Some Thoughts on Black Panther, from a White Dude


I love this movie. Love. I think it’s probably the best overall film Marvel’s come out with, viewed holistically. I might like a certain action scene or the humor in another movie more BUT, taken as a whole, Black Panther is STRONG. Top three, if not top of the list.

And, I have confirmed, very rewatchable.

I’ve been struggling with what else – if anything – to say about the movie, and honestly trying to decide if I should say anything about it. I love it, and I think it’s great, and I think if you haven’t seen it, and you’re someone in my circles, you probably should, because you’ll like it.

But what else?

I mean, the empowerment and representation in this movie is not mine, and that is an inarguable good, so maybe I should just shut the fuck up about it.

Maybe no one wants to hear that I think Blank Panther also has something important to say to me and other white guys. Maybe I don’t even need to step into the “what Black Panther has to say” conversation at all.

And if you feel that way, I respect that, and you should definitely tune this next bit out.

Because… this movie is about Wakanda, right?

And what’s Wakanda?

Wakanda is, by all accounts (including the exposition in the movie) a pretty blessed country. It has resources and advantages no one else in the world has. It has made advances no one else in the world has, and in fact enjoys benefits no one else in the world even imagines can be.

“You guys have hoverbikes?!?”

It has, in short, all the best stuff.

And, at the start of the movie (and throughout the fictional history of this country) what Wakanda does with these gifts is:

  • use them to protect itself
  • preserve its advantage
  • ensure that everyone else’s problems do not become its problems.

So… basically… white men in the real world.

And without discussing spoilers, I will say this.

The movie demonstrates a healthy, helpful, I think necessary path forward for anyone with those kinds of advantages.

And it’s not more guns.

It’s not war and occupation in every country we don’t agree with.

It’s not continuing the same selfish, inward-focused, personal preservation that has been our go-to move throughout history.

In a time of conflict, fools builds a wall barriers, and the wise build bridges.



Without (I hope) taking anything away from everyone to whom this movie will speak much more fully, much more emotionally, and much more personally, I hope I can say that it also has something to tell a middle-aged white dude.

And I’m going to shut up and take notes, because it’s got a hell of a good point.

The Real Dark Side of Star Wars: Spoilers

[This is a repost of a post I wrote about two years, which has inexplicably disappeared from the site.]

I need to talk about something pretty shitty, but it requires a little background information, first.

Many of you probably already know this background info, but some of you don’t, so I’m filling it in for them; everyone else, please bear with.

I doubt it will surprise anyone to know I’m a long time Star Wars fan boy.

Am I the biggest Star Wars fan boy who’s ever lived? No, most certainly not.

In fact (and this bit will shock the less-super-nerdy out there), there are groups of folks out in the world who, after examining the extent of my exposure to Star Wars “stuff”, would decide quite seriously that I’m not a real Star Wars fan at all, or at least not a serious one.

The funny thing is, it’s hard to even explain this without getting at least somewhat nerdy, but I’m going to try. (In my head, as I write this, I’m talking to my sister, which is how I approach more posts than anyone would imagine.)

Now, a lot of people – most people – who say they like Star Wars mean they like the movies, because that is literally the only Star Wars thing they know about. I’m going to call these folks “mainstream fans.”

Obviously (because as a species, we really can’t leave this kind of shit alone) there is a lot more Star Wars stuff out there – more stuff than you’d readily believe. Games, of course. Comics – fucking walls of comics – and enough novels to fill a library.

Collectively, all the stuff that isn’t the movies has been (until recently) referred to as the Star Wars “Extended Universe” or “EU”. The quality of the stuff varies, and by “varies” I mean some of it is pretty good, and some of it is pants-on-head fucking idiocy that makes Jar Jar Binks look as cool as Chewbacca, by comparison.

How does stuff like that get the official stamp of approval? Pretty simple: George Lucas really likes making money, and people are willing to pay him a whole shit ton of money to play in his backyard, so he lets them write novels with Force-nullifying space-sloths (yes, seriously) and puts the Official Rubber Stamp on it, because (a) he got money and (b) he knew if he ever came out with a movie that contradicted stuff people had written, his version would invalidate all the drek he’d authorized in the past, so who cares?

