Trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The first official trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has now been out for a few weeks:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

OMG, what a different choice of music for the trailer—at first just a neat, atypical choice, then getting more and more sinister when juxtaposed with the imagery. Brr!

The underwater events and Mesoamericans scenes completely took me by surprise. (Seems surprisingly similar to the Avatar sequel about to be released this year, doesn’t it, or am I the only one to make the connection?) Looks awesome, though, and has so much potential for very inventive storytelling.

On the other hand, the tribute to Chadwick Boseman I did expect—or would’ve been surprised to see omitted. RIP; the world lost a huge talent.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler did such a fantastic job with the first Black Panther that I’ve no doubt that this sequel will be amazing. (Finally, FINALLY, there are A LOT of serious, powerful, purposeful roles for women!) I can’t wait!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Quotes: The Things We Have Had on Our Minds During the Day

People have long been fascinated by dreams and seen them as potential sources of meaning and insight. While today we focus on dreams as potential windows into our unconscious minds, ancient peoples often thought of dreams as a potential channel to the supernatural. Ancient Greeks produced complex manuals for interpreting the symbolism of dream images as a way of understanding the gods and predicting the future.

In that context, it is interesting to see evidence for a more rational, grounded approach to dreams. This passage comes from Herodotus’ account of how King Xerxes of Persia decided to invade Greece. After debating the merits of the proposed campaign with his court and deciding against it, Xerxes repeatedly dreamt of a shadowy figure that demanded he carry on with the attack. When Xerxes brought up this dream to his uncle Artabanus, Artabanus offered a level-headed interpretation:

Now when you have come around to a better way of thinking, you say that although you have decided to abandon the expedition against Greece, you are visited by a dream from some god forbidding you from giving up on the plan. But there is nothing divine in this, my boy. I have many years on you, so I’ll teach you what recurring dreams like this are about: the things we see in our dreams are usually the things we have had on our minds during the day, and in recent days we have been concentrating on this campaign.

Herodotus, Histories 7.16b

(My own translation)

Now, in Herodotus’ narrative, it turns out that Artabanus was wrong and Xerxes really was being visited by some divine force prompting him to carry on with the invasion plan, but the fact that Herodotus could put that argument into Artabanus’ voice tells us that the idea was part of the contemporary conversation in the Greek world. Indeed, Artabanus generally figures in Herodotus’ work as a wise and perceptive counselor whose advice Xerxes would have done well to heed. Giving this argument to Artabanus gives it a significant weight as an idea, even in a cultural context where people were inclined to see dreams as messages from the gods.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Teaser Trailer for Andor, a New Star Wars Series

Apart from Obi-Wan, another Star Wars series I might want to see is Andor. Here’s the first teaser:

Andor | Teaser Trailer | Disney+ by Star Wars on YouTube

And the second trailer:

Andor | Official Trailer | Disney+ by Star Wars on YouTube

There’s also what’s apparently not called a trailer but a sizzle reel for Andor from 2020 with some fascinating concept art and behind the scenes glimpses.

The first thing to really grab me was the birch tree in the first trailer (around the 20- to 30-second mark). I love birches despite their evil, evil pollen, but they’re rarely depicted in SFFnal screen adaptations. Now, though, birches are canonical in Star Wars. Woot!

Another thing of note is how different the two trailers are—I’d say the first mostly introduces a mood for the series, while the second starts rolling in the various characters almost at a breakneck speed.

I also loved that Mon Mothma seems to get a much larger role than in previous stories. Plus, Fiona Shaw! Shaw’s a superb actor (whom I know from Killing Eve, a screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion from 1995, and as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies) but, sadly, at this point Shaw is credited only for one episode in IMDB. Boo!

Add to all that more of Diego Luna and Stellan Skarsgård (seen in Dune, Chernobyl, the Thor franchise, and many others) plus the astounding set-building, propping, and costuming we’re sure to get in any Star Wars project, and I’m strongly considering a Disney+ subscription.

Andor will release on August 31, 2022, with a three-parter of a premiere.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

A World of Warcraft Druid Cosplay by Svetlana Quindt

Svetlana Quindt at Kamui Cosplay makes seriously impressive cosplay outfits from scratch. Here are a few of her photos of the druid tier 9 set from World of Warcraft.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 w Flute

Her attention to detail is amazing! Take a look at the Making of photoset on Flickr for a sampling.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 Vest Progress

And because merely sewing an intricate costume wouldn’t be enough, Quindt has embedded LED lights into some of the gems.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 Skirt w Gems

A staff, of course, is included.

