Sidney Poitier died this past week. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen anything he was in, but I’d heard of him. I just had never heard of him doing anything during my lifetime, which was why I was caught a bit off-guard when he died, since, in my mind, he was already dead. Of course, he wasn’t dead, he was just retired from acting. But, as a celebrity, he was already in the “remembered by the public for his role in society’s past” phase. It must be weird to be a retired celebrity.
The Book of Boba Fett
- Where last episode was okay, as setup, this episode got me really excited for the rest of the series.
- I’m still not sure exactly why Fett wants to be the daimyo of Tatooine, but I’m starting to get a sort of an idea, based on seeing the conflict between the Tuskens and the Pykes. What we know for certain of Boba Fett is that he adheres to a sort of warrior code. While we’ve certainly seen him fight and kill people, he doesn’t take potshots at people who can’t fight back. I could see Fett being inspired to take over the Tatooine underworld out of a desire to make it more honorable
- This episode really felt like 3 episodes: the present-day face-off with the Twins, the flashback train raid, and the flashback to Boba getting his gaderfii and robes. This disjointedness hopefully can get smoothed out in future episodes.
- They did a really good job translating Black Krrsantan to the screen. He didn’t do much here, but I suspect he’ll be back, given the obvious amount of work put into his costume.
- Speaking of Black Krrsantan, I’m glad to be back to covering Star Wars after so much Marvel in this newsletter, since now I already know about a character when they walk on-screen without having to Google them.
Season 6 premiered this past Thursday, bringing us a whole new arena facility in a new city. During the lead-up, I wrote about BattleBots’s history and why I think it’s such a compelling event for Ordinary Times, in a piece they also published last Thursday. Now that the first episode is out, lets look back at the first night of fights.
- SAWBLAZE v MINOTAUR - This was a great opening fight. I don’t know what it is about Brazillian batteries that they can apparently operate while on fire. (Black Dragon was able to drive while burning last year in its fight with Ribbot.)
- UPPERCUT v GIGABYTE - Gigabyte did not adapt well to the new arena layout, managing to immediately get trapped in a corner. Uppercut then could just hammer away until Gigabyte stopped moving.
- SWITCHBACK v GRUFF - Switchback is a new bot that was on my list of interesting-looking rookies. While I favored Gruff to win this match, I was disappointed in Switchback’s performance. Their driving just wasn’t there. Gruff had total control of the fight, and Switchback let a lot of opportunities to hit back get away from them.
- CAPTAIN SHREDERATOR v TOMBSTONE - This was the night’s big upset. Tombstone, former BattleBots champion, lost to Captain Shrederator, who, in a good season, might win once. Shrederator has apparently been rebuilt to be more durable, which might be the whole secret, considering that they usually lost after knocking themselves out. In any case, Tombstone might want to switch to a less brittle blade.
- FREE SHIPPING v BLACKSMITH - I’ve given Blacksmith a lot of grief for having the worst weapon in the entire competition, and for always losing. Now, they’ve swapped out their weapon and won a match. Team captain Al Kindle declared that the change was due to “losing judges decisions because we couldn’t deal any visible damage” (paraphrased). Left unsaid in that statement is that Blacksmith couldn’t win by knockout very often since they couldn’t deal any other sort of damage. The new Blacksmith is almost, but not quite, a copy of Sawblase, right down to the color scheme. It was able, in a close match, to defeat Free Shipping. But so was War Hawk...
- DEEP SIX v PAIN TRAIN - This fight was between two bots which, last we saw of them, could barely drive. (Deep Six was basically incapable of turning, while Pain Train couldn’t drive in a straight line.) Both have been re-worked, and both can drive now. This fight was a lot of fun to watch, since Pain Train didn’t seem to have a great idea how to approach Deep Six. I really want to see Deep Six fight Huge sometime this season.
- HYDRA v ENDGAME - The night ended on a bit of a damp squib when Hydra’s weapon system burned out. Endgame arrived with comically long forks and didn’t really need them; indeed, once Hydra was unable to flip anything, the forks got in the way of Endgame’s own weapon.
