Three upcoming Star Wars shows got trailers during D23 over the weekend, including another for Andor. Which reminds me, I need to get my Obi-Wan Kenobi review finished up and published before the 21st.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
The fourth episode in the series seems to be a complete interlude in the ongoing story of the show, focusing more on the wacky sorts of cases MCU courts face. Here are my notes:
- I’m still not laughing, but this episode was the funniest one so far.
- I’d like to commend Patty Guggenheim on her performance here. Madisynn is a character who really should have been annoying, but Guggenheim played her consistently as a happy, helpful person behind the besotted valley girl stock persona.
- Other than that I have very little to say about this episode. Not much happened that seemed of consequence, besides the teaser of next episode’s She-Hulk v Titania lawsuit.
The finale of the Champions series saw eight of the top bots in the world face off for the Golden Bolt. These were all good fights; let’s look at them:
- TOMBSTONE v TANTRUM - The era of the horizontal bar spinner truly seems to be over, and this fight demonstrates why. The issues that plagued Tombstone on their end throughout season 6 seem to have been fixed by this fight, but their strikes against Tantrum were easily deflected away by Tantrum’s sloped armor.
- RIBBOT v END GAME - Ribbot is pretty good, but, as I said when I was covering Season 6, it’s hard for me to imagine any bot of the current era beating End Game. Ribbot took the first hit and never really recovered.
- WITCH DOCTOR v GLITCH - Glitch’s drive issues, which had been apparent throughout their qualifying bracket run, finally caught up with them here, leaving them sitting ducks against Witch Doctor. Still, Team Glitch can be proud of a truly phenomenal run, and I’m eager to see them again, after the, well, glitches are worked out.
- SKORPIOS v HYPERSHOCK - Skorpios has beaten HyperShock twice, but that was before, in the words of Zach Lytle, “Will (Bales) finally fixed it.” HyperShock was finally able to win, by tossout.
- WITCH DOCTOR v HYPERSHOCK - HyperShock moved directly to a fight against Witch Doctor. This was one of the closest matches of the night, between two excellent drivers operating two similar bots. Witch Doctor was able to take one of HyperShock’s wheels early on; in the most memorable event of the night, the wheel became wedged in Witch Doctor’s weapon, stunting their offensive ability for much of the fight. Eventually, one of HyperShock’s drive chains snapped, and the other drive lost electricals, leaving them unable to move.
- TANTRUM v END GAME - The two most recent Giant Nut winners faced off in what became the only judge’s decision of the night. Tantrum’s unusual weapon was never quite able to reach End Game, whose own weapon delivered some serious blows before losing a belt toward the end. Tantrum delivered an impressive performance of durability, but did not advance to the finals.
- WITCH DOCTOR v END GAME - For the second time in the 2021 filming session, Witch Doctor made it to the finals and lost. End Game fought with all it had, never relenting as Witch Doctor was flipped upside down and driven into the screws. The OYES Robotics crew took a well-deserved Golden Bolt back to New Zealand.
So that’s the end of BattleBots for another little while. But there’s good news: Season 7 will be filmed in late October, and aired sometime early next year, would be my guess. I’ll be covering that then.
The “Veilbreaker” update released last Thursday…at least most of it did. After completing the quest, players will have to wait until sometime this coming week to play more as Kahl-175, since his weekly missions apparently weren’t quite finished yet. But, we got the quest, we got Styanax (just for logging in, mind you. That giveaway runs through the 21st, so log in if you haven’t.) We also got Archon hunts, but I’ll wait to talk about those since I don’t think they’re quite done yet either.
In “The New War” we got to play as some of the other factions in Warframe against the Sentients. While the Corpus sequence was a specifically choreographed puzzle sequence, and the Dax sequence was fairly similar to regular Warframe gameplay, the Grineer sequence felt like something both distinct enough and scalable enough to make a re-appearance later. Well, now we have Kahl-175’s reappearance, fighting to free those trapped by Narmer’s veils.
Gameplay is mostly like his sequence in “The New War”, with a few extra bits: He has a jetpack now, which helps him get through the game’s acrobatically demanding levels. And he has the ability to give commands to other members of his squad. It makes for a more conventional sci-fi shooter experience (I was reminded of Republic Commando in several ways) which, paradoxically, feels like a fresh new experience in Warframe. I think that if we get a mission or set of missions a week going forward, that’ll be just about right.
The 50th warframe has arrived, and he’s pretty good. Styanax is mainly focused on dealing damage, but he does so in a way that compliments the player's weapon loadout, rather than trying to replace it. I’ve found it pretty easy to utilize his full kit together effectively, and every time I cast a power I feel like it’s doing something useful.
His first ability doesn’t do much damage at higher levels, and it’s not as good at gathering up enemies as Vauban’s vortex or Nidus’s larva, but its pretty decent at setting up other abilities and its cheap enough, energy-wise to be cast a couple of times in quick succession if you’re dealing with a real crowd. His 2 will strip armor fully in at least 2 hits (presuming that you don’t build him with less than 100% ability strength, which you probably wouldn’t) and his 4 is, I’m happy to report, strong enough to wipe out non-elite enemies even at higher levels, and it just feels awesome to cast. His 3 is a source of energy, which he needs, and a survivability boost, which he doesn’t especially need, given that his base stats make him pretty tanky, but which can be nice to have when he gets mobbed.
