Running Commentary 4/17/2023
Without worrying that a snowstorm will foil my attempts to return them on time, I'm comfortable requesting books from Michigan's libraries again. I've read an interesting one, which I should be covering here next week, and I plan to get through some more, that should get me through the upcoming couple of months when there won't be any TV shows running.
The latest episode saw some big moves from the different factions as the show leads into a big finale. Here are my notes:
- The return of Moff Gideon has been teased throughout the season and, now that it's finally here, it really serves as an example of the improvements made in this season over previous ones. The multipolar storytelling made it all possible. In previous seasons, we wouldn't have seen things like the Imperial Council meeting, since that's not a scene Din was in the room for. Really, all the lead-up to Gideon's return would have been lost if we only saw what Din saw in this season. It would have been like the end of Season 1, where Gideon shows up out of nowhere, despite having supposedly been in New Republic custody.
- Gilad Pellaeon is the best casting Star Wars has ever done of a character from the books. Xander Berkeley looked the part, which has as much to do with costuming as with casting, but his performance was also exactly how I'd always imagined the character. If Ahsoka does Thrawn half as well as The Mandalorian has done Pellaeon, we're in for a treat.
- Speaking of Thrawn, Pellaeon seems to be in contact with him. It's been at least a decade since the purgills stole the Chimera off to parts unknown, so he's definitely had the time to find his way back to the galaxy. but I'm curious about what he's been doing that he's keeping secret from the rest of the Imperial remnant. I guess we'll find out either next week or in Ahsoka.
- Rebuilding IG-11 into a mech suit for Grogu is very silly but the show knows that and was able to pull it off much better than I would have thought they might if I had known they were going to do that.
- I'm not sure if the Imperial forces were Saxonite Mandalorians or stormtroopers in the same armor. Either way, they're another thing lifted straight from Rebels and plopped down in this show.
- Honestly, I probably should have guessed that Gideon's secret labs were on Mandalore once it was known that the rumors of the world being poisoned were false, but it was still really clever how that was revealed gradually through the episode as the caves slowly became familiar Imperial hallways.
- This episode's title, "The Spies", has prompted a lot of discussions. The most straightforward meaning is that "spy" is used in the sense of reconnaissance, not espionage; the Mandalorian scouting party is spying out unknown, dangerous territory before the full force lands. But it could also mean that Gideon has a role in the Mandalorians the same as he has in the New Republic. Who? I really can't guess. I'm still slightly leery of the Armorer and her motives, but I can't see her allying with Gideon. Maybe Axe Woves would; he's a mercenary, shown to be willing to do most anything for a price. But frankly, I'm going to assume that the simplest answer is correct for now.
- The covert should feel right at home on Mandalore; it also is full of random dinosaurs, apparently.
- The Praetorian guards are the first things we've seen in this show that are First Order, not Imperial. There've been hints that Dr. Pershing was working on the project to create Snoke. This could be the "Project Necromancer" that Brendol Hux is a part of (though that would contradict the established story that the First Order stumbled upon Snoke and his followers in the Unknown Regions). In any case, between this and the announced Rey movie, I don't think LucasFilm is as eager to downplay the sequels as it seemed they were for a bit there.
The penultimate episode of the regular season saw the first 4-0 perfect record this year. Let's look at the fights:
- QUANTUM v EMULSIFIER - Quantum took its fourth win this season. Admittedly, it hadn't had the toughest season, but it's still impressive that a bot, especially a meta-defying bot like Quantum, can go without a loss through a whole season. And credit to Emulsifier, as this was the closest Quantum came to losing.
- END GAME v GIGABYTE - This was an easy win for End Game, who's still the favorite bot in about whatever fight it's given. They weren't lossless like Quantum this year, but I've got to believe that they'll be the top seed in the tournament.
- SHREDDIT BRO v OVERHAUL - Shreddit Bro eked out a win in the final minute of the fight. I'm genuinely happy for them. I think the team has the personality and love for the sport to be another Mad Catter, Minotaur, or Tombstone, they just don't have a top-level bot. I do really wish they could get something figured out that worked a little more consistently.
- ROTATOR v FUSION - Rotator got the win thanks to Fusion taking a double-hit from its own design in the form of gyro instability and an internal fire. I laughed when they put up the thermal cam showing Fusion overheating. I have no idea whether they'll put Fusion in the tournament or not. They had just the one win this year, but it had close losses against good bots.
- RIBBOT v SKORPIOS - Ribbot finally got a win. I still wouldn't put them in the tournament this year. I don't know what happened between this season and last, but Ribbot just didn't have it this time around. If they've gotten whatever it was sorted out, they could go far in the tournament, but I don't think they've earned the spot over other 1-3 bots this year.