So there we have it. Season 6 starts with defeats for Minotaur, Tombstone, and Hydra, which sets an unpredictable tone.
One more thing: there’ve always been fights that didn’t make the televised show. This year, BattleBots is just posting them to YouTube. Here’s the first of these extra fights, whose outcome I won’t spoil.
This is a book that I read off-and-on throughout the past year. It took that long because it’s a rather dry read, and it’s telling a complicated story. Shipping is a hard subject to really get a grasp on, what with all the different entities that make it happen. I don’t want to give author Marc Levinson too much of a hard time, though, because he does keep a throughline running between many different historical episodes. The history of container shipping (wherein cargo is loaded into standardized boxes which are in turn loaded aboard vehicles for transport, as opposed to break-bulk shipping, wherein cargo is loaded aboard vehicles directly) is an informative example of how new technology comes about. Any invention will take some time to be adopted, and will be changed through that adoption process. It’s not as simple as some new thing hitting the market and just automatically displacing the old thing. If you’re interested in a study of that process, and you’re interested in how the global economy developed in the last hundred years, I’d recommend this book.
Bird of the Week
In the dead of winter, birding in Michigan gets tough. Mostly, that’s because a lot of our birds have left for the season. But some stick around. When I’m out for a walk through the snowy woods, I take advantage of the bareness of the trees and look out for woodpeckers. So, in honor of January, we have my favorite woodpecker.
The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a red-headed woodpecker. Now, most woodpeckers (the males, at least) have at least some red on their head, but few are so red-headed as the Red-Headed, which has a completely red head. These birds are found throughout the United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains (beyond which the Red-Breasted Sapsucker, the only other woodpecker with an entirely red head, resides). It is distinguished from other woodpeckers not only by its head but also by its coloration: where most woodpeckers are intricately spotted and striped, the red-headed woodpecker is attired in more solid colors. They are white in the front and black on the back, with white secondary feathers on their wings. Males and females look the same. Juveniles are a mottled brown, though they also exhibit white secondaries.
Like others of it's kind, the red-headed woodpecker uses its long, stiff beak to chip and bore its way into tree trunks and limbs, both in search of food and shelter. They nest in excavated cavities, which, once abandoned, often are repurposed as housing for Bird of the Week alumnus the Bufflehead duck.
The red-headed woodpecker was first described in Essex-born naturalist Mark Catesby’s accounts of the flora and fauna of what is now the coastal southeastern United States. Linnaeus incorporated it into his taxonomy under the name Picus erythrocephalus, which is simply “red-headed woodpecker” in a mix Latin and Greek. Later, W. J. Swainson, who you’ll remember from the earlier BotW entry on the eastern bluebird, did a lot of taxonomic cleanup for North American birds, declared a new genus Melanerpes (meaning “black creeper”) for the red-headed woodpecker and several other similar woodpeckers. The red-headed woodpecker remains the type species for this genus.
Now, I have a treat for you RC readers. I can’t promise this will become a regular thing, but I managed to record myself drawing the above artwork (in Krita, which I use for most Bird of the Week illustrations) and put together a video. Playback is at 5x the actual speed. There’s no audio, but you’ll be able to watch the whole process from blank canvas to finished drawing. Enjoy!
The Ocean's Hot Dog | Paul Josephson
[PDF] A twenty-one page monograph on the history of the Gorton’s Fish Stick, a food no one especially likes or was asking for which nonetheless gained a foothold on the American plate due to a convergence of new technology, post-War food science and marketing, and government subsidy.
[VIDEO] [FICTION] A darkly cute (is that a thing) animated short about a legendary sea monster being confronted with the modern world. (6 minutes)
Engine Optimization | Plutarch, Lapham’s Quarterly
From Plutarch's biography of the Roman general Marcellus, an account of the devastating effect brought on besieging armies by the war-engines devised by Archimedes of Syracuse.