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Marin cities embrace project to review restrictive housing policies – Marin Independent Journal


Marin County cities say they will work with a county program educating residents about racially restrictive covenants that might exist in the deeds of their homes.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a program in May aimed at complying with federal and state requirements to affirm fair housing that would allow homeowners to file amendments to deeds that exclude people of color. The covenants, which are now illegal, were largely created by the Federal Housing Administration, and required developers to incorporate restrictive language barring sale of homes to people of color.

The county Assessor’s Office has identified more than 49,000 residences in Marin constructed before 1970 that may have ethnicity restrictive covenants in property deeds. Through the new program, residents are able to check real estate documents to see if discriminatory language exists, certify and affirm the illegal and racially restrictive covenants are unconstitutional and file a public statement protesting that language.

The county plans to create a website where residents who submit their deeds can share their personal stories and comments and will use the submitted deeds to create a map showing where restrictive covenants exist in Marin.

San Rafael City Manager Jim Schutz said, “San Rafael enthusiastically supports the county’s efforts on this project to raise awareness and understanding about racially restrictive covenants through our history.”

Mayor Kate Colin said San Rafael does not have the capacity to initiate more local city-level educational forums about housing policy such as covenants and redlining.

“The county has the resources, both people and funding, that cities just don’t have,” Colin said, adding she hopes discussions about pursuing more equity in development, with county support, will continue. San Rafael, like other cities and towns, is focused on new policies addressing racial justice and social equity, and will soon perform a new internal equity audit of city systems and practices.

In Novato, Community and Economic Development Director Vicki Parker said, “We have no plans to collect oral histories as a component of our housing element update, though we certainly hope the stories of Novato residents are captured through the county’s project.”

“We will be working on issues of segregation and equity during our update to ensure that we are knowledgeable of, and actively addressing, structural or programmatic conditions that are allowing segregation or lack of equity to occur or continue,” said Parker, who said the city will be working with a housing consultant later this summer.

In Mill Valley, “We have been very interested in this topic since June of last year,” Mayor John McCauley said.

“During a five-hour community meeting discussing issues of racial equity, council raised the restrictive covenant issue and directed staff to examine how we could partner with the county to educate our community about our local history of discriminatory housing and to make the process to refute the covenants less burdensome,” he said.

Mill Valley has a diversity, equity and inclusion work plan, and over the past several months city staff has reached out to the county offering assistance with the covenant program, city leaders said.

“We recognize that government agencies have played a role in the creation of racial inequities, especially around land use and housing,” City Manager Alan Piombo said, “Now it is time to have thoughtful conversations about our history and work together to find solutions that create equitable outcomes.”

The county is also using the program to educate people about the history of “redlining,” which drew boundaries to show where people of color were not allowed to live prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the May 25 meeting, several commenters told the supervisors they felt the move was not enough to lead to real action toward greater equity in housing.

Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California Executive Director Caroline Peattie said while she supports the project, “I will also say that to me it’s very much a first step.”

“I think it’s important for people to understand and be educated about why it’s important, that we need to do something in a substantive way around improving housing equity,” which is much more difficult, she said.



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Sony Xperia 1 III review


The Sony Xperia 1 III is a great phone that I won’t recommend to many people. Once again, Sony has created a beautiful device with some unique, marquee features like a 4K-ish OLED 120Hz screen, great photo-taking amenities like a physical shutter button and a high-quality manual camera app, and top-notch hardware for entertainment consumption, like dual front-facing speakers and an honest-to-god headphone jack. You won’t find that combination among the other big-name flagships on the market.

But reader, it is $1,300. That’s a $100 increase over last year’s model, and more than an iPhone 12 Pro Max ($1,199) or a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra ($1,249, but often on sale for less) with an equivalent 256GB of storage. That is simply a lot to ask someone to pay for a phone.

For that $1,300, you get a top-notch experience on basically every level (except for its relatively short security-support timeline), but I struggle to see any one way in which it sets itself apart from the established competition. There are serious photo and video recording capabilities within the native camera apps, but nothing that could be considered unique to Xperia or a must-have.

It all amounts to a very expensive device that does a lot of things well, but without a strong value proposition for any one kind of person.

The 6.5-inch OLED offers a fast 120Hz refresh rate.

The 6.5-inch OLED offers a fast 120Hz refresh rate.

Sony Xperia 1 III screen, battery, and ergonomics

The Xperia 1 III’s screen stands out among its fellow flagships both in terms of its slimmer 21:9 aspect ratio and its higher 1644 x 3840 resolution, which Sony calls 4K (it’s close). It’s also an OLED panel, and this year’s version offers a 120Hz maximum refresh rate.

There’s no variability, unfortunately, so you’ll need to choose between locking it in at a standard 60Hz (the default) or that higher 120Hz rate for the smoothest of smooth scrolling experiences. Opting for 120Hz comes with a warning that the battery will drain faster, and it does, but not unreasonably so. I kept it enabled throughout my time using the phone. Overall, it’s a lovely screen, with a couple of notes: Auto brightness is sometimes a little squirrely indoors, and the panel itself doesn’t get terribly bright outdoors. It’s still usable outside in bright light, but it can feel like a strain to see what’s on the screen.