Here’s a quick video of me in the Simulacrum demonstrating Styanax’s abilities:
The newer players getting Styanax now are the really lucky ones, as he’s going to make a lot of the low-level but solo content faced while completing the star chart a lot easier. Later on, Styanax won’t be farmable until after a player has completed “The New War”.
Bird of the Week
This week we return to South America, for only the fourth time if we’re just counting birds that breed only there. South America is full of all kinds of beautiful birds, but I have trouble featuring many of them here, given how comparatively little headway I can make into researching them. Take this week’s bird, the Pompadour Cotinga. Very little is known of this bird’s habits. It eats fruit, and males of the species have been observed engaging in mass mating rituals before single females, who typically nest and raise chicks alone afterwards. The IUCN does not consider this bird endangered, but actual population counts are unknown. eBird lists less than three thousand observations of the pompadour cotinga; compare this to the over ten thousand observations of the California condor, of which there are famously less than a hundred living individuals. The scarcity of knowledge about the pompadour cotinga is due to it’s habitat; the bird lives in the depths of the Amazon rainforest, where very few people reside and where scientists must brave difficult hikes to make observations.
Cotingas comprise the diverse family of South American birds Cotingidae, and derive their collective name from a Tupí term for a “bright forest (bird)”. Indeed, members of the family tend to be arboreal and tend to be vividly colored, though there are exceptions. At present, there are some arguments to be made that the family should be split up into different groups, but an overall lack of knowledge concerning many cotingas means that, for now, the Cotingidae remains intact.
The pompadour cotinga’s first written record actually comes from an auction catalog: in 1764, a Dutch specimen collector named Adriaan Vroeg sold his collection. This collection contained a male specimen of pompadour cotinga, which was named, in an appendix to the catalog attributed to the Prussian naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, Turdus puniceus, or “puple thrush”. Pallas’s species name persists in the modern scientific binomial Xipholena punicea; it derives from the same root source as Phoenician, the Greek name for a Canaanite people who lived in what is now Lebanon, and who became rich by selling purple cloth, dyed much the same color as the pompadour cotinga, throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Xipholena derives from the Latin for “cloaked”, referencing the long coverts that hang over the bird’s white wings; that name was given later, in 1841, by the Prussian ornithologist C. L. Gloger, who is best known as the first to differentiate swifts from swallows, and for Gloger’s Rule, the observation that birds living in warm, humid regions tended to be, on average, more darkly pigmented than birds from cooler or drier regions. Gloger’s Rule has been found to hold true for most warm-blooded creatures, including people, though different sorts of creatures come in different colors for different reasons.
As I said, researching this bird was rather difficult. The main question I had when I started out was why this bird was called “pompadour” when it does not actually sport a pompadour (as do some of its cousins, such as the Andean and Guianan cocks-of-the-rock.) I could not find a definitive answer why, but I believe I can hazard a guess. Keeping in mind that “hazarding a guess” means “making up an answer to a question”, I’ll say the name comes not from the bird’s crown but from its color. You see, the hairstyle known as the pompadour, famously sported by Elvis Presley and other rock-and-roll stars, was actually originally a women’s hairstyle, and is named for Jeanne Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour. Madame de Pompadour was a prominent member of the court of Louis XV of France, known for her hair, and for her love of the color pink. She wore pink outfits and dined from off of pink porcelain. In fact, the modern-day association between the color pink and femininity can be largely traced back to Madame de Pompadour’s influence on the fashion of Parisian women, and thus the fashion of much of the West. Given the time that these birds were first being described during Madame de Pompadour’s lifetime, and given that the males could be described as dark pink in color, I believe that the pompadour cotinga was so named because, of all the cotingas, it was the one Madame de Pompadour would have picked as a favorite.
How Isaac Newton Discovered the Binomial Power Series | Steven Strogatz, Quanta Magazine
An episode from the very late pre-history of calculus. An attempt to calculate the value of π led Isaac Newton to develop a way to approximate the area under a segment of a unit circle with an arbitrary witdth x. The resulting arithmetic series enabled Newton to later develop methods of general integration, one of the fundamental operations of calculus.
AI is making it easier than ever for students to cheat | Aki Peritz, Slate
AI creative synthesizers are all the rage nowadays, generating paintings in any style, adding chapters to famous novels, and…writing school papers, about as well as students can, and dodging plagiarism review.
Scenes From Svalbard | Alan Taylor, The Atlantic
Photographs of the harsh, chilly landscape of Svalbard, an island chain north of Norway that is home to the permanent human settlement closest to the North Pole.
Timekeepers' Symphony | Ken Liu, Clarkesworld
[FICTION] "To keep time, you must first invent it."
See the full archive of curations on Notion