In general, I don’t follow the EU stuff, and (with the exception of the first Star Wars roleplaying game that anyone licensed) don’t know much about it.

The quick summary: there is miles and miles of EU stuff, set anywhere from 30 thousand years before to several hundred years after the movies ‘mainstream fans’ know; the whole thing is an virtually unchartable hot mess…

And there are fans out there who know every single inch of it. Or most of it. Certainly more of it than I do. I’ll call them super-fans.

Now: I have no beef with those super-fans. None.

Okay so far? Good.

Now: Enter Disney.

A few years ago, Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars intellectual property and announced they were going to start doing stuff with it, and that George Lucas wouldn’t have very much if anything to do with it. (Which, after the prequels, was kind of a relief to hear.)

And Disney took a long look at the Extended Universe stuff and, after some thought, said “Yeah that’s… nice and all… but… yeah. None of that shit is official anymore.”

Basically, they boiled down “Official Star Wars” to the movies, the Clone Wars animated series that ran a few years ago, and whatever stuff they make from here on out (like the totally amazing and fun Star Wars Rebels show, a couple new novels, and of course the new movies coming out).

All that EU stuff? It’s not the “Extended Universe” anymore; it’s “Star Wars Legends” which, honestly, I think is a great name – it implies these are stories about the Star Wars universe (which they are, of course) but just that: stories. Unverifiable. Unverified. Unofficial. Enjoy them if you want – please, by all means – but know them for what they are.

Most – and I do mean most – super-fans were fine with this: they get to keep the stuff they’re into, and they get the biggest pop-culture engine in the world cranking out new Star Wars stuff until the heat-death of the universe finally invalidates Disney’s copyrights.

Some of the super-fans are not happy, and have decided to be unapologetically shitty human beings about the whole thing. I will call this small, vocal-like-a-screaming-howler-monkey subset of super-fans the “spoiler fans,” and here’s why:

These people have decided that it’s not enough that they have this stuff they like. Because Disney has said it’s not official stuff anymore, that somehow makes it impossible to love that stuff as much as they once did – their love is somehow capped by its lack of an official stamp, and this cannot be allowed to stand.

What do they want? This is pretty funny, actually: they don’t just want Disney to go back and say “okay, that stuff is still at least as official as it was when George Lucas was taking your money and planning on invalidating anything he felt like, whenever he felt like it” – they (apparently) want Disney to keep making EU stuff, in addition to the stuff Disney is already making.

“Well, that’s nice,” you might say, “maybe they want a pony, too?”

And yeah, it’s kind of funny, until you realize the internet has allowed shitty people to be shitty on a far greater scale.

See, they’re trying to hold Star Wars hostage to get Disney to do what they want.

How? They have vowed that they will spoil each and every spoil-able moment in the new movie as loudly and as broadly as possible (which, today, is pretty loud and pretty broad), if Disney doesn’t cave.

You’ve probably seen those image memes on Facebook or whatever, asking people not to spoil the movie. I have, and thought “yeah, it would suck to be spoiled ahead of time.”

Because that can happen by accident. Well-meaning, happy, enthusiastic fans can get on the internet and broadcast out to their friends, joyfully exclaiming about all the stuff they loved about the movie, and accidentally spoil something for someone who hasn’t seen it yet, because how have you not seen it yet?!?

This isn’t that. This is not an accidental thing. This is not your friend loving the movie so much he spills something.

This is a guy standing outside the movie theater before The Empire Strikes Back, waiting for the line to form, and then telling every single person in line “Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.”

Except the guy has a megaphone the whole world can hear, if they aren’t careful, and he shouts the message at unexpected times.

I’m telling you about this, because it already happened to me, and I don’t want it to happen to you.

I leaned about this little movement of spoiler-fans via a friend’s post on Google+.