Dieter was a fan of the Xperia 1 II’s look when he reviewed it, and I’m in agreement about the III: it’s a sophisticated, understated design and I dig it. I like the slight matte treatment for the back panel glass, and all-around build quality (including its IP65/68 durability rating) measures up to the flagship class with a metal frame and Gorilla Glass Victus on the front. The Sony branding is so unobtrusive it practically disappears into the back panel, until the light catches it, and the whole thing looks at home next to an RX100 series camera.

The Xperia 1 III gets an upgraded 4,500mAh battery compared to the previous-gen’s 4,000mAh, likely a necessary move given the 120Hz display. Battery life is adequate, not stellar. I averaged two hours of screen time on a day of lighter use, which drained the cell to only about 50 percent by the end of the day. I was concerned about how it would hold up on a day of heavier use recording some 4K video clips, but even in that case, the battery lasted through the end of the day. I’d pack a charger or a backup if I planned on shooting video extensively, or on a long travel day where I anticipated more than four hours of screen-on time, but for day-in-day-out use, the Xperia 1 III does fine. There’s also support for 30W wireless charging.

I both like and dislike the phone’s unique tall-and-slim profile. It fits my hand more easily, and it is possible to reach your thumb across the screen in one-handed use (forget about reaching the far upper corner, though). But it’s also more prone to slipping out of pockets. I do like the fingerprint sensor embedded in the on / off button on the side; it’s quick and it doesn’t care if I’m wearing a mask.

Sony Xperia 1 III performance and software

Spec-wise, the Xperia 1 III is a flagship through and through. It uses a Snapdragon 888 processor with 12GB RAM and 256GB of built-in storage. There’s 5G connectivity here, and unlike last year’s model, those in the US will be able to take advantage of it — as long as you’re on Verizon or T-Mobile. The Xperia 1 III doesn’t support AT&T’s 5G, and there’s no mmWave support, just sub-6GHz on T-Mobile and Verizon.

Sony doesn’t have a firm security-support timeline for the Xperia 1 III but tells us that owners can expect two years of support. The phone ships with Android 11, and the company doesn’t have plans for future OS version upgrades. That puts it well behind Samsung’s and Apple’s support policies, both of which offer at least four years of security updates and multiple OS version upgrades. Considering its high price tag, this is a significant shortcoming against its peers.

Sony has equipped the Xperia 1 III with dual front-firing speakers and says they’re louder than those in the 1 II. Paired with the high-res OLED screen, it makes watching videos a high-quality experience. I was delighted when I heard a car offscreen and the audio tracked as it passed through the scene from the left to right speakers. Maybe I’m easily impressed by these things, but I can see myself genuinely enjoying watching a movie or a show on the Xperia 1 III, rather than as a last resort to stave off boredom.

The Xperia’s rear panel includes three cameras and a time-of-flight sensor.

The Xperia’s rear panel includes three cameras and a time-of-flight sensor.

Sony Xperia 1 III camera

Sony is a highly regarded maker of mobile imaging sensors, and in the past few years has gotten more serious about the camera hardware in its own Xperia phones. This year’s iteration includes a total of three 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, including a telephoto lens with a folded-optic design that includes two focal lengths: 70mm and 105mm equivalents. All three cameras, including that telephoto unit, use a sensor with dual phase-detection autofocus, a technology that helps Sony Alpha cameras achieve class-leading autofocus speeds. If you’re a numbers kind of person, here’s the quick rundown on the rear-facing camera hardware in the Xperia 1 III:

Sony Xperia 1 III rear cameras

Camera Resolution Focal length (equiv.) Aperture Sensor Size Optical stabilization
Camera Resolution Focal length (equiv.) Aperture Sensor Size Optical stabilization
Standard wide 12-megapixels 24mm f/1.7 1/1.7″ Yes
Telephoto 12-megapixels 70mm / 105mm f/2.3 / f/2.8 1/2.9″ Yes
Ultrawide 12-megapixels 16mm f/2.2 1/2.5″ No

There are three rear-facing cameras on the Xperia 1 III, including a telephoto lens with two focal-length settings.

The Xperia’s Photography Pro camera app now includes a “basic,” auto-everything shooting mode as the default. Switching over to one of the semi-auto or manual modes brings up an interface resembling an Alpha camera’s quick menu. The basic mode is refreshingly minimal — there are quick shortcuts to different focal lengths, to turn bokeh mode on or off, enable continuous shooting, and access flash settings, but not much more than that.

Manual modes introduce a lot more control and more display options like a big, beautiful (to me, at least) horizon level. It will all feel very familiar to anyone who’s used a conventional camera, especially if that camera is a Sony. I like both the basic and advanced shooting mode experiences, and a two-stage shutter button is a very welcome addition, but my one complaint is that there’s no real on-screen indication when a photo is taken. I live with all of my phone’s notifications and audio signals on mute, so without the audio cue, I missed it when I only half-pressed the shutter on a few occasions, thinking I’d fully pressed it.

Switching to manual mode in the camera app brings up an Alpha-camera-esque interface.

Switching to manual mode in the camera app brings up an Alpha-camera-esque interface.