Flickr Svetlana Quindt Druid T9 w Staff

OMG, there’s even a little pouch built into the shoulder piece! I’m afraid I’m way too impatient to make anything this detailed, even if I looked like an Elf… Although, the Dwarven females look about the right height for me if I squint hard. LOL! 🙂

Quindt has written blog posts on the build process, available at the Kamui Cosplay website.

Images: Druid tier 9 costume by Svetlana Quindt: With flute. Making the vest. Skirt with gems. With staff.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

The Pyramids of Kush

The pyramids of Egypt may be famous, but they’re not the only pyramids to serve as royal tombs.

The region of Nubia lies along the upper Nile in modern-day southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The kingdom of Kush flourished here for a millennium and a half, even dominating Egypt for a century as the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty. Kushites had a long history of war, trade, and diplomacy with Egypt, including incorporating elements of Egyptian art and architecture into their own culture. Like all such cultural borrowings, the Kushites did not simply imitate what they had seen in Egypt but reimagined and innovated on those ideas to suit their own needs.

Pyramids at the northern cemetery at Meroe. The larger pyramids in the background are in ruins, but the two smaller ones in the foreground have been restored in modern times to give an idea of the original shape. Photograph by UNESCO via Wikmedia (Meroe, Sudan; c. 300 BCE – 350 CE with modern restoration; stone)

In Egypt, Kushite visitors would have seen the massive ancient stone pyramids of the early kings still famous today. They would also have seen small, steep-sided brick pyramids that were popular in later times as tomb markers for wealthy families. In their royal cemeteries in Nubia, Kushite rulers combined these forms to create stone pyramids much larger than the private monuments in contemporary Egypt, though not as large as the great pyramids of early pharaohs. These pyramids had steep sides, rising high over narrow bases. Many also had passages leading inside at ground level marked with monumental gates, a feature not found in Egyptian pyramids. While the major pyramids of Egypt were almost all built for kings, some of the largest Kushite pyramids were built for queens. These tombs drew on Egyptian ideas, but interpreted those ideas in a new way, marking the kings and queens of Kush as both connected to Egypt but also distinct.

Another view of a partially restored pyramid at Meroe. Photograph by Michael Walsh via Wikimedia (Meroe, Sudan; c. 300 BCE – 350 CE with modern restoration; stone)

The custom of building tombs in this style took hold in Nubia. Despite the depredations of modern treasure hunters, there are, in fact, about twice as many Nubian pyramids still standing today as Egyptian. They are are a remarkable piece of world heritage and a fascinating example of the adaptation and reinvention of one culture’s ideas in the hands of another.

Pyramids at Nuri. Photgraph by Vit Hassan via Wikimedia (Nuri, Sudan; c. 300 BCE – 350 CE; stone)

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Trailers for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

Goodness, Disney+ is really churning out series this year! Among the upcoming releases is She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Here are the two official trailers:

Official Trailer | She-Hulk: Attorney at Law | Disney+ by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Official Trailer | She-Hulk: Attorney at Law | Disney+ by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

I have no doubt Tatiana Maslany is going to be great, and it’s always nice to see Mark Ruffalo get screentime. Also Benedict Wong and Tim Roth (Abomination) will at least visit, but of course at this point it’s impossible to know how big their parts will be. I am also curious to see what Jameela Jamil can do with a role that isn’t ditsy and/or superficial. (At least I’m hoping that her role here won’t be a rehash of her role in The Good Place!)

At this writing, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is set to premiere on August 17, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

World of Warcraft Dragonflight Talent Calculator

Wowhead has made available a talent calculator for Dragonflight on the basis of preliminary info on the upcoming expansion. Hooray, we get to dink around with test builds ahead of time!

At this writing, there are only a limited selection of classes to try: death knight, druid, hunter, priest, and rogue. In addition, the new race / class combo, Dracthyr evoker, is available for preview. Excitement! Below are some thoughts from the point of view of my main toon, a balance druid.

Wowhead Dragonflight Talent Tree Balance Druid

On one hand, there still isn’t quite enough information available. For example, on the Druid Tree, I’d like to pick Frenzied Regeneration, but the description doesn’t say whether it’ll pop you into bear form immediately upon use, which would make it less useable for me. (I assume it does, but the button doesn’t say.)

It’s great, however, that you can elect to skip certain spells. For example, I’ve never taken to Typhoon or Cyclone; they’ve always felt awkward and unconducive to my playing preferences or our joint style when Erik and I play together.

