April is again the month for some new sparrows to stop by my yard. This year, a clay-colored and a fox sparrow both showed up. I've put the fox sparrow on the shortlist for birds to draw; maybe that'll be next week's bird.
The second half of the season kicks off with some big changes to the status quo for the Mandalorian covert. Here are my notes:
- The big question at the end of this episode is: what is the Armorer's plan? She seems to be breaking with her traditions in an unexpected way, allowing Bo-Katan to remove her helmet and sending her to contact other apostate Mandalorian groups. My read on it is that she wasn't a zealot just for the sake of zealotry; she was trying to preserve her culture in the face of genocide. In that situation, apostacy is a threat to Mandalorian survival, as Mandalorians will disappear if they all diffuse into the mainstream Galactic culture. But now the threat has passed, and Mandalore has a chance to rebuild itself if the survivors can come together. The Armorer's goal is no longer to perservere, but to be a part of that restoration. Living openly on Nevarro is a step on that path, and so is accepting the "other world" of Mandalorians that Bo-Katan is part of. Or maybe she's just worried that Bo-Katan was going to take over the covert, I dunno.
- The action this episode was good, but really nothing special. It was really cool to see a squad of Mandalorian supercommandos deploy into battle, but the pirates were kind of generic villains, and the whole sequence played out about how you'd expect. The last two episodes had better action sequences.
- Zeb was done quite well, especially on the "animated characters brought into live action" grading curve. He's yet another nudge this season has given for fans to go back and watch Rebels if they haven't yet. I fully expect Bo-Katan to contact Sabine Wren in an upcoming episode.
- It was strange to see Carson Teva physically fly all over the Galaxy just to speak with people, which got me wondering if the Empire hadn't maybe destroyed the galactic comms network as part of Operation: Cinder or something. I couldn't find anything indicating that they did.
- So Gideon has indeed escaped, and the New Republic is covering it up. The beskar is, I think, a red herring; Gideon had a small army of beskar-plated droids, after all. But the New Republic doesn't know that. Hmm.
BattleBots is back, now that no more March Madness games are scheduled for Thursday nights. The season's coming to a close, and Thursday's episode saw a lot of bots fighting for a chance at the tournament after a losing streak. Let's look at the fights:
- BLACK DRAGON v BETA - Black Dragon continues its undefeated streak. Beta made an attempt to block Black Dragon's weapon with a new armor configuration, but they were unable to land any hammer strikes and eventually their armor gave out too.
- COBALT v OVERHAUL - Cobalt had a slight disadvantage in this fight, given how they can't easily self-right and given how Overhaul can pick up and reposition its foes. Overhaul was unable to capitalize on this opportunity, or on the way Cobalt stranded itself on the wall early on, and Cobalt performed the rest of the fight flawlessly, if a little less flashily than in past fights.
- SWITCHBACK v OMINOUS - Ominous was doing pretty well up until it flipped itself over delivering a hit to Switchback's weapon. Their self-righter didn't work, and they got counted out. Self-righting really is something that can turn a fight quickly, and I'm sort of shocked that all the bots in the competition don't have it figured out.
- TRITON v GLITCH - Triton's win here was a bit of a surprise for me. It goes to show that even if they don't have the most reliable performance, they still hit really hard, and sometimes that's all it takes.
- GIGABYTE v STARCHILD - This fight, in contrast, went exactly how I expected. I'm honestly impressed that Starchild stayed active for the full three minutes. Huge's design was a big shakeup in the vertical spinner era, but horizontal spinners still chop up its wheels, and Starchild is just Huge with a worse weapon.
- JACKPOT v CAPTAIN SHREDDERATOR - Brian Nave was still mad about Shredderator's fight with Riptide going into this match. Nothing so devastating happened here, but Jackpot still got the expected win.
- ROTATOR v BLOODSPORT - A fight between two vertical spinners that I like even though they don't win as often as they should, I wasn't really sure who to root for in this match. I picked Rotator, and I picked wrong. They got out-maneuvered, and they got pummeled.
The Bad Batch
Season 2 concluded Wednesday with a two-part finale. Here are my notes on these episodes and on the season as a whole:
- At the start of this season, I was talking with a friend and we both agreed that the show had too many main characters, and we both predicted that, at some point, Tech would be killed off to alleviate this overcrowding. After watching the season I'm sad to have been correct. Season 2 did a lot to elevate Tech from the stock comedy nerd he was in Season 1. Going forward I'm actually going to miss him now.
- I think that the show should have given more of a reason for the Batch to return to Ord Mantell as opposed to Pabu. As it is now it seems like a contrived excuse to set up Cid betraying them to the Empire.
- I believe this was the first time we've seen Eriadu on-screen. After reading Tarkin, I think the Batch were lucky not to have been jumped by veermoks out on that mountain.
- Tarkin's meeting could have been an email, or at least didn't have to involve all of the Empire's top scientists all gathering at once. Hemlock and Krennic aren't working on the same thing, and probably don't care what the other is doing.
- Leave it to Saw Gerrera to ruin an anti-Imperial mission with his antics while not coming particularly close to accomplishing his own goals.
- I remember when they were first releasing trailers for Season 2 there was a lot of chatter speculaing that this would be the last season. Now there definitely seems to be plans for a third, at least.
- Overall, Season 2 was a big improvement over Season 1. It started a bit weak, but the last half of the season especially did a lot to address Season 1's problems, and to set up for an even better Season 3. As it stands now, the Bad Batch have a mission (rescue Omega), obstacles to that mission (they don't know where Hemlock's keeping her and Tantis is full of Imperial troops once they do find her) and a post-mission goal (retire to Pabu). What's more, their mission ties directly into the broader story about the fate of the clones, which gets set up this season, although it seemed that the show was very either/or about following that versus following the Batch's story. I'm excited to see where the show goes. Here's hoping we don't have to wait too long for Season 3.