I’ll admit that it took a minute for me to warm up to the Xperia’s telephoto camera. I tend to like a wider lens, and I’ve used too many bad or mediocre smartphone telephoto cameras to get too excited about them. But once I started trusting it — especially at the 70mm focal length — I started to really enjoy using it to layer foreground and background elements, or bring more attention to a subject I can’t get closer to. You know, stuff you use a telephoto lens for. The image quality won’t put your dedicated zoom lens out of work, but it’s good enough.

There’s a tendency for smartphone telephoto lenses to just amplify the shortcomings of the small-sensor-small-lens combo working to create them, which manifests as ugly purple fringing or obviously smeary details. The images I took at 70mm are blessedly free from these artifacts, especially if you’re looking at them at social media sizes. The 105mm focal length starts to look a little artifact-y, and details are noticeably soft, but as long as there’s plenty of light, images don’t look distractingly bad.

That’s the good stuff. I’m a little less excited about one of the other marquee camera features on the Xperia: autofocus. Namely, Sony’s dual phase-detect and tracking AF technologies, which it has imported to the Xperia series from its Alpha range. Don’t get me wrong, Sony autofocus is amazing. It’s why I own a Sony camera. You can see it at work in the Xperia 1 III when it effortlessly identifies a human or animal subject and tracks it around a scene, keeping up even when the subject turns away or becomes obscured behind something else. I’m just not convinced that it does much good here.

First, it seems to contribute to some distracting autofocus fluttering between near and distant subjects in some situations with the telephoto lens. Combined with the inherently less stable ergonomics of taking pictures with a phone versus a dedicated camera, it can make for a real challenge trying to get a photo of something in the distance.

Taking closer-range photos of moving kids and pets in dim conditions is probably a more common use case for many people, and it’s one that no phone manufacturer has been able to crack just yet — including Sony. In these situations, dual phase-detect will keep up with your subject, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get a sharp shot. Just like every other phone camera system, it’s bound by the laws of small-sensor-small-lens physics. Situations where there’s just not enough available light to keep shutter speed high enough will still result in some blur, no matter how well the subject tracking is keeping up.

In very low light, the camera will assemble data from multiple frames to create a brighter, less noisy image. This actually happens automatically in darker conditions, and doesn’t require a trip to a separate night mode, which I appreciate. But it does require you to hold the camera steady for a second or two, and isn’t well suited for moving subjects.

Sony has included a darn good camera system on the Xperia 1 III, and it’s one I enjoyed using. I got to flex some creativity that I’d normally avoid with a smartphone and reserve for when I have a dedicated camera on hand. But it hasn’t found a way yet to bend the laws of optics and physics.

We noted in our Xperia 1 II review that rather than leaning into computational photography the way Apple and Google have, Sony seems to be leaning into its traditional camera chops, applying the technology that has pushed the company’s mirrorless cameras to the top of the game. That approach has paid off in some ways — a great native camera app, a surprisingly good telephoto lens — but it doesn’t always translate, and I’m not sure how much further Sony can take that approach.

Sony Xperia 1 III video recording

The Xperia 1 III is also well equipped for the serious mobile video shooter, with up to 4K / 60p recording and a native video app that includes plenty of manual control over video settings. You can set shutter angle, manually set points for pull focus, and apply one of Sony’s pro-video-esque color profiles. I have no problem telling you that this was all way over my head, but I played with it anyway.

Your video files are associated with projects, and certain parameters like frame rate are preserved from clip to clip within a project. You also have the choice of recording to internal storage or directly to a microSD card if you don’t want to burn up your storage space with 4K video files. I’m happy to report that the SIM tray where the microSD card slot lives simply pops out of the side of the device, so you won’t have to hunt down a safety pin every time you want to grab your card to transfer files. That’s a nice touch, especially if you’re going to be taking that card out often to transfer footage to a computer.

Sony’s Cinematography Pro app offers plenty of manual control and the ability to set points for pull focus.

Sony’s Cinematography Pro app offers plenty of manual control and the ability to set points for pull focus.

There’s not much you can do in the way of editing files — you can trim them or grab a still frame — so they’ll need to be exported for anything more than that. It’s also possible to use the Xperia 1 III as an external monitor for video recording with a dedicated camera (doesn’t need to be a Sony), or to use it for live-streaming.

This is all much more robust than any native video-recording options you’ll find on a Samsung, Google, or Apple flagship. For someone who’s entrenched in the Alpha camera ecosystem, it could make sense as a compact, lightweight option for recording clips, or as part of a live-streaming setup. But there are also strong third-party apps and accessory options for mobile video shooters, especially those using iOS, that have benefited from years of development and use in the field. While the Xperia packs more of this into its native app experience, it’s not exactly a unique proposition.

The Xperia 1 III doesn’t offer enough above and beyond the established flagships to justify its high cost.

In the Xperia 1 III, Sony has created a sophisticated device that both looks good and delivers flagship-level performance. It offers sophisticated camera hardware and software and a lovely high-resolution OLED that’s not quite like anything else in its class. And yet I’m struggling to think of anyone who should buy this phone over an iPhone 12 Pro Max or a Galaxy S21 Ultra.

