Point of order: I'm taking next Monday off from A Running Commentary. I have some personal obligations next weekend, and I don't have a lot I'd cover anyway, so I'm just skipping next week.
Watching the climbing during the Olympics reminded me that Free Solo is streaming on Disney+. This National Geographic documentary won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar in 2019, so I figured it would be worth the watch. The film centers around Alex Honnold's attempt to climb up the El Capitan cliff face in Yosemite National Park, unaccompanied (solo) and without a climbing rope (free). It's a well-put-together documentary, though I did leave wondering why Honnold wanted to climb without a safety rope. It didn't make his climb more of a challenge, it just raised the stakes to lethal levels. Honnold is presented as...not suicidal, exactly, but also not placing much value on his own life. While Honnold survives (I won't spoil whether he completes the climb, but no, the Academy didn't give an award to a snuff film.) several other free climbers who died from a fall are mentioned. The whole situation I found needlessly tense and morbid. That said, I did really enjoy watching Free Solo. I can absolutely see why it won an Oscar. You should watch it if you get the chance. 8/10
Thor: The Dark World
I watched this because I'd never seen it yet, and I got reminded of it when I was watching Loki. Usually Thor: The Dark World ranks toward the bottom of MCU titles. Having now seen it for myself, I'd say that's probably right. The film looks really cool. The action scenes are exciting, the humorous moments are funny, and the production design is really impressive. The weak point is the plot itself, which largely hinges on a conflict between Thor and Odin over Jane Foster that never, ever gets resolved, since Loki takes Odin's guise before Thor can talk with him again. Natalie Portman lost interest in the franchise after this, so Thor's commitment to her lacks meaning. And Malekith and the Svartalfs are just barely serviceable as villains. Malekith is, on paper, a threat precisely twice as serious as Thanos, as he intends to destroy all life in the universe, plunging reality back into primordial darkness. But he's had no setup before this film, and he's clearly doomed to lose. He has no real reason to try to destroy the universe, other than it is his and the other Svartalfs' nature. The Dark World feels obligatory and out of ideas. As much as Ragnarok was a serious redirection for the franchise, which let a lot of the better parts of the first Thor film fall away, I can really see how some sort of refresh was needed. Still, The Dark World is entertaining just to watch. 7/10
I was going to have my assessment of Yareli this week, but, being the end of the month, we got another DevStream from DE announcing, among other things, changes coming to Yareli that will probably affect my opinion, so I'm going to hold off until those are implemented in-game. For now, here are my DevStream notes:
- Ghoul Saw when? We have an answer now: Ghoul Saw September 8th. The long-anticipated melee weapon will arrive as a reward for another round of the Plague Star event. Rebecca Ford demonstrated the weapon live on the stream, and it looks unique and fun. I will say it seems a bit slow, and unless it deals really high damage, I don't think it will displace the really good melee weapons. But everyone's gonna want one, including me.
- Also September 8th, we'll be getting a deluxe skin for Revenant, designed by Debby Sheen, who also designed the recent Ember deluxe skin. It looks pretty nice. I don't play Revenant much but I know those who do have been wanting some more cosmetics.
- And also in the next update will be Nidus Prime, which we saw at TennoCon. He'll be coming with the Strun Prime and the Magnus Prime. The Strun and the Magnus are both pretty bad weapons; they're older, and they've been surpassed by years of new guns. I can presume that their primes will have greatly boosted stats. What I'm hoping for is that they'll also come with some sort of interesting gimmick the way primary weapons used to get. Because otherwise they're single-target, single-shot guns that will have a hard time achieving relevance.
- And finally, the next update will bring some quality-of-life changes to various parts of the game: Kuva Thralls will get a spawn rate boost, so that defeating a Kuva Lich takes roughly the same amount of play time as defeating a Sister of Parvos; Yareli will be getting another round of buffs, including the ability to basically bullet jump while on Merulina; Harrow's farm is getting re-tooled, so that rather than having to ace Kuva Fortress Spy and play long runs of Defection missions over and over, you'll have the option to farm him by playing Kuva Survival, which many people already play; and Corrupted Holokeys, which were introduced as a new sort of weapon farm recently, will be getting a drop boost and a new drop source.
- Announced for later, we got a look at the concept for another deluxe skin from Liger Inuzuka, this time for Valkyr. Hopefully, that will be accompanied by a much-needed rework for that frame, as Liger's Zephyr Deluxe was recently.
- For the next two months, there will be booster weekends. This past weekend was a double-affinity weekend, this coming weekend will be a double-credit weekend, and following weekends will alternate back and forth like that through the end of October. This is meant to help players get their gear ready for the New War quest, which might be coming after all these booster weekends in early November, although DE hasn't confirmed that.
Bird of the Week
This week we're sticking close to the water with the only spoonbill found in the Americas. Spoonbills are wading birds that feed on small fish and aquatic invertebrates. They are classified within the order Pelicaniformes, as are herons, in the family Threskiornithidae, which they share with the ibises. (Those interested in ancient Egypt might recall that the Egyptians worshiped ibises as associated with Thoth, their god of science and writing. The name "Threskiornithidae" derives from a Greek term for religious practice.) The roseate spoonbill is the only spoonbill with non-white plumage; like the flamingoes that they share much of their range with, their diet and metabolism deposit carotenoid pigments into their feathers. Individual spoonbills can vary in coloration.
Roseate spoonbills can be distinguished from flamingoes by their shorter stature and large, spoon-shaped bills. Their normal range runs from the Gulf Coast and Caribbean down through the Amazon through Argentina, though, this past summer, there were several sightings in the northeastern United States, including in Saline, Michigan (a town just south of Ann Arbor). I made a trip myself to Saline, but did not see the spoonbill personally. It is thought that a Gulf Coast breeding boom in 2018 has left many young wading birds searching further north for food. It is not likely, however, that the species' breeding range will soon reach up to the Great Lakes.
Purple marks designate areas where roseate spoonbills were seen in 2021
The term "roseate" just means pink, like a rose. There is also a roseate tern, though it is not nearly as pink as the spoonbill. The species binomial is Platalea ajaja. The spoonbill genus is the Latin name for a spoonbill, which derives from the Latin word for "broad", in reference to their bills. The species name is the Tupí word for the roseate spoonbill.
See the full archive of birds on Notion
The Confounding Case of Sir St. George Gore | Martin J. Smith, Alta Journal
There's been a lot of concern recently about namesakes. People like Thomas Jefferson, J.J. Audubon, and Henry Ford have all been at the center of discussions about how much to honor people who did great things, but weren't always great people. But, in Colorado, there's a lot of things, including an entire mountain range, named for someone with no great accomplishments, no strong ties to the area, and who no one, past or present, seems to have particularly liked. How did that happen?
Flies | Bernardo Esquinca, trans. Audrey Manchester, Asymptote
[FICTION] The interview notes between a psychologist and his patient, a man waging his own battle in the world's deadliest war, that between people and flies. Translated from the Spanish.
The Grandmaster Diet | Aishwarya Kumar, ESPN
As someone who did Quiz Bowl in high school, I'm familiar with the phenomenon of getting physically tired from doing nothing all day but sitting and thinking really hard. The same happens to tournament chess players, who can go through 6,000 calories per day during competition. Kumar looks into the strange reasons why, and what elite chess players are doing about it.
The Lunch Ladies of New Canaan | Sarah Schweitzer, The Atlantic
It's the overlooked things that get you. That's how the bison kill more people in Yellowstone every year than the grizzly bears do. And that's also how Wall Street brokers saw their children's school leak money out through the cafeteria.
See the full archive of curations on Notion