Running Commentary 10/24/2022

Running Commentary 10/24/2022

Andor (Episode 7), The Peripheral (Episodes 1 and 2), White-browed Woodswallow

Hello,

As October draws to a close, I must resign myself to the fact that, once again, I have not seen any of the Northern Pintails migrating through. There’s always next spring.

Anyway...

Watching...

Andor

The seventh episode is out. Here are my notes:

Wullf Yularen addresses the ISB following the Aldani heist
Still from IMDB
  • This episode picked up a lot of threads that kind of got dropped for the last episode. Syril Karn is back. I was wrong to guess that he’d be working somewhere in Mon Mothma’s staff. I also sem to have been wrong in guessing that Cassian would be resuming his search for his sister., although she did get mentioned again. (Since I’m clearly okay with making wild predictions for this show, here’s my wildest: Kleya Marki is Cassian’s sister.)
  • Speaking of Kleya Marki: I didn’t recognize her in her Wanda Maximoff costume (which I guess means it was a good disguise) so when she started talking about killing Cassian I wondered if she wasn’t one of Saw Gerrera’s people. They’re usually the straight-to-killing types.
  • When I saw how much the ISB was featuring into the show, I wondered if Wullf Yularen might be making an appearance. Here he is, and now I’m wondering how his scene played to people who didn’t recognize the character. He’s not really introduced, although I suppose it’s clear enough that he outranks Major Pentagaz and that he has direct meetings with the Emperor, which is all you really need for the scene to work.
  • Mon Mothma’s scenes still feel like set-up. I’m imagining this show will get into how she went from fundraising on Coruscant to more actively leading the Rebel effort on Yavin IV, as we see her doing in Rogue One. The show’s taking a while to get there, though.
  • Cassian getting thrown in jail in Space Miami was certainly a surprising turn of events. I actually think it’s kind of clever that, rather than get stopped for something and then recognized as the guy wanted for killing a bunch of corporate security officers, he literally gets imprisoned for nothing. It goes to show that, even if you can out-run your past, you’re still in the Empire and the Empire is still terrible.
  • The Imperial KX-series security droids have made their first appearance in the show. It doesn’t seem like K-2SO was one of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does show up and factor into Cassian’s escape somehow.

The Peripheral

I know, I know, this isn’t a Disney+ series. I actually do watch other things sometimes. Amazon Prime Video actually has one of the better libraries of sci-fi stuff out of all the streamers. There’s The Expanse, most famously, but they’ve done quite a few other things, and, with the MGM buyout, they have all the Stargate shows, too. Add in Freevee, Amazon’s ad-supported sister service, and you have more good stuff, like Fringe). But mostly I’m catching up on older shows, not watching new stuff. But presently, on Fridays, Amazon is releasing a new Sci-fi show. I caught the first episodes. Here are my notes:

Flynne wearing the peripheral headset
Still from IMDB
  • The Peripheral is based on a book of the same name by William Gibson. I have not read the book; indeed, I haven’t actually read any of Gibson’s books, but I’m well aware of the author by his reputation as the father of the cyberpunk sub-genre that has been as big a part of science fiction in recent decades as the spaceship.
  • The core hallmarks of cyberpunk (use of networked technology/virtual reality to drive the plot, a decaying future world, and a sinister corporation) are all here, but a lot of the clichés of cyberpunk are avoided. Where most such works are set in some endless, Tokyo-like megalopolis where it’s implausibly always night-time, this is largely set in rural Appalachia, where there are trees and dirt and sunshine and everything. There’s some cyborg-ish stuff with Flynne’s brother’s haptics, but no one’s running around with a laser sight for an eye or anything. This keeps the show feeling somewhat grounded and prevents it from blending into the mass of generic cyberpunk media out there.
  • The first two episodes have featured a lot of mystery about the future world Wilf inhabits. Flynne’s world seems much like our own, just with a more advanced level of technology, and without bananas. Wilf’s world, though, seems quite different, for reasons that aren’t really clear yet.
  • I’m not sure why, in Wilf’s world, most of the newer buildings look like regular skyscrapers that got in a teleporter accident with classical statues. It’s certainly a striking look, that offers a clear sign as to what era a scene takes place in, but they did stand out as an impractical waste of resources in what seems like a world in crisis. Maybe as we find out more, they’ll make some more sense. Or maybe they just look cool.
  • Overall, I like this show so far. It takes the overdone and frankly kinda stupid premise of “the most l33t gamer needs to use their skillz to save the world” and produces something interesting and at least plausible from it. From what I can tell there will be eight episodes in this first season. I’ll plan to cover them here, unless the show ruins itself somewhere down the line.
Untitled

Bird of the Week

This week we’re heading back down under. The White-browed Woodswallow is found throughout Australia as well as (occasionally) on Tasmania and (even more occasionally) on the south island of New Zealand. However, they are most numerous in the inland eastern regions of the continent. It lives in open woodlands (as do people, generally) and has benefitted from the production of farmland and parks in its range. It migrates north in the winter and south in the summer, forming large flocks, often mixed with its cousin, the masked woodswallow.

Woodswallows are not, in fact, swallows, though, unlike last week’s misnamed bird, they’ve always been understood to be their own thing. Like several other sorts of Australian birds, they were named in honor of superficially similar birds more familiar to European settlers. Woodswallows are similar to true swallows in their long, pointed wings and insectivorous diet. They can be differentiated by their squared-off tails and their brush-tipped tongues, which allow them to supplement their diets with nectar when blooms are in season. There are eleven species of woodswallow, all of which are members of the type genus of the family Artamidae, which also includes the corvid-like Currawongs and the Indo-Australian butcherbirds. Out of these eleven species, the white-browed is by far the most colorful; the other species are largely colored in shades of gray.

To science, this bird is Artamus superciliosus. “Artamus” comes from the Latin word for “butcher”, a reference to these birds similarity, not to swallows, but to shrikes. (see an earlier bird of the week, the Red-backed Shrike, for more on these strange songbirds-of-prey). “Superciliosus”, first applied to the bird by John Gould, derives from “supercilium”, the Latin word for eyebrow (literally “hair above [the eye]”). The English word “supercilious”, a rare synonym of “arrogant”, is a reference to the raised brow of a facial expression of superiority.

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