Running Commentary 12/6/2021
It's Christmastime! For the rest of the month, RC will be featuring some special Christmas content (and taking another week off on the 27th for Christmas itself).
With two episodes premiering the day before Thanksgiving and a third following the next Wednesday, I have a little less than three hours of Hawkeye to cover:
- This show is apparently Marvel's weakest Disney+ performer. There are a few things going against it: it's been a while since Disney+ has had a Marvel show, so people are out of the habit of watching them every week, and probably quite a few MCU fans had dropped their subscriptions; it was advertised as a Christmas show, and many people probably would rather wait until Christmas and just watch all the episodes then; it premiered, as I said, the day before Thanksgiving, when many, many people were either traveling or preparing to receive guests and didn't have time to watch it. The biggest thing is probably that no one was asking for a Hawkeye show. But that's actually why I was excited for this show. If a big, corporate entity like the MCU does something with no apparent fan demand, that might likely be because someone, somewhere in the creative process, has an actual idea for a story. Loki had an interesting story, but the sell of that show wasn't the story, it was fan-favorite character Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returning for an encore after his much-mourned death at the beginning of Infinity War. Hawkeye can't lean on the lead character's mere presence to attract viewers. All that to say, give Hawkeye a watch if you haven't
- Hailee Steinfeld I remember getting a lot of praise way back when she played the little girl in the remake of True Grit, but I've never seen that film. I haven't seen any of Steinfeld's other films either, actually. So, having seen her here for the first time, yes, she's a very good actress. There are a couple of different ways the character of Kate Bishop could be performed poorly really easily, and Steinfeld dodges all of them, so far. If Bishop is going to be a fixture of future Avengers films (and that seems likely), I'm to see she'll have such a good performer.
- The first two episodes were a lot of setup, and the third was mostly action scenes. Each episode ends on an effective cliffhanger (including the first one, which was released at the same time as the second one, so what's the point.) Once again, this comes off like a really long movie rather than a television show. WandaVision was the only MCU show so far to really work as episodes.
- The musical was funny.
- If you're a long-time MCU fan, this show will make you feel old, since several adults in the cast are shown as little kids during the attack on New York City from The Avengers, which is nine-and-a-half years old at time of writing, which means that any American who was at least eight-and-a-half years old when it came out can vote now.
- I'm getting tired of having to Google something every time I watch a MCU thing. Specifically in this case I'm talking about Echo's appearance at the end of the second episode. When she showed up, I remembered that one of the Eternals (I haven't seen The Eternals yet) was a deaf woman, so I wondered if that was her. It wasn't, but even if I didn't have a guess, the scene seems to think we'll recognize Echo. We do not.
We got a DevStream last week detailing what we can expect for the long-awaited New War update that goes out next week. In short, plan to spend several hours of playtime getting through the quest, which, like The War Within will lock the player into the quest away from the rest of the game until the quest is completed. I'd like to give my own advice to wait until this "biggest and most ambitious" update DE's ever put out has had all the really bad bugs dealt with before locking into playing the quest.
King of Tokyo
As families gather for the holidays, a fair number of board games will be played. And, as Christmas gifts are passed around, a fair number of those will be board games. Board games, quietly, have become a big deal, More new board games keep coming out, and it can be hard to pick a good one. So, in the interest of helping you plan for the coming season, I'd like to recommend a new-ish game that is pretty widely available but which should be new to many people: King of Tokyo. This is a good game for large groups, and it can also be played with smaller groups. The premise is that several legally distinct versions of giant movie monsters are all fighting to take control of Tokyo, either by killing the other monsters or reaching twenty points (which is where the premise admittedly kind of breaks down.)
Each turn involves rolling six dice, with two Yahtzee-style rerolls, in hopes of dealing damage, healing damage, scoring raw points, or earning cards (which confer any of a number of possible benefits). Monsters are able to take control of Tokyo, one at a time. The monsters not in Tokyo can only attack the one in Tokyo, who, in contrast, strikes all other monsters with each attack. The monster in Tokyo gains points each turn, but cannot heal themselves, so if their health drops too low, they may cede Tokyo to their attackers. It's more intricate than some games, but it can be learned in a few playthroughs and it doesn't take very long to play a game. The Godzilla pastiche aesthetic is fun. The cards aren't balanced especially well (some mid-cost cards are better than some high-cost cards, and some low-cost cards are so useless they're ignored, even as cheap as they are to get.) but other than that this is a well-put-together game.