There’s the basics: for $1,300, you’d be getting a device that’s likely to only see a couple of years of security updates. And if you’re on AT&T, you’re paying top dollar for a 5G device that can’t access the carrier’s 5G network. It’s hard to make a case for the Xperia just based on those facts.

But suppose you plan on trading in your phone in a couple of years anyway, and you’re not on AT&T or don’t care about 5G (still a reasonable response to have toward 5G right now). The Xperia 1 III will deliver a very good picture-taking experience with camera hardware as good as anything else out there right now. You’ll get a great entertainment consumption device, with good audio and a lovely screen. And if you’re interested in shooting video, you’ll have a powerful tool in your hands right out of the box.

But none of these features go far enough above and beyond what you can get with an iPhone or Galaxy flagship to make the Xperia stand out. Factor in the shorter time frame for device support and uncertainty of any OS platform updates, and things just don’t add up in the Xperia 1 III’s favor.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge



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Review: ‘Schmigadoon!’ Has a Song in Its Heart, and Everywhere Else


Welcome to Schmigadoon, “where the men are men, and the cows are cows,” a magical musical land where Melissa and Josh (Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key) find themselves stranded during a trip meant to rehabilitate their romance. At first they think it’s like Colonial Williamsburg, or a warped Disney experience, but they quickly buy into their new reality: They’re trapped in this wholesome, old-timey parallel universe until they learn the lessons about true love it is meant to impart.

Melissa is into it. She likes musicals, and she’s thrilled to discover that when she joins in on one of the townsfolk’s numbers, she instinctively knows what to sing. Josh is not into it. He dislikes musicals, and he refuses to sing along. She wants to be in love, get married and win every argument. He wants her to accept that love is flawed and marriage is whatever, and he also wants to win every argument.

I won’t say that there are only two types of people when it comes to musicals, but for our purposes: The Joshes of the world are unlikely ever to warm to “Schmigadoon!” To my fellow Melissas: Dust off your character shoes. Our time is now.

“Schmigadoon!,” which debuts on Apple TV+ Friday, was created by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, the team behind the “Despicable Me” franchise; Paul also wrote all the songs. The show’s most obvious references are “Brigadoon,” “Carousel” and “Oklahoma!” But there is also plenty of “Annie Get Your Gun” in there, as well as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” Individual numbers have nods to dozens of other musicals. Some are direct parodies of specific songs — Melissa explains human reproduction in medical detail in a spoof of “Do-Re-Mi” — and others send up the genre in general.

The residents of Schmigadoon are also walking parodies. Kristin Chenoweth is the town grouch and main villain, a dark lipstick nightmare who turns to her fellow tut-tutters and asks, “Ladies, can I get a cackle?” Alan Cumming is the closeted mayor. Jaime Camil is the sultry, judgmental doctor, Aaron Tveit is the hunky bad boy in “Carousel” cable knit, and Ariana DeBose is the enchanting school marm. Tveit and DeBose are particularly electric, and when they are singing — or even better, singing and dancing — it’s impossible not to root for them. Everyone, go forth and win the hearts of our miserable normies.

“Schmigadoon!” has its moments of good honest fun, but it is more inclined toward ironic and satirical fun — it’s in on its own joke and routinely mocks its own corniness. (There’s even a song called “Corn Puddin’,” which, like all the other songs on the show, is pretty darn good.) The vibe works, particularly the jabs at classic musicals’ rigid sexism. The show’s credited writers, Bowen Yang, Julie Klausner, Allison Silverman and Kate Gersten, are best known for their work in sketch comedy and sitcoms, so unsurprisingly the punch lines are clever and often acidic. But it does sometimes feel as if “Schmigadoon!” had only one real joke: Musicals, especially those of the ’40s and ’50s, are similar to one another, and cheesy.

We love these musicals not in spite of those qualities but because of them, and “Schmigadoon!” embodies why whimsy can be so appealing. The more the series focuses on Melissa and Josh’s conflicts, particularly on Josh’s sour avoidance, the more one longs for goofy elation and purposeless giggling. Sure, the town is prim and smothering, but wouldn’t you rather dance your troubles away than return to that pile of tedious self-help books about how to save a lukewarm relationship?

Naïveté can be a vice, but so can obstinance. Is falling in love over a trumpet really dumber than any other way people fall in love? Isn’t it good to sing what you can’t say, especially when you can’t seem to say much at all?

“Nobody likes a dream ballet,” Melissa declares near the end of the season, a line that thrilled me because I indeed was softly dreading what seemed to be the onset of exactly such a moment. Dream ballets are not my favorite anyway, but “Schmigadoon!” would have collapsed under the weight of one because for all its abundant joys and glories, it isn’t built like a two-act musical. It’s built as a six-episode TV show. So it can’t generate momentum in the same ways, can’t breathe in and out, can’t orient itself toward an 11 o’clock number. Hooray for an overture, but if you binge the show, you hear that overture six times, at which point it’s just a theme song. (Apple TV+ is releasing the first two episodes together, and the following four episodes weekly after that.)

