weren’t right, it really is the zombie apocalypse!”

    “You sound almost cheerful about it,” I said.

    Alex shrugged. “What am I gonna do, be all Eyeore like you about it?” He winked. “I won’t lie, it’s been pretty intense out there. And I’m starved. Let’s see if we can get some guns, then scare up some food.”

    With the fire axe Alex had used to get the first door open, we smashed our way through into the main area of the police station. It was a mess of overturned tables, smashed chairs, and blood. We found no bodies, but we found a couple of C-8 patrol carbines and a few magazines.

    “Well, at least police could be trusted with thirty rounds” I said, checking the load on my weapon. “Although I’d still like another half dozen mags each. We need one more for Namest though.”

    “Nah, I okay with these,” the Ukrainian said, holding his massive fists up in a boxing pose. “I won a bronze for Canada with these in Beijing. And I never touched a popgun.”

    “I don’t know if getting close to those things is a good idea,” I said. “But we’ve wasted enough time in here. We need to hit the road. I need to get home.”

9.11.2020

SHORT STORY: UNDEAD NORTH, PART 1 of 3

 


By Godfrey Blackwell


    The sun had just started to touch the trees along the ridge across from my house in the hamlet of Falstaff just outside Avon, Ontario, giving a slightly subdued hue to the fading light, as I drove up the long drive. I was returning home from my last visit to the range before it closed indefinitely under the latest emergency medical order. I didn’t bother trying to suppress a sigh as I pulled in front of the house.

    After the “COVID-19” lockdowns, I’d just started getting back to the range regularly this summer. As I put the Jeep in park, my phone buzzed. Probably my buddy Mike in Florida; we’d been exchanging texts between magazines while I was at the range. He was convinced that this was something a lot more serious than another COVID pandemic.

    I pulled the key out of the ignition and took my phone out of the cup holder.



Paul, things are getting real sporty, real fast down here.

My buddy Chris who works at Memorial Hospital in Tampa just texted me. There’s riots there that make the BLM stuff look like nothing.

I’m heading home early. This is bad.

Stay safe and God bless.


    By brow creased. Mike tended to be a bit pessimistic, but this really did sound bad. I started punching in a reply wishing him well when a scream tore the air, making my head snap up. I jumped out of the Jeep with my head on a swivel trying to locate the sound. It was so quiet in our village this time of day that with the trees and the ridge, sounds tended to echo.

    I heard the scream again — definitely a woman’s voice. Down the hill that led up to our house and across the road, I saw movement in the large garden beside our neighbour’s house one down from us. Khatol, easily recognizable from a couple hundred yards away in her black burqa (she was the only person in our rural village of 100 who wore the traditional Muslim garb) all but flew from around the back of the place she shared with her husband Mohammed. In her panicked sprint, she tripped on the hem of her burqa and sprawled face-first into a bed of petunias.

    I glanced back at my own place and saw Nadejda peering out of the living room window. I gestured for her to stay inside. I started down the driveway then stopped midstride as another shape emerged from behind the brown house across from us. It looked like Mohammed, at least his size, but the guy moved with a slow shuffling gait that looked nothing like Mohammed. Khatol shrieked again and scrabbled up out of the petunias and half crawled, half ran deeper into the garden.
    
    I’m still not sure why, but something deep inside told me — no, screamed at me — to arm myself. Something primal told me that there was something very very wrong with this situation and not only Khatol, but I, was in grave danger. I reached into the open back of my jeep and with a quick turn of another key on the keychain still in my hand, opened my gun case and pulled out my Bushmaster ACR and a magazine. I slung the rifle, and as I trotted down my dirt drive I loaded the magazine. It was a legal mag, of course, so five rounds in it was “full” and I left the remaining bullets in the cardboard box in my coat pocket.

    The saliva in my mouth dried up and I could feel my hackles rise and I closed the distance. Khatol tripped over a raised flower bed and again thrashed around as the inexorable shape pursuing her moved silently along. Khatol was now jabbering in Arabic.

    “Hey, what’s going on?” I shouted, not sure whether I was addressing Khatol or her pursuer.