- TERRORTOPS v DRAGON KING - This fight all came down to a blow that took out both Dragon King's tread and Terrortops's own weapon. Neither bot is up to competition standards, but I think both show a lot of potential. Of course, being an exhibition match, neither competitor is headed for the tournament.
- RIPPERONI v COPPERHEAD - Earlier on, I said that there were no good rookies this season. I guess I'll take that back. Ripperoni, despite a truly terrible malfunction in their first fight, is a good bot. They aren't great; they're very dependent on a complex mechanical system in a way that hinders their durability, and I still don't get the point of those wonky wheels. Their two wins this season both came due to driving errors on their opponents' ends (Endgame getting stuck in the floor, and now Copperhead fearing a weapon-to-weapon collision and showing their back) but knowing how to capitalize on such opportunities is important in this sport. Ripperoni drives well, hits hard, and can strategize on the fly. It's the best new bot this year.
Bird of the Week
There are, generally speaking, four main types of birds in the toucan family. So far, I've featured a true toucan and a toucanet. Now it's time to feature one of the third kind: the araçaris. These birds are smaller than the true toucans, being about jay-sized in body, although their overall length is inflated by their large bills. Those bills are, in most species, vividly colored in a striking, high-contrast patterns, moreso even than other toucans. The araçaris are, from my perspective, the most beautiful of the toucans for this reason, and the Fiery-billed Araçari is the most beautiful of these.
Araçaris, and toucans generally, are similar aside from appearance. They are birds of tropical forests. They nest in tree cavities that they dig out themselves, in a similar but less-efficient fashion as their distant cousins, the woodpeckers. The bulk of their diet consists of fruit, though they will supplement that with the odd insect. Araçaris do not generally migrate. Their beauty makes them popular with birding tourists and with zoos.
The name "araçari" comes from the Tupí term for the birds: "arasarri"; the Portuguese ç often gets simplified in English to c, which has led to the common mispronunciation "era carry". Araçaris all belong to the same genus: Pteroglossus. The name of the genus comes from the Greek for "feather-tongue"; whether Johann K.W. Illiger, the naturalist who named the genus, thought the bird's feathers resembled tongues or that their tongues resembled feathers, I'm not certain. (By the way, if you're worried that "glossy" means "looking like it's been licked", it doesn't; that word comes from an old German word for "shiny" that also is the root of "glow".)
To science, the fiery-billed araçari is Pteroglossus frantzii, a name given in honor of the German naturalist Alexander von Frantzius. While much of the time in Frantzius's day ornithology was performed by Europeans sitting in Europe sorting through imported trunks full of dead specimens, Frantzius was more active and better traveled. Trained in medicine at the University of Berlin, Frantzius became an acquaintance of Alexander von Humboldt, famous for his exploration of the Pacific coast of the Americas. Humboldt encouraged Frantzius to move to Central America and take up scientific research. Frantzius went to San José, the capital of the then-quite-new Republic of Costa Rica, working as a pharmacist to support himself while exploring the surrounding countryside along with a local group of nature lovers. This "drugstore gang" became the founding fathers of Costa Rican biology.
The Rules of the Games in Tudor England | Nicholas Orme, Lapham's Quarterly
Excerpted from Orme's book on Tudor Children, on overview of the games played in early Rennaisance England, including an early form of football not unlike my own suggestion for a cross-country version of the game. I never really invent anything.
The Decline and Fall of the Hit Instrumental Song | Chris Dalla Riva, The Honest Broker
Pop music is vocal music. Check the Billboard Hot 100, and you’ll find a mix of genres, but every song will have a singer. Go back a hundred years, and that wasn’t really the case. Instrumental music used to be a lot more common on radios. What happened involved changing tastes but also business decisions and union troubles. While the hit instrumental may be rare now, there’s always a chance it returns.
America’s bad bet on expanding legal sports gambling | Jack Meserve, Vox
A plea to reverse or at least halt the legalization of gambling, which has recently been advancing in the world of sports. This is perhaps not the last word on the matter, but it does point out issues with industries built on vice beyond the usual moral arguments. “gambling isn’t per se the problem; someone making a bet with a friend over their rival teams isn’t immoral, and a fantasy league with a buy-in isn’t sinful. But in today’s United States, every policy decision opening up sectors to the markets ends up a maximal one, and companies preying off what ought to be casual fun will now saturate every television market, every piece of stadium advertising real estate, in an attempt to turn non-gamblers into casual gamblers, casual gamblers into regulars, and regulars into addicts.”
Salt Water | Eugenia Triantafyllou, Tor
[FICTION] "While all her friends’ fish are changing into mermaids, is 12-year-old Anissa’s fish becoming something else?"
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