It’s May! I know I’m on record here liking Autumn the best out of times of the year, but May is nice too. It’s the part of Spring that people who best like Spring are thinking of, when the soggy, muddy gray has been replaced with new leaves and blooming flowers, and the temperature is the same inside as outside.
It’s also Mother’s Day in the U.S. this coming Sunday, so I’ll be taking next Monday off from this newsletter.
The penultimate episode of Moon Knight was released last Wednesday, picking up where the bonkers ending of the previous episode left off. Would you believe it gets weirder? Here are my notes:
- I was correct in identifying the hippo goddess. Apparently, Tawaret had to fill in for Anubis since the regular death god has been locked in battle with Oma Devalla since 2005.
- For the whole episode, I was really figuring that they’d have to find the third guy and grab his heart to balance the scales, but I guess not. One more episode left for him to show up in if he’s going to at all.
- I was also correct in guessing that, while the show was initially primarily about Steven, Marc was the real guy, and Steven was someone he made up.
- I’m really excited for the last episode, which really hasn’t been the case going into the finale of other Marvel shows, even those that I really enjoyed. There’s been a lot that started strong but ended weak. I’m thinking Moon Knight might have the first really good finale.
The “Angels of the Zariman” update is here, bringing major changes to operator and eximus enemies along with a new planet and new missions and a new syndicate (sort of, but we’ll get to that.) I’ve played a bit of it; I don’t have Gyre or any of the new weapons yet, and I certainly don’t have all the new focus schools unlocked to really evaluate operator powers, but I’ve played the quest and the new missions, and I’ve spent some time in the Simulacrum spawning Eximus units, so I have some notes:
- The quest does follow up in the story from where “The New War” left off, but probably not in the ways players were waiting for. It has nothing to do with Narmer, or with what the Sentients are up to nowadays, or with Teshin. It follows up on the Zariman Ten-Zero, which we had re-visited during “The New War”. Turns out that the Tenno aren’t the only survivors of the Void Storm that destroyed the ship. There are also the Holdfasts, void-warped but still mostly human members of the Zariman crew who’ve thusfar resisted being transformed into the inhuman, semi-real creatures our parents and the rest of the adults on the ship were turned into, beings the Holdfasts call “angels”. We Tenno are summoned back to the Zariman because these angels are re-awakening and seem to be making some sort of play toward ripping open the Void rift that the ship sits wedged in. On top of all that, with the Zariman Ten-Zero now partially returned to reality, the Grineer and Corpus have sent raiding parties to look old Orokin treasure. As a story, it’s mostly more setup for the Duviri Paradox stuff, it would seem. As gameplay, it’s basically just a tutorial for the new missions.
- The new missions are alright, besides the fact that their names (”Void Flood”, “Void Cascade”, and “Void Armegeddon”) aren’t really descriptors of what the objective will be, like older mission types are, so I struggle to remember which is which without consulting the wiki. I like Void Flood (where you run around collecting blobs of gel) the most, except when it’s the top-level bounty. Then the added requirement to collect 20 of the big blobs makes it really hard, since the big blobs don’t spawn very often and the mission gets progressively harder and harder. A full squad of players really trying can barely get twenty by the time the mission’s about to fail. Void Armegeddon (where you run between two defense objectives building turrets) is the worst of the new missions, since it’s the most stationary, and since running between the two objectives gets tedious. Void Cascade falls somewhere in the middle.
- I don’t have a lot of thoughts about operators’ “dash” getting replaced with “sling”. The sling seems slightly easier to aim, maybe, but it hardly seems a change worth making.