So, assuming that I’ll skip a number of lower-tree talents due to personal preferences, I’m having a hard time assigning enough points to reach the 20 required level. If this tree configuration is retained for the release, I’ll just have to hold my nose, pick talents I’d rather skip, and just not drag them onto my action bars.

On the other hand, I love that a balance druid gets more healing spells than is available in Shadowlands. When we play our druids together, we have quite a bit of staying power. I used to play a healer when we raided, but when it’s just the two of us it’s more beneficial to have a tank + dps combo. At times, though, I could use a bit more heals—the tanks are more than fine—and now I’m going to get it. Yay!

In the Balance Tree, it’s especially delightful that we can choose Convoke the Spirits, a Shadowlands covenant ability. A huge surprise was that they’re moving one of my favorite spells, Fury of Elune, to an end-tree position.

What remains to be seen is how the spells and talents become available as you progress, but so far it doesn’t look too awful. 🙂

Image: screencap from Wowhead

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Colorful Ancient Statues at the Metropolitan Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a fascinating new exhibit featuring reconstructions of some ancient works of art that show how they might have originally looked when they were still painted in bright colors. Sadly, I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic now to go and check it out myself, but there’s an excellent online gallery of examples. Here’s a comparison of one original sculpture with its reconstruction to give you an idea of how amazing the work is.

Sphinx finial, original and reconstruction via Metropolitan Museum of Art (Originally Athens, currently Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; c. 530 BCE; marble. Reconstruction by Vinzenz Brinkmann)

It’s always wonderful to get a chance to glimpse what the ancient world may have looked like when it wasn’t yet ancient.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Visual Inspiration: Ruins Don’t Need to Be Grey and Dull

Ruins and abandoned places are often seen as plain and boring. Granted, the color of untreated, inexpensive rock (which the majority of surviving buildings tend to be made from) often isn’t anything to write home about. But in our fiction, ruined areas don’t need to be austere and grim. You can even find real-life ruins in a variety of styles for inspiration.

For example, houses in Herculaneum famously featured colorful mosaics and painted murals. In addition, paint was generously applied elsewhere, like these pillars and external wall from House of the Relief of Telephus show:

Flickr Andy Hay Herculaneum

In Sanzhi, Taipei County, Taiwan, clusters of colorful pod houses or UFO houses once stood:

Flickr mingshah Sanzhi Pod Houses

It’s not always humans who have applied the color onto the ruins either. At the ancient Maya site called Bonampak or Ak’e, in the Chiapas area, Mexico, strikingly orange lichen is taking over building facades:

Flickr Carsten ten Brink Bonampak

(Check out the Bonampak Wikipedia article for a stunning relief carving and a painted mural!)

In Dutch photographer Roman Robroek’s shots we can see that a ruin definitely need not be grey, blocky, and boring. Partly overrun by nature could mean an almost orderly takeover, like in the photo of a Gothic-style former chapel built at the end of 19th century, below:

Robroek Former Gothic Chapel Sm

Beautiful, brightly colored arches among rubble from the childhood house of Lebanese singer Fairuz (who was born in 1934) in Beirut form a striking contrast to the greenery outside:

Robroek Arches House of Fairuz

Finally, a still strikingly turquoise—if peeling—underside of a round staircase:

Robroek Blue Staircase Sm

It vaguely reminds me of peacock feathers! I wish the photographer gave us a little more information about the history of this place. Browse more via Colossal or at Robroek’s website.

Since they exist in real life, I would be delighted to read about vibrantly colored and visually striking abandoned places in my genre fiction, too.

Images: Herculaneum by Andy Hay via Flickr (CC BY2.0). Sanzhi Pod Houses by mingshah via Flickr. Bonampak by Carsten ten Brink via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Images by Roman Robroek: Former chapel. Arches at the house of Fairuz. Blue staircase.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Living in the Science-Fictional Now: Solar Canals

Covering canals with something to slow water evaporation is a no-brainer, right? (Or should be.) How about making those covers be solar panels for a two-fer—as apparently is already happening in India—now, that’s outright ingenious.

Smithsonian Magazine Solar Canal System California

And not just India: for example, California has planned a similar system. Its first prototype section, Project Nexus, is about to break ground (in the fall of 2022).

(Incidently, I can recommend Paolo Bacigalupi’s novel The Water Knife from 2015, in which water rights and covered canals feature strongly. In case you’re interested in that sort of fiction.)

Found via Good Stuff Happened Today on Tumblr.

Image: an artist’s rendering of a solar canal system for California by Solar Aquagrid LLC (CC BY-ND) via Smithsonian Magazine

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.