Bird of the Week
The ring-necked pheasant is the only sort of pheasant found in North America. I say "sort", not "species", because the ring-necked pheasant isn't its own species. The term applies to any of several subspecies of the common pheasant native to East Asia which exhibit a white ring around their neck, or, especially, pheasants descended from such East Asian pheasants that had been brought to North America. The common pheasant is the type species within the taxonomic family Phasianidae, which includes the other pheasants, including peafowl, as well as chickens. Common pheasants are a wide-ranging species, with some thirty subspecies found throughout Asia and into Europe, and with introduced populations in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and South Africa. It is also known to breed with its close relative, Japan's green pheasant, which means that even more hybrid pheasants are out there.
Pheasants are popular gamebirds, especially in their introduced ranges. In the US, they are typically hunted with the aid of spaniel and/or retriever dogs, who will spook a flock of pheasants up into the air where a hunter will shoot them down with a spray of shot. In the UK, where hunting is a generally more formal affair, done for sport rather than food, pheasants are farm-raised and then released and chased toward hunters in what's called a "driven shoot". At one such shoot King George V (the grandfather of current throne-sitter Elizabeth II) reportedly shot over one thousand pheasants. In all their introduced range, the hunting of common pheasants is both a chief source of and a chief check on birds that can become invasive, out-competing native fowl for food and nesting sites.
Pheasants get their name from "Phasis", the Greek name for what is now called the Rioni river, which flows into the eastern Black Sea in modern Sakartvelo. The lands surrounding the city of Colchis (now Kutaisi), which sits on the river, were noted as being especially full of common pheasants, so it was believed that the birds first came from the region. The common pheasant is called "Phasianus colchicus" after this area. Ring-necked pheasants are found in China, Korea, and Taiwan (which is home to Phasianus colchicus formosanus, which is the particular sort I've drawn. Note the incomplete ring, left open in the front, that is the distinguishing mark of this subspecies.) Ring-necked pheasants are raised as poultry and have thus been the subspecies most widely spread throughout the world.
See the full archive of birds on Notion
Hammacher Schlemmer: the World’s Most Peculiar Company | Nick Greene, Chicago Magazine
Around this time of year, many Americans will receive the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, which offers a wide range of gifts, from "Indoor/Outdoor Quilted Comfort Slippers" ($24.95) to "Life Size T-Rex Skeleton" ($120,000.00). But Hammacher Schlemmer isn't Amazon, and wasn't Sears before them; they are careful curators of "The Best, The Only, and the Unexpected". Greene goes behind the scenes at this weird retailer.
Raising Baby Sharks from the Dead | Claudia Geib, Hakai Magazine
"Sharklab-Malta is one of at least three groups around the Mediterranean taking on the unlikely role of nursemaid to several species of sharks and their close relatives, skates. By collecting and raising babies from females that wind up in fishing nets—most often as by-catch—and then on fishmongers’ counters, the groups hope to make a small difference in a world that has not been kind to sharks."
History of Jingle Bells | Joel Brown, BU Today
No melody quite says "Christmas" like the chorus to "Jingle Bells". But the song, at the time of it's writing (by J. P. Morgan's uncle) it was just a winter-time tavern song. Also, it probably wasn't written where many people say it was.
The inside story of the new NASA missions to Venus | Megan I. Gannon, Popular Science
There was a time that Venus was though of as a likely jungle world, a younger version of Earth, with Mars as an older, long-dead version. Examinations and probings in the mid 20th Century revealed something else: a hellish world with a crushing atmosphere. Interest in the planet dropped, though a small group within the astro-exploration community has long lobbied for the people of Earth to get to now our closest neighbor better. Soon, they'll get their chance.
Mozart on the Kalahari | Steven Barnes, Lightspeed Magazine
[FICTION] In a quake-ruined Los Angeles, a boy tends his plants and dreams of going to space.
See the full archive of curations on Notion