Sunday February 25, 2018
Book 18: Mandatory Failure — Part I

Black Panther

(NOTE: This review is a bit late, yes. My bad. I’ve been super busy.)

I saw Black Panther on Friday afternoon during its opening weekend, and while I really enjoyed it, I must acknowledge that my experience in the theater was different from the experience of a great many movie goers whose skin color is different from mine.

I identified most with Martin Freeman’s character, and loved the way he responded to being an alien in a world he didn’t know existed. Other viewers will likely identify more closely with Chadwick Boseman’s character, or Lupita Nyong’o’s, or Letitia Wright’s. I loved all the characters, but I don’t see myself in all of them, at least not to the same degree.

This strongly supports my belief that the stories we tell should reflect the diversity of us humans. It matters. 

To my eye, the film’s biggest weakness is the plot device it has in common with several Marvel films of the past decade: Iron Man fights a bigger, badder Iron Man. Ant Man fights a bigger¹, badder Ant Man. Hulk vs a bigger-badder Hulk. Doctor Strange vs. a bigger-badder wizard.

In short, Hero fights Villain who has the same suite of abilities as Hero, but is better equipped to use them.

It’s not a bad formula, but it’s gotten predictable. Fortunately, Black Panther had plenty of non-mirror conflicts going on, and the formulaic one, Black Panther vs Killmonger, served really well as a climactic statement of the movie’s central theme. Of the MCU² films using this device, I think Black Panther gets the most out of it.

Black Panther was great, and I look forward to adding the Blu-Ray to my collection for repeated viewings. It was also the first film I saw this year, so it takes my “most fun I’ve had in the theater this year” slot by default, which is a much lower bar than the film deserves to clear.

¹ Yes, both of them were pretty small, but the yellow one was still bigger. Also, weaponized.
² I’m looking forward to
Avengers: Infinity War, but what I really want now is the Shuri/Valkyrie/Gamora team-up.³
³ Directed by Patty Jenkins, obviously.


Find Sandra and Also Me at LTUE This Weekend

Sandra and I are participating at LTUE in Provo, Utah this weekend. This is our home town show, and we’re going to have a table in the dealers’ room. New items beneath the Schlock Mercenary shingle at this show include Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries and the Planet Mercenary RPG

Here are our schedules:



11:00 am, Cascade A (UVCC¹): Structuring Life to Support Creativity
5:00 pm, Canyon: Collaboration and Coauthors


1:00pm, Elm: Fashion and Clothing Through the Ages
4:00pm, Maple: Normal Child Development


9:00am, Arches: Balancing Platform and Artistry
10:00am, Ampitheater: How to Run a Killer Game Kickstarter²
12:00pm, Canyon: Working With a Freelance Editor



2:00 pm, Canyon: Mythical Anatomy 101


9:00 am, Canyon: Write What You Know (m)
12:00 pm, Elm: Emergent Narrative³


9:00 am, Cascade C (UVCC¹): Finding Your Audience
12:00 pm, Birch: Designing Spaceworthy Ships (m)
4:00 pm, Arches: A Serious Look at Comedy⁴

The full version of the LTUE schedule is available either as an interactive, mobile-friendly-I-hope page, or as a giant PDF grid.

¹ Unless otherwise noted by “(UVCC)”, all of the events listed here are being held in the Marriott Hotel’s banquet halls.  The Utah Valley Convention Center is across the street to the north
² Alan Bahr and Sandra Tayler have raised, between the two of them, close to a million dollars on Kickstarter.
³ This will be my first opportunity to be on a panel with Myke Cole. SQUEEE!
 Todd Gallowglas, a professional storyteller with mad crowd-control chops, and who has schooled Howard pretty effectively in past will be moderating. We have it on good authority that Howard has promised to “be good this time.”



The Illuminated Plasgun

I had an epiphany several weeks ago, a vision of sorts in which I could see very clearly what kind of lighting I needed on my drawing table. This led (hah!) to an investigation of LED strips, which in turn yielded better lighting in my office.

And then I turned my attention to the replica BH-209i plasgun that Doc made for me. The hardest part was threading two-conductor wire through it.

I may upgrade it with a warmer¹ set of LEDs, or perhaps some colored ones², but for now it’s just fine. Doc, thanks again for the gift that I didn’t know I needed until it arrived!

¹ I used a double-wide strip of 5000k LEDs, giving an almost blue-white color (described as “cool white.”) . Warmer would be 3000k, like this roll I just started playing with.

² Color-changing LEDs would require threading a 5-conductor wire through the plasgun, rather than the simple two-conductor speaker wire I used for this. Cycling between yellow and red-orange would be nifty, but I think I’d have to design my own strand for that.