    When I was within twenty yards, I recognized that, despite the bizarre gait, it was indeed Mohammed. He was beyond pail; his skin had a grey hue, and his eyes stared with a vacancy that chilled me to my soul. Unwittingly, I crossed myself.

    “Mohammed, what on earth?”

    I was within five yards when Mohammed lunged forward and grabbed Khatol, who shrieked louder than ever. I rushed the last distance and shoved Mohammed back. He staggered and fell over another of the raised planters. Khatol took the opportunity to regain her feet and sprint down the slope to the road.

    I stayed between her and Mohammed, who slowly got up and uttered a low, inhuman growl. I noticed for the first time that the white undershirt he wore was stained red on the left side around the kidney area.

    “Mohammed?” I asked, yet I felt I was not talking to my neighbour.

    He came at me with sudden and surprising speed, and tried to grab me and snapped at me like an animal. I was barely able to step back quick enough to avoid the grab and the bite but now it was my turn to stumble over one of the flower beds. I rolled back and kicked at Mohammed as he continued to grab at me. He got a hold of one ankle and his grip was like iron far beyond what a man on permanent O.D.S.P. should be capable of. I kicked again and again but he wouldn’t let go. I kicked him in the face a good three or four times, and even though blood poured down from his nose and mouth and broken teeth bounced into the foliage he continued his attack, growling and muttering.

    My heart was pounding, and in desperation I chambered a round.

    “Mohammed for God’s sake, stop!” I shouted. “What are you doing?”

    He grabbed me with another hand and I gasped in pain as the fingers bit onto my calf. With both legs now in his terrible grip, I had no choice.

    The rifle roared impossibly loud. I thought that, despite the point-blank range, I had somehow missed as he didn’t so much as flinch. I fired again. The second shot tore out part of his shoulder and his grip faltered and he tumbled off down the hill.

    There were more screams now — Khatol yelling in rapid-fire Arabic, and other voices as neighbours had been drawn by the commotion and the gun fire. I got to my feet and rapidly backed away from Mohammed who was again getting up. Khatol had apparently stopped her retreat as I saw she was just a dozen paces or so off behind me. Mohammed lurched forward.

    “Khatol, get out of here!” I shouted.

    I backed off until I bumped into her. She was crying and talking — to Mohammed maybe, or maybe she was trying to tell me not to shoot her husband again. But he kept coming. I pushed her and told her to run, but now she would not.

    Mohammed raised his arms and opened his mouth with a savage rasp. The ACR roared twice more. He staggered slightly at the impact of the rounds. His torso was covered in blood, yet still he came. I had only one round left. I adjusted my aim up and fired. I had the briefest image of the round striking him between the eyes then he fell backwards and crashed to the ground, and moved no more.

    Khatol shrieked and ran forward to kneel beside her dead husband. I looked up and saw another neighbour, Mandy, starting at me wish shock and rage.

    “You murdered him! What’s wrong with you?”

    By that point, I had decided that whatever I had killed, it wasn’t Mohammed. That wasn’t just a bad drug trip or psychiatric episode. Drugs don’t let a man keep walking after he’s received four mortal wounds from a rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO.

    All the same, I felt sick. I ran not from Mandy’s accusations, but so I could vomit on my own property and not near the grieving Khatol. By the time I was done retching, Nadejda had made it to the end of the driveway.

    I remembered Mike’s texts. Disease, lockdown, riots … a real pandemic this time. Good grief I thought, you can’t be serious. Zombie apocalypse? I’d watched the TV series and movies, I always enjoyed the genre. But this couldn’t seriously be what I just saw, could it? But if there was even a small chance …

    “Najedja,” I grabbed my wife by the shoulders. “This might be even worse than it looks.”

    “What, how could it be worse?” She said.

    “Just … call Alex, and you get the kids inside and lock all the doors. Don’t open the door for anyone. You make them come with a warrant and a cutting torch but do not give up any of the guns if they want them. We’re going to need them.”