This adds up to a slight but persistent sense of not-quite-rightness, echoing Melissa’s and Josh’s feelings of being in the wrong story. It’s a show whose own protagonist complains, “It’s like if ‘The Walking Dead’ was also ‘Glee.’” (I think it’s more like “Smash” or “Gallivant,” because its songs are all original, but I doubt Josh would know what “Smash” or “Gallivant” are.)

At times, “Schmigadoon!” can feel like a “Simpsons” parody that outgrew its segment, or a classic movie butchered in order to insert commercial breaks. Luckily, it’s also too fun for most of that to matter.



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Year in Review: Lightweight Rowing


STANFORD, Calif. – A perennial power nationally, Stanford lightweight rowing faced a shortened campaign in 2021, where it rowed four times on the season. The season concluded on a high note, as the varsity four claimed the national title at the IRA Championships.

Lightweight rowing was among the 11 programs slated to be in its final season of varsity competition, and was announced to be continued on May 18.

National Champs

Continuing its streak of success on the national stage, Stanford women’s rowing won the varsity four at the IRA Championships on Friday, and came second in the double.

In lane three, Stanford got out to an early lead in the varsity four and extended the margin to nine seconds by the time the teams reached the finish line. Stanford stopped the clock to win the race at 8:23.7. The win secured an unbeaten season for Stanford in the varsity four, which also won in its previous two regattas. Lydia Garnett, Martha Yates, Isabella Duan, Johanna Francis and Maddie Lloyd crewed the event for the Cardinal.

The Path to IRAs

Stanford opened its season at Redwood Shores with a pair of wins in the varsity four, and a varsity eight win over San Diego. The Cardinal also competed in the Big Row against Cal’s fourth varsity openweight team, which ended in a four second win for Stanford.

The campaign continued with one final tuneup before the IRA Championships, as Stanford faced UC San Diego on May 7. The Cardinal earned open water wins in all three races.

National Recognition

Excelling in the classroom and on the water, the Collegiate Rowing Coaches of America (CRCA) announced five Stanford lightweight rowers have been named National Scholar-Athletes. Isabella Duan, Johanna Francis, Maddie Lloyd, Hillary Umphrey and Martha Yates met the criteria for the honor.

Duan and Francis then were named 2021 Pocock All-America Athletes, as announced by the College Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA). The pair rowed on Stanford’s varsity four, helping to guide the Cardinal to a victory at the IRA Championships in May.

 



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WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #2


Writer Charles Soule and artist Luke Ross return with another chapter from the Galaxy Far, Far Away in Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #2. Along with colorist Neeraj Menon and letterer Travis Lanham, this is an entertaining but very busy comic. With a script full of engaging character moments but too many characters and solid but bland visuals, this is a mostly compelling read that makes a few missteps.

“Notorious bounty hunter BOBA FETT has tracked his missing prize — heroic smuggler HAN SOLO, frozen in carbonite — to the remote, frozen world of JEKARA. But representatives from many of the galaxy’s most powerful factions have gathered, and they all want the same thing — Solo. Things go from bad to worse, as Boba Fett realizes that he himself has become almost as valuable to the galaxy’s hunters as Han Solo, and he must turn to the least trustworthy person in the galaxy for help…DOCTOR APHRA…”

Writing & Plot

Charles Soule (Star Wars: Darth Vader; Daredevil) has consistently written great Star Wars comics for quite some time now. So when I say that War of the Bounty Hunters #2 is a solidly entertaining issue it should come as no surprise. This chapter puts us directly in a party hosted by Qi’ra to sell off the recently frozen Han Solo. While this is happening, Boba Fett is still trying to reclaim that same prize, after Qi’ra’s Crimson Dawn organization stole it from him. Soule packs in a ton of fantastic dialogues from numerous characters here. All of the conversations are interesting and the dialogue writing is naturalistic and feels right coming from the characters that are speaking.

My personal favorite moment is, of course, the appearance of Doctor Aphra. Soule writes our favorite thieving archeologist/walking disaster spectacularly well, taking notes from Gillen’s original run. This issue is focused much less on action and more on setting up the players for the rest of the story. There’s only one fight with Boba, and while exciting and important in Star Wars lore, it ends pretty quickly. While this is a solidly written issue with a lot to offer, some problems crop up in the latter half. Soule starts to overstuff the script with character appearances in the final pages of this chapter. It’s clear he’s just setting up the next issue, but it gets distracting and a little bit ridiculous here.

Star Wars on the whole has had a problem with stuffing classic characters into stories to artificially increase the entertainment value. I know that isn’t what Soule is trying to do here, but it is still a noticeable detractor. Still, this is a wholly entertaining comic overall, with an engaging script that loses its edge near the end.

Art Direction

Luke Ross returns to provide his simplistic yet effective for Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #2. His solid penciling pulls us into this party of underworld cutthroats with effective character animations and architecture. Ross only really provides detail where it counts, saving his best work for the close-up shots of characters’ facial expressions. Choreography and action sequences are full of momentum, and the panel direction is intelligently put together. Ross mixes effective close-ups with wide-shots that both mimic the Star Wars cinematic style and keep the direction purely comic book-oriented. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of dimension visually that leaves the art feeling a little bland. There isn’t much by way of shadow or inking that gives the environments and characters any depth. This could likely be due to the way the colors are laid into the images.