The very first comment to that post was one of these guys, and all he posted was a spoiler, and I am pretty sure he spoiled probably the biggest plot twist in the movie for me.

Now, obviously, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so how do I know?

Let me put it this way: if that guy who came up to you in line at Empire Strikes Back had said, perfectly straight-faced “Darth Vader is Luke’s dad,” would you have believed him?

Maybe you think about it a bit, and it syncs up with everything you know about the movies thus far, and it syncs up with what you’ve seen in the trailers, and it just seems like a very Star Wars-y plot twist.

Maybe you don’t believe it, completely and totally, but you believe it enough that you will sit down in the theater and, basically, spend the whole movie waiting for that moment to come. Or not.

Even if it doesn’t, you will not have enjoyed the movie as much as you might have, because you were distracted. And if it does happen just as that guy said? Well.

That’s the kind of thing this guy posted. One line. Ten words, and there goes my 100% unmitigated enjoyment of the new movie.

Now, shut up: this isn’t about me. Yes, you’re very sorry about this happening. Yes. I love you. Thank you, now shut up for a sec.


These fuckers are out there. They are doing this on purpose. They’re enjoyment of their pile of stuff has been somehow – idiotically – damaged; Disney made their Masters-level knowledge of a made-up universe less important than it already was, so they have decided to shit on every other person who wants to enjoy the new movie, because (apparently) “Fuck anyone who is enjoying themselves, if I am not.”

I don’t care about me. I’ve watched Empire Strikes Back probably thirty times, if not more, and I know – know I will enjoy it when I watch it again, because I’ll be watching it with my kids, and the shine hasn’t come off for them.

Because of that, I know I will enjoy this new movie when I watch it, because I will be watching it with my kids and even if I don’t feel the same sense of surprise and wonder as I might have, they will, and I will still get to feel that, through them.

And I know they will get to feel that, because I’m going to protect them from these… infantile man-children and their shit-spattering temper-tantrum.

Now: why did I write all this? Because I want to try to protect you, too.

When you see spoiler warnings, heed them. Stop thinking of spoilers as “that one little thing my super-happy friend let out after he saw the movie” and start thinking “halitosis-reeking stranger who wants to dip his filthy index finger in my morning coffee.”

From here until you see the movies, absolutely avoid comment sections on any Star Wars-related post on any kind of social media.

Just… for a few days, expect people you don’t know to be kind of shitty for no good reason.

I realize that’s kind of a downer message, but seriously: I want you to enjoy the movie.

And also, yeah: I want those petty fuckers to lose, because fuck them.

(Comments on this post are disabled, for obvious reasons.)

Another way to (safely) view the eclipse: Waffle Fingers!

Just cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. Then, with your back to the Sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground. During the partial phases of the solar eclipse, these images will reveal the Sun's crescent shape, as shown in the accompanying photo.

This is not New

The first time the president’s name appeared on the front page of the New York Times was more than 40 years ago. “Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City,” read the headline of the A1 piece on Oct. 16, 1973, which pointed out how Richard Nixon’s Department of Justice had sued the Trump family’s real estate company in federal court over alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.

Over the next four decades: he was accused of ordering “all the black employees off the floor” of his Atlantic City casinos during his visits; claimed “laziness is a trait in blacks” and “not anything they can control”; requested Jews “in yarmulkes” replace his black accountants; told Bryan Gumbel that “a well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market”; demanded the death penalty for a group of black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a jogger in Central Park (and, despite their later exoneration with the use of DNA evidence, has continued to insist they are guilty); suggested a Native American tribe “don’t look like Indians to me”; mocked Chinese and Japanese trade negotiators by doing an impression of them in broken English; described undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists”; compared Syrian refugees to “snakes”; defended two supporters who assaulted a homeless Latino man as “very passionate” people “who love this country”; pledged to ban a quarter of humanity from entering the United States; proposed a database to track American Muslims that he himself refused to distinguish from the Nazi registration of German Jews; implied Jewish donors “want to control” politicians and are all sly negotiators; heaped praise on the “amazing reputation” of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has blamed America’s problems on a “Jewish mafia”; referred to a black supporter at a campaign rally as “my African-American”; suggested the grieving Muslim mother of a slain U.S. army officer “maybe … wasn’t allowed” to speak in public about her son; accused an American-born Hispanic judge of being “a Mexican“; retweeted anti-Semitic and anti-black memes, white supremacists, and even a quote from Benito Mussolini; kept a book of Hitler’s collected speeches next to his bed; declined to condemn both David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan; and spent five years leading a “birther” movement that was bent on smearing and delegitimizing the first black president of the United States, who Trump also accused of being the founder of ISIS.