Spicy Italian Chicken
Chicken wings are tasty, but they're also kind of hard to make at home. They're very greasy, which makes them likely to smoke when cooked at temperatures high enough, and wings are actually a pretty pricy cut of chicken when you account for how much of them you can actually eat. But chicken wings are mostly good because of how they're flavored and prepared, not because they're wings. Chicken legs are essentially the same thing, but meatier, cheaper, and less likely to burn. So, when I tried to replicate a discontinued line of frozen spicy Italian chicken wings, I used chicken thighs. If you really want wings, you could use the same recipe with wings, or you could try to split the difference with drumsticks.
(This recipe involves marinating the chicken, so you'll have to do some prep work the night before you actually want to eat the chicken.)
(Also, I'm sorry, but I have no photo to go with this.)
- 4 chicken thighs
- kosher salt
- Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
- 1 tsp. basil, dry and crushed
- 1 tsp. thyme, dry and crushed
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
Prep to be done the night before:
- Mix together the marinade in a large, sealable container.
- Place chicken thighs in the container with the marinade; seal and shake until the chicken is covered in the marinade.
- Leave the chicken marinating in the refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place chicken in a glass baking dish, covering with any remaining marinade left in the container.
- Lightly cover the skin of the chicken in kosher salt, paprika, and Italian
- Bake chicken for 45 minutes, then broil for 1 minute. (The skin should be crispy, and the interior of the meat should reach 160°F.)
- Remove from the oven. Place chicken on a plate to keep it from getting soggy while it cools.
Bird of the Week
At long last, it's time to feature a tyrant-flycatcher as Bird of the Week. I've mentioned them a few times before, but I've never actually profiled one of its members. Tyrannidae is currently the largest family in Class Aves, comprising more than 400 different species. The vast majority of those species are quite plainly colored and so similar in appearance to one another that they cannot be identified by sight alone and must have their location, habitat, and behavior taken into account. Even most of the few who do look a little different have look-alike cousins in other regions. But this member of the family, the Many-colored Rush Tyrant, is unmistakable for any other.
Found in South America, especially in Argentina and Chile, the many-colored rush tyrant is a small songbird of marshy areas, where it crawls through its namesake rushes in search of insects to eat. Unlike the tyrant-flycatchers found in North America, which are characterized by "sallying", a practice of flying out after winged insects from an advantageous perch, most Central and South American tyrant-flycatchers practice "gleaning", searching for insects crawling on plants. While it certainly acts like its purported cousins, recent research indicates that the rush tyrant, already classified alone in its genus, should be moved to a new, monotypic family, meaning that it wouldn't be a tyrant-flycatcher after all, so I might get the chance to finally feature a tyrant-flycatcher again someday.
The bird's common name is long, but pretty straightforward. In Spanish, "many-colored" becomes the more specific "sietecolores", or "seven-colored". (I made sure to depict all seven colors in my drawing: yellow on the breast and brow, green on the back, black wings and markings, white wing-bars, blue on the sides of the head, red at the vent and on a thin stripe on the crown, and a pale violet eye.) "Rush" refers to the aquatic sedges in which the bird lives.
"Tyrant" is perhaps the strangest part to those who don't know what family the bird is in. The whole family is named for the eastern kingbird, a large, bold flycatcher with a (usually concealed) crown of scarlet feathers that Mark Catesby named "The Tyrant" in his early illustrated survey of the birds of southeastern North America. The kingbird was given the species name tyrannus, and later the genus Tyrannus, and finally its whole family was named Tyrannidae, and many of its cousins took the common name "tyrant". The word "tyrant", meaning an audacious or cruel ruler, comes to English from the Greek term for a king who came to power by overthrowing the previous regieme, rather than one who had peacefully inherited the throne. This original sense of the word shows up in Star Wars, wherein Darth Tyrannus is a Sith Lord who hopes to overthrow the rule of the Galactic Republic.
To science, the many-colored rush tyrant is Tuchiris rubigastra; the specific name focusses on a specific color, meaning "red-bellied"; the generic name comes from the Güaraní word "tuchirí", which means "ant-eater" and which is colloquially applied to this bird and a few other tyrant-flycatchers in South America today.
The Audiencers | Benjamin Poore, VAN Magazine
“Ushers must be tuned in to the ebb and flow of drama and audience. Director Paul Higgins, who years ago ushered at the National Theater, spoke admiringly of ushers who can coordinate the discreet opening of the house doors to admit latecomers just as a grand aria finishes and rapturous applause begins. In this respect the usher is placed ambiguously between performer and onlooker. The usher must have cat-like tread, the deft elegance of a courtier, and the stealth of an assassin.”
TikTok’s Viral Challenges Keep Luring Young Kids to Their Deaths | Olivia Carville, Bloomberg
TikTok’s been in the news lately as the U.S. Congress investigates whether its data collection constitutes a national security risk. This story isn’t about that; it’s not really about TikTok, but about the broader internet, as the titular choking dares can be found on other sites. Still, this is sobering stuff. Having kids means giving lots of obvious advice, including, apparently, “don’t strangle yourself”.
Space station could create artificial weight for orbiting astronauts | Lina Zeldovich, Mechanical Engineering Magazine
Artificial apparent weight produced by centrifugal force aboard a spinning space station has been a part of science fiction for decades, going back as far as 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the nearing future of large-scale space stations hosting civilian tourists means people are hard at work figuring out how to make the technology a reality.
Call Me Joe | Poul Anderson
[FICTION] First published in 1957, this story of explorers on Jupiter was, at the very least, an influence on James Cameron's Avatar. Given how many people saw that film, it seems only fitting that more people should read Anderson's novelette.
See the full archive of curations on Notion