Ariana Maher’s coloring is solid, don’t get me wrong. She utilizes a vivid and varying palette to bring the universe and characters of Star Wars to life. However, there isn’t much shade variation within the lines. This makes the panels look oddly uneventful, especially compared to the work in many of the other Star Wars comics from recent years. The lettering from Travis Lanham is, much like the rest of this comic, very solid but a bit bland. He utilizes a clean, modern font and some decent sound effect letters, but there’s nothing here that eally stands out. Visually, this is a good but unremarkable comic in the Star Wars catalog, which is full of outstanding looking chapters.

Verdict

Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #2 is a decent comic brought down by some small issues. Charles Soule’s script is full of great dialogues and solid pacing. However, this is cheapened by a flood of sudden appearances from classic characters near the end. The art from Luke Ross and Ariana Maher is competent, but lacks dimension and leaves the experience feeling underwhelming. If you’re on board so far, then be sure to grab this issue when it hits shelves on 7/14!



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Former Player Unlikely to Participate in Blackhawks Review – NBC Chicago


An attorney who represents a former Chicago Blackhawks player who alleges he was sexually assaulted by a then-assistant coach in 2010 is open to the possibility of her client participating in the team’s review of the accusations under certain conditions.

A former federal prosecutor has been hired by the Blackhawks to conduct what the team says is an independent investigative review of the allegations in a pair of lawsuits filed against the franchise. In an internal memo sent on June 28, CEO Danny Wirtz said Reid Schar and Jenner & Block LLP “have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

The first suit alleges sexual assault by former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and the second was filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents the former player and student, said Monday that her clients were open to participating in the review by Jenner & Block. But she said they want to know more about the parameters of the investigation, and they want the opportunity to conduct their own interviews of key former and current team executives.

“We’ve never been told what the investigation includes,” Loggans said.

Loggans also said the Blackhawks haven’t said anything about what if any part of the review would be made available after it was completed, or what they plan to do with the results.

Loggans said an attorney from Jenner & Block asked if he could interview her clients, and she asked for more information and the chance to interview one or more team executives under the same terms for speaking to her clients.

“They responded, saying they really couldn’t do that,” Loggans said.

A message was left Monday seeking comment from the Blackhawks. In his June 28 memo, Wirtz said the team would refrain from further comment until the independent review and legal proceedings had concluded.

In his lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, the former player says Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The suit also alleges Aldrich assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”

The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.

According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behavior by Aldrich. Vincent said he asked mental skills coach James Gary to follow up with the players and management.

Vincent was called into a meeting with then-team President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and Gary the next day. He said he asked the team to report the allegations to Chicago police, and the request was denied.

Vincent said Monday in an email to the AP that he had not been contacted by Jenner & Block.

An attorney for Aldrich told Chicago public radio station WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, the Blackhawks said the allegations directed at the team were groundless.

Duncan Keith, a defenseman who played on the 2010 championship team, said Monday “it’s tough to see, to hear about those things.”

“Obviously, it’s a very important subject and something that’s going on right now,” Keith said on a video conference call after he was traded to Edmonton. “And, for me, I’d rather not get into anything like that in terms of my memories of that and what happened. It’s been a long time, and I realize that people want answers. … I hope one way or another that things work out for the best with that situation and it gets sorted out and there’s some way to move on for everybody.”

After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a high school student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders.

The former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting filed a separate lawsuit against the Blackhawks on May 26, saying the team provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.

That suit says the student was a hockey player at Houghton High School near Hancock in 2013 when Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering.

Houghton police records say an investigator reached out to the Blackhawks about Aldrich, but human resources executive Marie Sutera would confirm only that he was once an employee. She requested a search warrant or subpoena for any further information regarding Aldrich.

Miami University in Ohio also has opened an investigation. Aldrich was employed by the school from June 2012 to November 2012. He resigned “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult,” the university’s attorney told police.

A spokeswoman for the school said Monday it was aware of two accusations of sexual assault involving Aldrich.

“In November 2012, Miami University was made aware of allegations of an off-campus sexual assault involving a non-student adult and Brad Aldrich,” Jessica Rivinius said in an email to the AP. “When the Miami University Police Department reached out to the alleged victim, they offered to assist the individual in filing a police report with the Oxford Police Department. The individual declined to make a report.

“A second adult alleged victim came forward in 2018 and filed a police report with Miami University Police about an assault that occurred off-campus in 2012. That report was forwarded to the Oxford Police Department.”

Rivinius said the review of Aldrich’s employment at Miami is being conducted by Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and the school plans to release a report at the conclusion of the investigation.



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Former player could participate in Blackhawks’ review of assault allegation


An attorney who represents a former Blackhawks player who alleges he was sexually assaulted by a then-assistant coach in 2010 is open to the possibility of her client participating in the team’s review of the accusations under the right conditions.

A former federal prosecutor has been hired by the Blackhawks to conduct what the team says is an independent investigative review of the allegations in a pair of lawsuits filed against the team. In an internal memo sent on June 28, CEO Danny Wirtz said Reid Schar and Jenner & Block LLP “have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

The first suit alleges sexual assault by former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and the second was filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents the former player and student, said Monday that her clients were open to participating in the review by Jenner & Block. But she said they want to know more about the parameters of the investigation, and they want the opportunity to conduct their own interviews of key former and current team executives.