This is not news.

The news is, we’re letting him run the country.

On Punching Nazis, Part Three

Maybe you don't want to punch Nazis because you don't want to punch anybody, but you want to do SOMETHING. That's fair. (I don't want to punch anyone either, though I've decided I will make an exception in the case of Nazis, but that is my choice, not yours.)

Maybe you wouldn't mind punching Nazis, and there are no Nazis around to punch, but you feel you must to do something. Also fair.

Here's what you do.

Love somebody who needs it right now.

Talk to the brown-skinned guy with the accent who, like you, is standing in the Home Depot, waiting to see if the employee can find any eclipse-rated welding goggle lenses in inventory.

Tell your black or jewish coworkers how sorry and frustrated and goddamn ANGRY you are that this country has allowed this poison for so long, pretending it wasn't there.

They will know what you mean. They've always known. We're the ones who've just figured it out, and shame on us.

Find your lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer friends and ask them what they need. (Don't ask how you can help – don't make them do the mental labor of finding a place for self-important YOU in their trouble – ask them what they NEED and fit yourself to that.)

If you don't have such friends, get out in the world and fucking FIX that.

Love someone who needs it right now.

Love someone who needs it, right now.

Someone who isn't like you.

Someone Other.

There are a lot of them, and they need it right now.

WE need it right now.

If you need to do something. Do that.

Happy 4th

“[They] agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything.”

— Joseph Heller, Catch-22


You're Already Outnumbered

My kids are alike in many ways, but they are definitely individuals in ways I've tried to articulate in the past.

Yesterday, they gave me a single story that illustrates each of them, perfectly.

We had to drop off Kaylee at camp, and after the paperwork and unpacking in the cabin, everyone was supposed to assemble at 'the field' to say goodbyes and play games.

So we went down there, and see about forty kids milling around, visiting, et cetera. There's a makeshift kickball field, and a couple boys about a year younger than Kaylee, kicking a soccer ball back and forth.

Sean goes over near them, and is watching intently.

One of the kids notices this, and veers off his direction, letting the soccer ball roll over near the edge of the field by the trees and long grass.

"Do you want a ball too?" he asks Sean, extending a old, dirty, yellow rubber ball. "You can have this one. Do you want it?"

He keeps offering it, and asking, over and over, until Sean finally shrugs and reaches for it.

At which point the kid chucks it backwards over his own shoulder and has a good laugh with his buddy.

And here are my kids:

Sean frowns at the kid, shrugs as if to say "whatever man, I don't even know you, and that ball was gross anyway" and stalks off to do something else.

Kaylee, who'd been standing next to me, takes a couple steps forward and starts in. "Really?!? You're starting off a week of camp, WITH ME, and the first thing you do is pick on my little brother? THAT seemed like a good idea? Really?!?"

And the boy backs off and rejoins his friend. They both realize they don't have the soccer ball anymore. It's over at the edge of the field.

Actually, while all this was going on, Zoe went over and picked it up, and she's standing right where it had rolled.

They walk over, bending over and talking in that "charm little kids" high voice.

"Hiiiii. Can we have that? Can you give that to us?" They pause. "Do you want to kick it to us?"

Zoe looks at the ball, extends it out toward them…

… and CHUCKS it back over her shoulder, into the trees and long grass.

Then walks away, without even looking at them.

So… my kids, in summary:

– Indifference
– Drama


In Album 6/26/17