    As it turned out, it took the police almost three hours to show up. When they charged at me, guns raised, I was already on my knees with my hands behind my head, and the ACR unloaded with the chamber locked open on the grass in front of me.

9.09.2020

Was Galileo Wrong?


Now here's a topic that gets very little attention and is considered "proven" even moreso than evolution and a billions of years old earth. We have the Protestants to thank for keeping the candle burning on Creationism and for giving it a certain credibility, after Catholics totally abandoned the defence of Creationism over the last 40 years. But since the Protestants have ignored Geocentrism, there's been really no one to defend it, and hence no real discussion.

We freely admit we've not studied this question in any detail at all and therefore are not writing this to contradict the heliocentric model of the solar system. It's the accepted model and until convinced otherwise, we accept it. However, the possibility of Geocentrism does offer fascinating possibilities for the science fiction writer.

Most write-off the question as irrelevant if they are not castigating proponents of Geocentrism as "retards" (this generally unacceptable-in-polite-company words seems to make a resurgence in these debates). But if we try to cut through all that garbage, it seems that there is a theological relevance. We also don't think it's completely cracked, since the observation of motion is always relative (think of how the moon appears to follow you as you drive, or how when on a train the landscape appears to move). Also, in something as massive as the universe, how can anyone say what is, or isn't "the centre" (if we take Geocentrism to mean simply that the earth is centre of the universe, not necessarily that the Ptolemaic model of the solar system is accurate). Until recently the Church seems to have used its teaching authority to hold to Geocentrism -- and no Catholic (and even non-Catholic) can easily ignore the teaching authority of the Church. Not even in science, for the Church has never been some backwards luddite/anti-science institution, but rather quite the opposite (see chapter 5 of How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Dr. Thomas E. Woods, Jr. for a good exposition on this; although we don't endorse the entire work and believe  chapter 8 -- on economics -- is totally off-base)

On a more practical level, look up into the clear night sky (you may have to get out of the city to do this) and consider the Earth fixed and unmoving at the centre of creation with the universe in rotation around it.  Then, with your eyes still on the sky, imagine we are on a small rock hurtling through space in some backwater galaxy in an infinitely expanding void. You may soon realise why this is no longer an insignificant question.

But as writers,  it makes for some interesting ideas. Perhaps given the universal acceptance of heliocentrism one would have to do it in a steampunk  or alternate history/space fantasy setting. It seems  that all the celestial bodies would have to be a lot closer to earth than we thought, making it a lot easier/faster to get to at least the other planets in the solar system. We don't know enough about Geocentric theory to know whether extrasolar planets are possible under that model. But if they are, then certainly they'd be much closer as well -- making interstellar travel a whole lot cheaper and easier even without faster-than-light technology.

9.04.2020

SHORT STORY: LAST STAND AT PATRICIA BEACH

By Albert Blackwell (August 2020, age 14)

    Colonel (Ret'd) Shawn Anchor scanned the area before him. It didn’t take him long to spot them, the Barbarians known as The Sons of Chaos.

    It was only a month ago when the EMP had gone off over Canada, as well as USA, and parts of Alaska. In only a few days anarchy had taken hold of the country and a few weeks later barbarians, like the sons of Chaos, were going around the country, burning, looting, and murdering as they went.

       Colonel Anchor was at his cottage in Patricia beach when the EMP had went off. Since he had served in the Canadian army the people in the area had made him their leader. As if finding food and trying to survive wasn’t hard enough, now he had defend the area from the Sons of Chaos.

    Luckily the Colonel wasn’t alone in organising a defence. In the area lived a man named James Wiener who was a huge firearms person. Over the years several firearms in Canada were outlawed, but that didn’t stop him from keeping his rifles. When Anchor found out about Wiener’s stash of illegally owned firearms he would have reported it, but there is no government in this scenario, so instead of scolding Wiener was grateful he had them, and as The Sons of Chaos came Wiener agreed to distribute the weapons he had to the people. As an extra benefit chemist named Alfred Fox, who’s main interest was in explosives, was able to make several grenades out of tin cans, as well as a homemade Bazooka.