“We’ve never been told what the investigation includes,” Loggans said. “For example, are they just investigating whether or not sexual misconduct occurred, which seems to be very evident that it did, or are they going to investigate whether the Blackhawks knowingly allowed it to exist without doing anything? They’ve never said what they’re investigating.”

Loggans also said the Blackhawks haven’t said anything about what if any part of the review would be made available after it was completed, or what they plan to do with the results.

Loggans said an attorney from Jenner & Block asked if he could interview her clients, and she asked for more information and the chance to interview one or more team executives under the same terms for interviewing her clients.

“They responded, saying they really couldn’t do that,” Loggans said.

A message was left Monday seeking comment from the Blackhawks. In his June 28 memo, Wirtz said the team would refrain from further comment until the independent review and legal proceedings had concluded.

In his lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, the former player says Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The suit also alleges Aldrich assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”

The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.

According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behavior by Aldrich. Vincent said he asked mental skills coach James Gary to follow up with the players and management.

Vincent was called into a meeting with then-team President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and Gary the next day. He said he asked the team to report the allegations to Chicago police, and the request was denied.

Vincent said Monday in an email to the AP that he had not been contacted by Jenner & Block.

An attorney for Aldrich told Chicago public radio station WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, the Blackhawks said the allegations directed at it were groundless.

After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders.

The former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting filed a separate lawsuit against the Blackhawks on May 26, saying the Blackhawks provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.

That suit says the student was a hockey player at Houghton High School near Hancock in 2013 when Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering.

Houghton police records say an investigator reached out to the Blackhawks about Aldrich, but human resources executive Marie Sutera would confirm only that he was once an employee. She requested a search warrant or subpoena for any further information regarding Aldrich.

Miami University in Ohio also has opened an investigation. Aldrich was employed by the school from June 2012 to November 2012. He resigned “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult,” the university’s attorney told police.

A spokeswoman for the school said Monday it was aware of two accusations of sexual assault involving Aldrich.

“In November 2012, Miami University was made aware of allegations of an off-campus sexual assault involving a non-student adult and Brad Aldrich,” Jessica Rivinius said in an email to the AP. “When the Miami University Police Department reached out to the alleged victim, they offered to assist the individual in filing a police report with the Oxford Police Department. The individual declined to make a report.

“A second adult alleged victim came forward in 2018 and filed a police report with Miami University Police about an assault that occurred off-campus in 2012. That report was forwarded to the Oxford Police Department.”

Rivinius said the review of Aldrich’s employment at Miami is being conducted by Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and the school plans to release a report at the conclusion of the investigation.



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A HANDBOOK ON COMICS CRITICISM


While discussing the links between film and comics in the new book How to Analyze and Review Comics, Jason Kahler notes that ‘film criticism has evolved over the course of over a century, and comic book criticism is still largely in its infancy,’ (pg 112). Despite the fact that comics have, even in their modern state, been around as long as cinema, the recognition and respect given to the latter artform has taken longer to be applied to comics. Although a number of scholars across the globe have taken an interest in the artform, Kahler’s statement is true. One of the main reasons for this, or perhaps a symptom caused by lack of interest, is the absence of recognized terminology. Literature, Theatre, and Cinema, have all adopted ways of talking about their artforms that, at this point, are excepted across the board, meanwhile you can still find people on Twitter engaged in the balloon/bubble argument when it comes to comics.

Academic writing on comics tends towards the adoption of other media terminology, as do many critics and online reviewers. This makes it simpler for the general public to consume because they are more familiar with these terms. A prime example of this is Hilary Chute’s early essays on Comics Studies where she attempts to pacify a mostly literary audience by discussing comics in literary terms*.

There is, however, a recent shift away from dual discipline approaches towards a singular Comics Studies field of study and a need for more consistency in the way people write about the format. This is where books like How to Analyze and Review Comics: A Handbook on Comics Criticism, published by Sequart, become useful tools.

Example of Original Stephen Sharar artwork Credit: Sequart

The book is edited by Forrest C Helvie, who has previously written a number of essays relating to a wide range of comics and comics issues, and includes contributions from writers that will be familiar to a number of people reading this. Sarah Cooke, Michael Moccio, Ryan K Lindsay, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou join others in covering an impressive range of subjects, from craft to terminology, and from history to theory. There is even an essay on podcasting and one on web-comics, a format that is changing the way comics are viewed and consumed. Each of the different writings has its own style and the author’s voice is more present in some than others. Take Kahler and Sharar’s Comics and Cameras chapter as an example: Kahler’s writing style is informal with a touch of humor that is accentuated by Sharar’s drawings. Instead of selecting images published elsewhere, the two create their own characters and out of context panels to help make their point. While being entertaining, it also allows them to express their ideas succinctly by creating specific examples to relate to.

