More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

Black Panther: Character development matters

Theater lobby for Marvel's Black PantherI had the opportunity to see an advance screening of Marvel’s Black Panther in 3-D IMAX. It has everything you would expect from a superhero movie: thrilling action set pieces, brilliant CGI-driven special effects, and a Stan Lee cameo. But what really got me into the story were characters I could care about.

This is lacking in most superhero movies. Both heroes and villains are drawn larger than life with unrealistic powers and motivations. It’s hard to relate to any of them, so you can’t get invested in the story. Even the most action-packed battle sequences seem empty because you don’t care who wins or loses.

Black Panther solves this problem by focusing on character development. (Since Marvel and its fans get fussy about spoilers, I won’t include any here.)

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Songs to raise your spirit

We hear plenty of bad news every day. What we need is something to raise our spirits, inspire us, and make us feel better.

I’ve always turned to music for an emotional boost. Part of it comes from years of performing in choirs and musicals. Most of it comes from how music makes me feel. It drives me through workouts, sets the soundtrack for my novels, and keeps me focused at work. In difficult times, music inspires me to keep pushing.

Here are some of the songs that raise my spirit. They might inspire you too.

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IQ is just a number

On Quora, I find a lot of questions about IQ. “What is it like to have an extremely high IQ?” “What is the relationship between IQ and BMI?” “Does an IQ of 142 give me bragging rights?”

Yes, these are actual questions. And an IQ of 142 does give you bragging rights over me, since my IQ is 141. Still, that qualifies me for being gifted, or a stable genius, or something like that.

But here is something I learned: IQ is just a number.

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There’s no such thing as an aspiring writer

How to Be a Writer: IntroductionIf you say you’re an aspiring writer, stop. There’s no such thing as an aspiring writer. If you write, you’re a writer. Aspiring writer makes as little sense as slightly pregnant. You are or you aren’t.

But you may be saying, “How can I consider myself a writer if I haven’t published anything?” Or, “I’m not good enough to call myself a real writer.” If you still need convincing that you are a real writer, read on.

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How to adult

Our son turned 20. Our daughter will be turning 25. Our kids are no longer kids.

They are in one of the most challenging phases of their lives, or as they would describe it, adulting. It’s a time when we ask the most important questions, “Who am I, and what do I want to do with my life?” What makes those questions hard is that the only people who can answer them is ourselves. Parents can only offer advice and support.

What advice can I give? There are several things I’ve learned from my own experience. I’ll talk about one that may sound cold, but it’s actually liberating.

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