    Patricia beach was quit defensible itself as there was a bottle neck right at the entrance, and dense forest on both sides and on most of the roads leading to the cottages making flank attacks difficult. At the bottle neck cars were moved into place to stop anyone from getting through, and armed people on both sides.

    Colonel Anchor had his HQ set at a distance so he could watch the battle better while Wiener was at the front.

    The Sons of Chaos began their attack with a large charge spearheaded by a few old trucks. The Sons of Chaos smashed into the car barricades halting their charge while on both sides civilians opened up on them with AR-15s. The Sons of Chaos fought back with firearms they had taken from police they’ve killed, however being in the open and suffering heavy casualties the Sons of Chaos withdrew, but quickly regrouped and charged again. This time they had men move through the forest and had an old snowplow at the head of the charge witch started to push the cars out of the way. However it was destroyed by the custom bazooka. Unfortunately this was only a minor setback for the Sons of Chaos who continued to attack with doubled ferocity and superior numbers and pushed Anchor’s men back.

    As the Sons of Chaos came pouring in, they started to run into ambushes hidden in the forest and the custom mines. The fight continued for an hour like this before the Sons of Chaos started to reach their assailants positions, vicious had to hand combat ensued in which the Sons of Chaos seemed to gain the upper hand.

    Once again Colonel Anchor ordered a retreat to their final line of defence. However the Sons of Chaos were almost spent and were massacred by the booby traps laid by Fox and retreated and were never seen again leaving behind dozens of dead and many weapons.

    Despite their own losses the people led by Colonel Anchor claimed the victory, and Patricia beach was saved.

9.02.2020

Book Review: A Knight of the White Cross

Review by Godfrey Blackwell


Title: A Knight of the White Cross : A tale of the siege of Rhodes 
Author: G.A. Henty
Publisher: Lost Classic Books
Godfrey's Rating: 3.5 stars our of 5
Summary in a Sentence: An excellent book for young boys which follows the exploits of Gervaise Tresham, a fine role-model and young knight of the Order of St. John at the time of the First Siege of Rhodes (1480); available for free in Amazon Kindle

G.A. Henty wrote a whole slew of books for young boys starting in 1868. I read this book (a) because the Kindle version is free, (b) because my grandfather, a man of good character, grew up with these books, and (c) they are part of Angelicum Academy's Good Books programme which I intend to "indoctrinate" my children with. I found it, on the whole, to be a very good adventure book for young boys (Angelicum has it in the Grade 4 curriculum).

It tells the tale of Gervaise Tresham, son of an honourable knight on the losing side of the War of the Roses. Gervaise's father had promised the Lord God that if he had a son he would pledge him to the Order of St. John, and when his father is beheaded after the Battle of Tewskbury, Gervaise follows his father's wishes and joins the Knights and travels to Rhodes (as an aside, Sir Thomas Tresham was a real historical figure, but his son Gervaise is fictional -- Sir Thomas' real son was John and he did not join the Hospitallers). Once at Rhodes, in true Henty fashion, Gervaise embarks on a series of fantastic adventures, all of which he weathers with courage, humility, and grace.

The best part about this and the other Henty books I've read, is the most excellent example set by the main protagonist. One might argue that the protagonists are too perfect, and too similar (indeed, Gervaise Tresham is basically the same character as Rupert Holiday from The Cornet of Horse) -- but, I think for young boys' fiction this is a good thing. And Gervaise is possessed of, in good measure, all the major virtues: fortitude, temperence, chastity, prudence, justice (and his adventures give him opportunity to rely on these virtues in equal measure). The adventures Gervaise takes part in are fast-paced, varied, and sure to capture the imagination of young readers. I recommend this work almost without reservation to parents with sons.

I say almost without reservation, because some of Henty's Protestantism does show through. Although he's no anti-Catholic bigot like Sir Walter Scott, some conversations during the book between the knights about their vow of chastity belies a complete lack of understanding of the virtue of continence or of such vows. In the end, Sir Gervaise is released from his vows by the pope so that he may marry a wealthy heiress. But it is not egregious and a little bit of discussion will easily nullify this shortcoming of the work.



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