Some of the topics in the book may seem like familiar territory but additional perspectives can help clarify and cement ideas. Scott McCloud’s seminal book** is a great starting point to understanding comics, but by itself it is not enough to build a complete lexicon of knowledge. Different voices, and even more modern takes on the form, are important, especially if the reader in question is critiquing other people’s work. It is not enough to simply read comics, you have to understand the structure and history behind them, recognize the cultural significance, and be able to see beyond the character, publisher, or creators names. As Becky Cloonan says in the book, ‘you have to be able to look beyond your own opinion. [..] Familiarize yourself with the language and syntax of art and comics, and it will boost your appreciation and understanding of the medium.’ (page 81)

How To Analyze Comics
Use of Artwork Within How To Analyze And Review Comics Credit: Sequart

Some of the essays in this collection may be less appealing based on personal research and study topics or requirements, but this is the nature of anthology books. However, even where the topic may not be of immediate concern each essay has something to say about comics as a culture and an artform. There are subtle links between the different chapters that will make you hop around in the book in an attempt to relate the history of comics to artistic style and then to cultural relevance. Modern superhero comics did not simply spring into existence but are a product of society, technology, and artistic temperaments just like the growth of any artform, as David Lewis explains, ‘The latest comic book out in the shops comes after decades in the making, with the history, economics, politics, and personalities of a professional industry, not to mention a whole nation, informing it.’ (page 150)

Literature and Art are taught in schools and there are thousands of degree courses in media studies and Cinema. Theatre and Dance require a level of education to understand and appreciate and yet, comics are only just beginning to receive the same treatment. Books like How to Analyze and Review Comics can help that education and should be part of anyone’s library who is interested in studying or critiquing comics. Sequart has produced a book with a balanced selection of topics and a wonderful range of voices to discuss the various concerns of comics culture. Each chapter gives you enough insight into a particular field of discussion but will also lead you to further study and more books and journals. Too much information is never a bad thing, but sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. In that respect, Sequart have you covered. If you have any interest in studying or writing about comics, How to Analyze and Review Comics is a must-have for your shelf.

*See Hillary Chute’s “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative.” published in PMLA, vol. 123, no. 2, 2008, pp. 452–465.
** Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art originally published by Tundra Publishing in 1993





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Life in California, review and summary – Chico Enterprise-Record


Review: Since 2011, when Gavin Newsom went to Sacramento, Democrats hold every statewide elected office in California, including both U.S. Senators.

Except for a brief period between 1995 and 1996, Democrats have controlled both branches of the state legislature since 1970, including sixteen years with Jerry Brown as governor.

Presently, they have a two-thirds super-majority, which means Democrats pass legislation without the least consideration for the principles, values, and preferences –even the wants and needs– of the minorities.

Summary of Consequences:

  • Botched COVID response.
  • Gas is $1.17 higher than the national average.
  • Expensive, unreliable electricity.
  • Destructive, deadly fires throughout the state every year.
  • Exorbitant insurance rates.
  • Highest state sales tax in America.
  • 7.9% unemployment, third-worst in America.
  • Low wages. (We all know why.)
  • Rents are unaffordable.
  • Lowest percentage of homeowners next to New York.
  • $13,500 a year in property taxes for a modest house.
  • Catch and release arrests.
  • Stores closing because shoplifting is decriminalized.
  • Squatters in vacant houses for sale.
  • $459 to register a 1997 Dodge Ram 2500.
  • At least $11.1 billion of COVID relief lost to scammers.
  • California’s students rank 28th in reading, 34th in math.
  • California’s pension system is technically bankrupt.
  • Companies and businesses (and jobs) leaving the state.

So on and etc. You get the idea . . . for us average folks Governor Gavin Newsom and his Democrats have made a fine mess of California. Now what?

—EJ Donmoyer, Paradise



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Review prompted by building collapse closes Miami courthouse


Officials say the Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin undergoing repairs immediately after a review found safety concerns within the building

MIAMI — The Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin undergoing repairs immediately after a review, prompted by the deadly collapse of a nearby condominium building, found that safety concerns exist within the courthouse, officials said.

A joint statement from multiple leaders released late Friday said an engineer’s report recommended floors 16 and above be closed to staff at the courthouse. The leaders decided all courthouse employees would go back to working from home.

The courthouse, a historic building completed in 1928, is where most civil cases are heard and contains some administrative offices. Separate courthouses for criminal, children’s and family cases are not affected.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Circuit Court Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie and Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin released the statement.

Specific details about what repairs are needed were not disclosed. The courthouse was built in 1928 and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1989, news outlets reported. The building has 28 floors.

Miami-Dade County is in the early stages of construction of a new civil courthouse, with plans to sell the historic building. Over the years it has been beset by leaks, mold and issues with its facade.

The building underwent a review following the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Saturday that 86 people were confirmed dead and 43 unaccounted for.

“Please pray for all those who’ve lost loved ones and for those whose hearts are broken by this unspeakable tragedy.”

The recovery effort was to continue despite expected bad weather throughout the day. She added that recovery work paused for about an hour after a nearby lightning strike at 7 a.m. Saturday. No evidence of asbestos has been found at the site so far, she said.

Several other buildings have been reviewed to search for any structural concerns, and some — such as a condo building in North Miami Beach — have been evacuated.

The statement said the courthouse’s basement would also undergo an inspection to determine whether additional repairs are needed.



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