Running Commentary 11/22/2021

Running Commentary 11/22/2021

Star Wars: Visions ("Akakiri"), High Republic Books, Ring-Necked Pheasant

Hello,

First off, you should know that I will be taking next Monday off from this newsletter, so I can spend the weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with assorted loved ones. Feel free to re-read last year's Thanksgiving edition of RC, which includes both my pie ranking and my Bird of the Week entry on the turkey.

Anyway...

Watching...

Star Wars: Visions

This week I finish my watchthrough of Visions with Science Saru's "Akakiri":

Screenshot from StarWars.com
  • The title of this short means "red mist", which is certainly an evocative image. This is one of the shorter shorts released under the Visions banner, though it packs a lot into its runtime, which maintains this sense of unease and tension leading up to a fairly dark note to end Visions on, really. This short seems like it took the crisis moment out of a the middle of a larger story, specifically one not unlike Revenge of the Sith.
  • The score, by U-zhaan, was the most experimental out of all the Visions scores. It was spare and percussion-heavy; U-zhaan's Twitter bio says he's a player of the tabla, a paired drum from northern India. He got quite a range of feeling out of them. The music was kind of fitting for the tension of some scenes, but I found it distractingly louder than the actual scene toward the end.
  • Quite a bit of The Hidden Fortress, a Japanese film which inspired elements of A New Hope, was also referenced here.
  • Add Henry Golding, Jamie Chung, and Lorraine Toussaint to the List.

So, now we're done with Visions, and I can give my thoughts on the project as a whole. If this is meant to get Star Wars big in Japan, I'm not really sure how successful that will be, given how the shorts were typically at their best in context of Star Wars. Most, I'd say, were simply too short to completely stand on their own. But then again, I got into Star Wars from Attack of the Clones, which wasn't really the franchise at its best, either. If the anime studios were hoping for Star Wars fans to check out their other projects...well, I guess I can only speak for myself, but I'm not going to. I suppose someone who just wasn't aware that there was an industry in Japan putting out animated sci-fi action shows, who found out about anime from Visions, might check some things out.

Visions was pitched as a way to get a different perspective on Star Wars. The thing is, though, is that Star Wars is already very Japanese in its heritage, so making Star Wars even more like a samurai film doesn't really bring anything new. What I think Visions really is is Lucasfilm trying to give back to the culture they've borrowed so much from, which is a nice (albeit kind of patronizing) gesture but not quite the path to great art.

All that said, I liked Visions. Besides "The Twins", I wanted more of every short. I hope there's another series. And if there is, I hope the films can be longer, and I hope studios from all around the world can be included.

Reading...

As you might have guessed, lately I've been reading Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil. I do intend to review that. I also do not intend to review the last few High Republic books. I tried to come up with something, but, lately especially. the High Republic books haven't felt independently complete enough to warrant independent reviews. What I can say is that there are still too many characters with too little characterization.

White-Breasted Nuthatch.png

Bird of the Week

This week we have another scan of an older drawing of mine. The white-breasted nuthatch is the larger of Michigan's two nuthatches, and indeed is the largest nuthatch in North America. Nuthatches are members of a genus of passerine birds more known for their behavior than their appearance. They are omnivores; like woodpeckers, they eat insects that live in trees, though nuthatches do not bore into the wood. They do crawl up and down the trunks and branches, sometimes hanging upside-down, in search of bugs doing the same thing. They also eat seeds, and can be attracted to feeders. Those who practice can even attract white-breasted nuthatches to their hands.

https://twitter.com/JocAPhotography/status/1449040566466056196

The white-breasted nuthatch is roughly the same size as a house sparrow. They are white in the front with blue-and-black wing and tail feathers. The males have a black cap, while females might have a black or a blue-gray cap. Their voice is nasal, almost cat-like. Their specific songs and plumage patterns vary across their range, which includes most of North America. The main subspecies is found in the eastern half of the continent, with eight other subspecies found in the western half, including Mexico.

"Nuthatch" is a reference to the way these birds break into nuts and acorns by wedging them in place and then hacking at them with their stiff bills. Nuthatches are classified in the genus Sitta, which Linnaeus simply gave the Greek name for the Eurasian nuthatch (Sitta europaea). The white-breasted nuthatch is Sitta carolinensis, the "nuthatch of the Carolinas", having been so named by John Latham, an English physician and ornithologist who is better remembered for naming many Australian birds.

See the full archive of birds on Notion

Thinking in the Rain | Susan Orlean

A profile of Steve Hollinger, an artist and inventor of numerous things, including an improved umbrella, written by his former upstairs neighbor.

The Unsettling Truth About the ‘Mostly Harmless’ Hiker | Nicholas Thompson, WIRED

A few months ago, I featured Thompson's report on a mysterious hiker who had been found dead in his tent at the southern end of the Appalachian trail, and the community of internet sleuths trying to figure out who he really was. Here, Thompson follows up with the discovered identity of the hiker.

Reading the Soil | Christopher Cox, Oxford American

A report on gravemovers, who are tasked with clearing out old cemeteries at the edges of expanding South Carolina cities.

Why Open-Plan Homes Might Not Be Great For Entertaining | Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

Watch any HGTV show, and it becomes clear what the upper-middle-class American wants in a house: they want a kitchen island, and they want to be able to see the rest of their home from that kitchen island. But, when you have company over, how much do you really want them to be able to see?

The Town | Shaun Prescott, FSG Work in Progress

[FICTION] Excerpt from The Town by Shaun Prescott "This is Australia, an unnamed, dead-end town in the heart of the outback—a desolate place of gas stations, fast-food franchises, and labyrinthine streets: flat and nearly abandoned. When a young writer arrives to research just such depressing middles-of-nowhere as they are choked into oblivion, he finds something more sinister than economic depression: the ghost towns of Australia appear to be literally disappearing. An epidemic of mysterious holes is threatening his new home’s very existence, and this discovery plunges the researcher into an abyss from which he may never escape."

See the full archive of curations on Notion