- The Eximus changes have proved to be the most controversial. They've certainly made the game more challenging. Several of the changes are very much for the better: Eximus units are a lot more visible; their attacks are more powerful but easier to dodge, especially the leech-types, which were the worst of the old Eximus units. They’re immune to crowd control abilities which...does or does not ruin CC-focused frames, depending on how many Eximus there are on the field. If it’s just one or two, then, yeah, a Vauban or a Limbo can’t just turn the game off around the defense objective, but they can still mostly turn the game off and just defend against one or two eximus units, which is very doable. But if you get three or four Eximus units, at higher levels, I can see that becoming more of a job for a Mesa or Saryn. I can say that rumors I saw that Eximus units can shoot Limbo through the rift or see invisible frames seem to be false, or maybe references to some early bugs that were patched out. Limbo can be affected by the powers of Leech and Energy Leech Eximus units while in the rift.
Bird of the Week
This week we’re looking at another icterid, the most common such bird in Michigan. The Red-Winged Blackbird is a ubiquitous sight in American marshlands, their trilling, buzzing calls serving as a sure sign of a nearby pond. While found throughout open country, red-winged blackbirds especially love to gather in beds of cat-tails or similar reeds. These birds are omnivorous, feeding on berries and seeds as well as on insects such as dragonflies and moths, and occasionally even small frogs. They nest in reed-beds or small, shrubby trees, where their eggs are often targets of predators. Despite this, red-winged blackbirds are one of the more numerous species in North America, numbering over 200,000,000 mature individuals, one for every three people in the same region. Their population is declining, not due to predation, but due to habitat loss (though in recent years the ecological importance of marshlands has gained some recognition, and wetland restorations are providing new homes for these birds.)
Currently, red-winged blackbirds are protected by the usual songbird-conservation laws. Historically, they were often killed by farmers, as they are known to feed on grains in the months before their kernels harden; Henry David Thoreau recorded that, in the mid-seventeenth century, Eastham Massachusetts passed laws encouraging the killing of blackbirds, including one that forbid any man from marrying until he had personally killed a half-dozen. In Thoreau’s day, some hundred-plus years later, the fields in Massachusetts were still full of blackbirds and ineffectual scarecrows, “from which [he] concluded that either many men were not married, or many blackbirds were.” In any case, it’s probably for the best that the blackbirds survived, as, while they do eat young corn, they also eat the seeds of weeds and the insects that feed more heavily on corn, and their presence in agricultural regions is now believed to be a net positive. Still, some modern farmers use chemical or mechanical repellents to keep their fields clear of these birds.
The red-winged blackbird is named for the red shoulders of the male (females are a streaky brown), both in English and in many Native American languages. In Mexico they are “tordo sargento”, “Sergeant Thrush”, based on the way the males seem to be wearing epaulets. To science, they are Agelaius phoeniceus. Phoeniceus is a name given by Linnaeus, deriving from the same Latin word for crimson or purple that gives the Phoenician civilization of the ancient East Mediterranean its name. Agelaius is a genus established by Vieillot, comprising the red-winged and four other flocking blackbirds, whose name means “gregarious”.
Hive Mind | Mark Twain, Lapham’s Quarterly
Excerpt from an 1878 magazine in which Twain muses about the phenomenon of two people writing roughly the same letter to each other at the same time, and the broader phenomenon of multiple people having the same new idea at the same time. Is this evidence of telepathy, or simply similar people reacting to similar situations in similar ways?
The Arc of the Sun | David Samuels, The Atavist Magazine
A look at the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race, as well as the practice of homing pigeon racing generally.
'An Internet in Your Head' | Daniel Graham, Berfrois
The world is full of things that remind us of our own body parts: the legs of a table, the nose of a rocket, the eye of a needle. These objects are described by metaphor relating them to those parts of ourselves we intuitively understand. But there’s a part of ourselves we have greater difficulty understanding: our minds. In that case, the metaphorical relationship reverses, our minds being often described as like other things. Decartes described the mind as like a network of hydraulics, for instance, as later metathinkers would describe the mind as like a computer network.
Glow Worm | Harlan Ellison, Project Gutenberg
[FICTION] A short story from the famed sci-fi author, which was first published in 1956 and has since fallen out of copyright. “He was the last man on Earth, all right. But—was he still a man?”
See the full archive of curations on Notion